Few sensations enliven the mind like eye-catching novelty. Our minds have evolved such a predilection to find the next new thing, it's a compulsion. This is why slot machines are addictive even though they're so repetitive: there's something new every time. The new glass house is made of screens. Status, tweet, pin... tap, tap, tap.
It's easy to read about how this river of information which flows to us has made Americans indistinguishable from the couches which we permanently inhabit, but I think this is losing sight of the fact that rivers are also a means of transport. Ideas are hardly stationary. This week, let's take a look at a few novelties which have arrived on the Connecticut beer scene, and see if we can get some wheels turning.
Jack's Abbey launched just three years ago up in Massachusetts and has seemingly been winning awards ever since. The company is run by Jack, Eric and Sam Hendler, scions of an ice manufacturing family, whose Hendler Farms supplies man of the ingredients found in their beers. The brand name comes from Jack (who earned a degree in brewing in '07) and his wife, Abbey - whose name worked out pretty well as a reference to monkish beer brewing traditions. I started off with their Mass Rising Imperial Pils.
There were absolute stacks and piles more hops to the nose than anyone would expect when presented with a pils of any kind, and there was a lot of sweetness and fruit hovering over the glass. Mass Rising is a regular, clear yellow, with a sticky, lasting head, and has a distinct bitterness on par with some session IPAs which are becoming so popular. It's fairly lightweight and crisp, though, and a slight hop and pilsner malt aftertaste lingers. It's an 8% imperial, but it doesn't coat the tongue or feel oily. It's a nice high ABV beer for a hot day because the lagering leaves a very clean finish. The alcohol is disguised, so it doesn't seem hot or sweet. It's odd to have hops be a focal point in a pils but, I like jalapeno mojitos, too. Very worth trying, if you're not too caught up in purity of form.
Jack's Abbey Hoponius Union in a 6.7% India Pale Lager that's a medium amber color under a head as respectable as a banker's haircut. The aroma is more tangy, evocative of European hops like Fuggles. One big gulp confirms this - it's in line with traditional, English style IPAs; malt-forward and marbled with mildly bitter hops
which produce modest IBUs. Kind of a "Union" Jack thing, not too far away from a pint of BBC Lost Sailor on a diet. This is lines and tropics of latitude away from the body and flavors of Mass Rising above, and it's not my favorite style of this style of beer, but it is a good one, nonetheless. Neither hugely malty nor bitter, this should be a big seller, as Jack's Abbey beers are popping up at craft beer establishments and at retail all over Connecticut.
Closer to home, we have OEC Brewing, out of Oxford, Conn. Remember them? I bravely undertook a 45 minute ride in excellent weather to bring you this review. We all have to make sacrifices.
OEC Tempus Blend #1 bubbles right up in the glass, excited to see you. The cloudy, amber saison is spicy long before it touches the drinker's lips, and fills the nose sharply. Soft malts make up the body of this beer, and a fledgling smokiness floats through, carrying the herbal spice with it, all of this under the aegis of a slightly electric acidity. So yeah, let's get this straight: Tempus Blend 1 is a sour, smoked, and spiced. Not exactly the kiddie pool as far as craft beers go but, for all that, fairly understated in each of those facets. The spice comes on more, moves into greater focus, as the beer warms in the glass (as it should - this is served from a growler, not an ice luge). I picked up coriander, nutmeg, and lemon zest butterflied into the meat of those wheat and barley malts, and I plan to drink a lot of this particular dish. I'll have a review of their Phantasma porter coming up, just as soon as I stop daydreaming in between glasses of Tempus.
It's my hope that this has been a taste at the tip of your mind's tongue, an idea of the shape of flavors to come. Maybe it's also been the inspiration to step into the current, and see where some newness takes you. See you out there.