Keeping the pace

Exeter Brewing Co. develops strong local following

For Justin Cooper and Eric Rackliffe of Exeter Brewing Co., slow and steady wins the race. Except there’s no race; it’s really just about enjoying the journey.

“We’ve just always had a plan to go at our own pace,” said Cooper, who started the Exeter-based brewery with Rackliffe about a year and a half ago, where they have since been pumping out an array of super hoppy IPAs. “We’re excited about the support we have. If we’re still having fun, we’re going to keep doing it. We keep asking ourselves that question … and the answer’s always been yes.”

The approach has worked as the brewery has developed a robust local following. You can only find Exeter Brewing Co. beers in a handful of locations, including Gerry’s Variety, On the Vine Marketplace and Blue Moon Evolution — and you should expect those establishments to sell out the day they receive shipments.

Don’t go to the brewery either, as it doesn’t have a retail operation or a taproom at this time. By the way, that’s just fine with Rackliffe and Cooper. Maybe someday they’ll expand, but for now, they’re good right where they are, they say.

Cooper and Rackliffe have known each other for more than 20 years. They were actually college roommates and both happened to spend time living in Colorado at the same time, which helped them stay connected. Cooper is from Vermont and Rackliffe is from Maine, and now they’ve landed right in the middle in the Granite State.

Rackliffe picked up the home brewing habit and the pair ultimately started brewing together. From there, they began sharing beer with friends and family and grew the effort until they effectively launched the brewing company at the Exeter Beer and Chili Festival in October 2019.

“It was such a success. We ran out of beer early,” said Cooper, who noted he and Rackliffe still work full-time outside of the brewery.

Let’s get to the beers.

“We tend to make beers we like to drink,” Cooper said.

That means hoppy IPAs, like Swasey Daze, which is a big, juicy New England-style IPA with “flavors and aromas of pineapple, citrus, peach, passionfruit, apricot and a hint of watermelon,” says the brewery.

All of the brewery’s offerings are named after local historic landmarks and figures, such as Broadside Double IPA, named after Dunlap Broadsides, which printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, or Jailhouse Spring Pale Ale, named after a well-known freshwater spring in Exeter. Purple Dinosaur New England IPA gets its name from the “iconic spring-mounted purple dinosaur” situated in a local park.

The Oated Sleeper caught my attention, and is “probably the simplest oatmeal stout you can make,” Cooper said. The stout comes in at 9.4 percent ABV so watch out.

“That’s been my approach all along: keep it simple, stupid,” Rackliffe said. “We don’t have 10 hops in each beer. We have a max of three hops. It just lets the ingredients show and shine…. Keep it simple and let the beer speak for itself.”

Frankly, at a time when some of today’s beer choices are a bit over the top, that’s a refreshing approach.

When it comes to IPAs, Cooper said most of their beers do have that “forward-facing juice” but they do finish a little bitter, as the duo have an affinity to “old-school” IPAs: “the finish isn’t as sweet.”

Moving forward, they’ll just continue to pace themselves, and they’ll continue to look for ways to collaborate with the local community. They have plans to team up with a local coffee shop for one brew and they plan to team up with the fire department on another.

“We’re boot-strapping. There is no outside money or investment. If the market is responding favorably, we’ll respond,” Cooper said.

What’s in My Fridge
New World American IPA by Mayflower Brewing Co. (Plymouth, Mass.)

I opened my fridge and saw this one in there. I don’t know how it got there but I didn’t waste any time grabbing it. I’ve had this before but, candidly, I don’t remember it blowing me away previously. But this time, wow. It’s definitely got a tropical kick and just enough bitterness to balance that out. Excellent American IPA. Cheers!

Featured photo: Photo by Matt Ingersoll.

The West Coast IPA

It’s not fair to call the IPA style ubiquitous. I mean, it totally is, but at the same time, that descriptor just takes away from how much innovation and how much variation takes place within this style.

For a quick second, think about what your choices were for IPAs 10 years ago at your local beer store. (Did you have a local beer store 10 years ago?) Times have changed.

Today, in terms of quantity, IPAs are a dime a dozen — or like in reality closer to about $60 per dozen — but within the style, you’re looking at double IPAs, New England-style IPAs, American IPAs, even triple IPAs, dry-hopped IPAs, session IPAs, and so on and so forth.

While the New England-style IPA, with its combination of juiciness, haze and drinkability, tends to get the most attention these days, let us not forget about the West Coast IPA.

This isn’t a new style, of course; you could make a pretty sound and probably accurate argument that this is the style that really kicked off the current IPA craze, and maybe the craft beer revolution altogether. Think Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA or a Sculpin IPA by Ballast Point.

The West Coast IPA features prominent flavors of citrus and pine and a lot of bitterness. So you still get citrus flavors as you probably would with a New England-style IPA, but you would not consider calling these beers juicy. These beers bite and the presence of pine notes sets this style apart even more.

