The Hippo


Jun 4, 2020








 What’s in My Fridge

Stoneface Brewing Co. IPA: I’ve tried a few Stoneface beers and liked all of them but I’ve never had its flagship IPA. I’ve been missing out: exciting citrusy hop flavor, well-balanced and not overly bitter. I expect this to become a staple in my fridge. 

A smoked IPA?
Able Ebenezer brews unique (and tasty) IPAs


 I admittedly had a misperception that Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. in Merrimack had been around a lot longer than it actually has. In fact, I was awfully surprised to hear co-founder and brewer Carl Soderberg say the brewery opened in June 2014. 

“Everybody always thinks that,” Soderberg said. “They think we’ve been around longer than we have and they think we’re bigger than we are.” 
Soderberg surmises the size misperception comes from the sheer number of New Hampshire restaurants and lounges — 60 to 70 permanent draft lines statewide — that offer Able Ebenezer brews on tap. I’ll go ahead and surmise the longevity misperception comes from the fact that 2014 feels a little bit like light-years ago in New Hampshire’s craft beer movement. 
Despite being just three years old, Able Ebenezer, which saw its sales jump by 40 percent last year, has a somewhat “senior” status in New Hampshire’s brewing scene, given that more than 50 breweries have opened in New Hampshire in the last five years. 
Somehow, I had never tried any of Able Ebenezer’s beer. Soderberg and co-founder Mike Frizzelle were kind enough to give me a tour of the facility, including a sneak peek of their new canning machine and a can design for one of their bestsellers, the “Victory Nor Defeat” double IPA. 
Able Ebenezer is a bit IPA-heavy (I’m not complaining) with three offerings, but Soderberg and Frizzelle noted that was hardly intentional. Like any other business enterprise, the pair tried to find a void in the craft beer market. Their research revealed no one in New Hampshire was making a quality red ale. They developed a solution: an American red ale called “Auburn.” They anticipated Auburn would be their flagship offering, filling the red ale void. But as is the way with craft beer today, the IPA runs roughshod over business plans and market research. 
Much to their surprise, “Burn the Ships,” a smoked IPA, quickly took off and became their bestseller, though Victory Nor Defeat is closing in, in terms of sales. Able Ebenezer also brews a coffee porter, “Kilgore,” and another IPA, “Broad Arrow,” along with a schedule of rotating taps. 
“It’s all about balance and drinkability,” Frizzelle said. 
Burn the Ships
Able Ebenezer’s “Burn the Ships” smoked IPA sounds a little intense. Soderberg and Frizzelle acknowledged as much. 
“That’s what they all say,” Frizzelle said. 
Then they try it — and love it. As one establishment owner put it to Soderberg as he demanded Burn the Ships, “I don’t care how much it costs.” 
The beer is remarkably easy to drink even at 7.0 percent ABV, with just a subtle smokiness that really adds some interesting complexity and certainly differentiates it from other IPAs — but that does not take away from the enticing hop character. 
“It’s nothing like any beer you’ve had before,” Soderberg said. “It’s complex and confusing and well-balanced.” 
Able Ebenezer utilizes a cherrywood-smoked malt in brewing; they do not use liquid smoke, as many people suspect. 
Sometimes I think brewers force styles together that don’t really fit, but there is nothing forced about Burn the Ships.  
Victory Nor Defeat
Victory Nor Defeat is a little bit more typical in terms of what you might expect from a double IPA. The hops have an especially fresh, citrusy burst, without being overly bitter. Soderberg and Frizzelle noted the importance of balance multiple times in our conversation, and that attention to detail comes through in their offerings. The hops really jump out of the glass but, even at a hefty 8.0 percent ABV, Victory Nor Defeat goes down easily. 
Frizzelle said most of the brewery’s regulars are either Victory Nor Defeat or Burn the Ships drinkers. I see no reason why you can’t go back and forth, but that’s just me. 
Jeff Mucciarone is a senior account executive with the Manchester-based Montagne Communications, where he provides communications support to the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, which regulates the sale of all alcohol in the state. 

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