Friday Froth: Tres Hoppy w/ Olde Burnside, Kent Falls & Two Roads Breweries

James Gribbon

This week will be an all Connecticut-brewed, and intensely hopped version of Friday Froth. We start by wishing happy birthday to one of our state's early modern craft brewing pioneers, Olde Burnside Brewing Company, which turned 15 years old this month. Olde Burnside was initially highly visible due to selling their Ten Penny Scottish Ale in 64oz. growlers at retail in area liquor stores, which was 1) a great deal, 2) useful for refilling with anything you chose, and 3) garnered a $1.50 reimbursement when returned, if you weren't so inclined. This came in handy during the years when Connecticut had around five breweries, instead of our current 30ish, and growler filling stations were rare as sober nights at Owl Farm.  

Olde Burnside owner Bob McClellan attributes some of the brewery's long term success to the great water they were able to tap, 400' down, in east Hartford. 

"We were very fortunate we didn't have to rely on the municipal water system, with chlorine additives, " he said. The artesian wells were originally dug to cool off the equipment in the facility's previous life as the Burnside Ice company, and provide clean, mineral rich water ideal for brewing.

At the very dawn of 2016, I had the opportunity to buy a pint or several of the new Olde Burnside Mons Meg DIPA.  I've seen the ABV for this one variously reported at 8.3 or 8.8%, so pick which one you want to believe, because a search for it on OBB's web site returned zero point zero results. Here's what I do know: Mons Meg pours a dark honeyed color with a thickish head, and the aroma wasn't too strong, but returned equal parts grain and resinous hops. The aroma barely outlines the story, though, because there is a tumultuous flood of oily hops upon first sip. For all this, there's still a good balance, with the weighty malts acting as a dampener which keeps the shouting hops from echoing around the room. 

Burnside brews fairly heavy beers, by and large - and Mons Meg plays true to form - but it is definitely a new-style American ale. There are nectarine hops circling the beer's body like wolves around a lonely fire. Mons Meg DIPA will be a welcome addition to the CT beer scene, if they keep production happening. 

"Can I have another Napkins, please?"

Our friends at Kent Falls continue their quest to confuse, puzzle, or otherwise infuriate every drinker, server, and grammar nerd in the tri-state area with the name of their new IPA, Napkins. After having sworn off the style during the nascent stages of their brewery's development, Kent Falls has enthusiastically embraced the IPA, most notably (imo) with the transcendent Some Zep On The Jukebox, and with the unusually transparent (for them) Napkins, which pours a foggy lemon color with a thin, but dogged head. The aroma was all hoppy goodness, like mashing a double handful of cones between your palms. Those greasy hops add a lasting bitterness to every sip, but the beer itself is quite light bodied. The ample mix of IBUs, plus a zesty citrus hoppiness, make this another winner. Do yourself a huge favor, and keep your eye out for Kent Falls Coffeemaker as well, which is the original Waymaker IPA, fermented with funky Brettanomyces yeast, and blended withIrving Farm coffee. 

Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail Simcoe Single Hop Edition may be the product of a fevered, Danish mind, but it's brewed at Two Roads in Stratford, so it counts for this column's conceit. I've only seen this one in 22oz. bombers, and it pours the amber of freshly run tree sap. There is an entire topography to the head, once poured: larger bubbles form raised continents over the color-swapped, white basalt of the foamy top layer. Simcoes are one of my long-term favorite variety of hops, because they don't just smell and taste like spring growth, their body and soul gives you so much of the earth from which they grew. That pungency shows up huge in the flavor of any beer in which they were used, and it's also what surprised me about the nose to this beer: it's somehow super fruity. What gives? I don't know. I'm made even more curious by the ambiguous "Imperial India Pale Ale Brewed With Natural Flavors" on the label. What the hell does that mean? I don't know, but I'm going to do some digging. 

Anyway, a bit of citrus makes itself known in the flavor of this beer, a bitter lemon oil which provides the jaws and teeth with which this IIPA chews your tongue. If you're wishy-washy on the style, this one's not for you. It is also head and shoulders above the original Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail, which is basically the Marquis de Sade of IBUs. The Molotov Lite was the only previous version I could stand to drink. I do, as I alluded to earlier, have a crippling bias tilted toward yon Simcoe hop and, that said, I genuinely enjoyed this IIPA. For all the gnashing of hoppy teeth, this one has a slick suppleness to the malt which, with all the spare lupulin squishing around, and the heat from its 13% alcohol, holds up to the rest of the beer's sensory assault nicely. 

Napkins is available on draft only, as is Mons Meg as far as I know, so look for those at better beer bars around the state, but Molotov Simcoe should be available at very reasonable prices at liquor stores all over the place, right now. 

See you out there.