You’ll see West Coast IPAs described with words like “dank” and “resin.” Now, look, clearly no one placed a call to a marketing agency when they came up with those words, but it’s too late now. I don’t know that there is an explicit definition of the term “dank,” but I take it to mean the brew is sort of funky — in a good way.

For a lot of IPA drinkers, it’s that hop bitterness from the West Coast or American-style IPA that drew them into this style in the first place. It’s also what turns off others from truly giving the style a chance.

Looking at the pour, the West Coast style tends to lack the thick, golden haze of a New England-style IPA. West Coast IPAs can range from nearly clear to a rich amber color.

Now, brewers are constantly experimenting and the guidelines for specific styles are getting broader and broader by the minute, so keep that in mind.

But, to me, the West Coast IPA is just an exciting brew that smacks you around with a ton of bold flavors. Sometimes you do need to get smacked around a little bit.

OK, that’s enough, let’s get to the beer.

New England Gangsta by Earth Eagle Brewings (Portsmouth)

Yes, you can make West Coast IPA on the East Coast. This has a nice floral bouquet on the nose with prominent hop character — fresh, bright and not overly bitter.

Union Jack by Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (Paso Robles, Calif.)

“Big and loud,” as the brewery describes it, is right on. This is super hoppy and flavorful. The hops hit you right in the face from a variety of angles — so be ready.

Stone IPA by Stone Brewing (Escondido, Calif.)

Another iconic West Coast IPA, this hits you with a ton of tropical flavor and pine.

Pitch A Tent by Hobbs Brewing Co. (Ossipee)

This double IPA is well-balanced, featuring tropical notes and plenty of citrus and just enough bite. The pour is nearly crystal clear. At 8 percent ABV, be careful.

What’s in My Fridge
Juice Lord by Lord Hobo Brewing Co. (Woburn, Mass.)

This is super-juicy and full of big fruit flavor as you’d expect, but it’s also bitter, maybe more bitter than I expected. It took me a second to get used to that, I think just because I really wasn’t expecting it, but after a few sizable sips, I was all in. Yet another Lord Hobo brew you should track down and enjoy. Cheers!

Featured photo: West Coast IPA. Photo by Jeff Mucciarone.

Let’s talk IPAs

So annoyingly popular

IPAs are so popular right now I almost try to avoid writing about them, not because I don’t enjoy them, but, look, they’re almost too trendy. And I don’t want to inundate people with IPAs all the time.

I think I may have overcompensated a bit, though. Let’s be serious; IPAs are far and away the most popular craft beer style in the country. You walk into a brewery, any brewery, and you know you’re going to have several IPAs to choose from and probably one or maybe two each of any other style they offer. That’s just the reality of the craft beer scene.

They are so popular because they taste so good. The bright hops feature big notes of tropical fruit, citrus and pine, and just an abundance of freshness. It’s incredible how flavorful they are.

With New England-style IPAs, you’re drinking a beer that looks like a glass of orange juice, and honestly, often doesn’t taste that far off from that.

It seems brewers have an almost endless supply of hop combinations to play with, and play with they do. The winners are the beer drinkers of this country.

It’s just that sometimes IPA culture is a bit much — this is the style of beer that causes people to do irrational things, like wait in really long lines just for beer. But that doesn’t change the way they taste.

Here are three IPAs I’ve had recently that reminded me how terrific this style is.

Hi, Jack New England IPA by Hobbs Brewing (Ossipee)

A friend handed one of these to me before we hit the slopes for some very late winter skiing and snowboarding, and I just couldn’t be more grateful. Yes, we can definitely talk about whether or not it was a great idea to have a beer before I tried to clumsily manipulate onto and then off of a chair lift, but I have no regrets.

I think a lot of the amped-up IPAs of today can be a bit much on the gut — I don’t know that I’d call them heavy but some of the big ones can bog you down, between the alcohol, the hops and, I think, the yeast.

This IPA is an explosion of fruity hop flavor but in a less robust package. It’s delicious and extremely easy to drink. What I’m saying is, you could have several of these, and I’m not saying you should, but I’m saying you probably will want to.

Donkey-Hoté Double IPA by Throwback Brewery (North Hampton)

Speaking of amped-up IPAs, here’s one. This is aggressive — aggressively hoppy and bitter — and yet surprisingly easy to drink, so be careful, as this comes in at 8.2-percent ABV. The pour is hazy and the flavor profile features big notes of citrus and apricot. I think a beer like this is your “reward” beer. Sit down, relax, put your feet up and enjoy this hop-bomb after you’ve accomplished something, such as an afternoon of yard work.

603 IPA by 603 Brewery (Londonderry)

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I don’t think I had ever had this beer before. Not sure what I was waiting for. This is excellent. In addition to tropical citrus notes, the brewery says the brew features notes of lime, orange and melon, and, yeah, that’s pretty much right on. I think you will pick up the lime, which just makes this brew especially interesting. This is a terrific “anytime” IPA.

What’s in My Fridge
Green Head IPA by Newburyport Brewing Co. (Newburyport, Mass.)

One of my all-time favorite IPAs, there’s just something about this beer. Maybe it’s just personal nostalgia or maybe it’s because I like the tag line, “The beer that bites you back,” but this West Coast-style IPA has just always been a winner for me — deliciously hoppy and bitter. Cheers!

Featured photo: Hi, Jack New England IPA by Hobbs Brewing. Courtesy photo.

Three random beers

March is unpredictable; so are these selections

Nobody knows what the month of March is going to throw at us. Exhibit A? March 2020 brought us essentially a nationwide lockdown.

On March 1, 2020, you had no doubt heard of Covid-19 but you can’t look me in the eye and say you had an inkling that in a matter of days you were headed for a full year of working from home. You could try to tell me you saw it coming but I promise you I won’t believe you. OK, OK, maybe I’d believe you if you are a medical professional. But most likely you are not.

March brings us bizarre, varied and often extreme weather. It brings us one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year. It also brings us a huge college basketball tournament. Sometimes, it brings us Easter. And fun fact: The Eiffel Tower opened on March 31, 1889.

What will March 2021 bring us?

With a month that’s this all-over-the-place, your beer choices are probably going to be equally random. Sometimes you get an 80-degree day in March, and that’s when you cue something light and refreshing. This March opened with bitterly cold temperatures, and, in turn, I stuck with big stouts and porters. Anything and everything in between is on the table.

Here are three random beers to enjoy this March.

Lighten Up by Lithermans Limited (Concord)

This double dry hopped pale ale is bursting with citrus aroma and fresh hop flavors in, as you might expect, a pretty light package — perfect at any time. Sometimes, I find that with all the super-hoppy IPAs available now, just enjoying a straight pale ale can be an enlightening and delicious experience. This is basically a toned down IPA but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more pleasing hoppy beer — juicy, crisp and tasty.

Fun side note: You can download the Lithermans Limited playlist right on its website ( with Spotify or iTunes and “experience the musical stylings of Lithermans from the comfort of your own home.” Maybe other breweries do this too? I don’t know. But in a time where we’re all still finding ways to adapt, this is just another thoughtful way to recreate “normal” for your own sanity and beer-drinking enjoyment.

Farmhouse Noir with Raspberries by Stoneface Brewing Co. (Newington)

This is a complicated, unpredictable beer, making it perfect for March. This saison is quite dark on the pour and definitely brings some richer maltiness. But at the same time it’s also super bright and tart and just oozes raspberry flavor. It’s a little funky, a little sweet, maybe even a little chocolatey? This beer is going to keep you on your toes. Be ready for anything.

Beamish Irish Stout by Beamish & Crawford (Cork, Ireland)

Guinness gets all the attention in the United States on Saint Patrick’s Day and that’s just fine with me, but there are other traditional Irish stouts that deserve your attention. The Beamish Irish Stout is a little more decadent than a Guinness with a bit more chocolate and coffee character. Yes, drink this on Saint Patrick’s Day, but don’t limit yourself to that single holiday. This brew is incredibly pleasing and at 4.1 ABV it is exceedingly easy to drink for even the most stout-averse beer drinkers.

What’s in My Fridge
Sam Adams Gameday Beers by Boston Beer Co. (Boston) I love a good mixed pack and Sam Adams is the first company I think of when it comes to variety packs. The Sam Adams Gameday Beers pack features four lighter brews: Boston Lager, Cold Snap White Ale, Alpine Lager, which is new, and a Golden Ale. First, I think this variety pack would be perfect for summer, as these are all lighter, easy-drinking options. All of these brews are just “beers,” and I mean that in the best kind of way. They are flavorful, crisp and refreshing, and yes, agreed, these are perfect for gameday. Cheers.

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of Jeff Mucciarone.

Flavor impact

What you eat or drink affects your brew

In sort of a famous family incident several years ago during a get-together at a restaurant, my dad complained about the Wachusett Country Ale he was drinking. He didn’t like it. The flavor wasn’t quite right.

As the brew is one of my staples and frankly, unarguably, one of the least offensive brews on the planet, this concerned me. Was it skunked? Did the bartender accidentally give him the wrong beer? Was something wrong with my father?

After a little investigation, he admitted he had popped an Altoid just as he was drinking the beer. Look, I’m not going to question the big guy. He must have needed a breath mint. But I feel sure the brewers at Wachusett Brewing Co. didn’t brew any of their beers to be enjoyed with an Altoid.

The point is, juxtaposition matters when it comes to beer.

This is not an article about pairing food with beer. This is some commentary on at least considering how one thing might impact another. It’s also about encouraging people to give beers another shot — in a different context, you might find different results.

If you’ve had a couple rich, smooth stouts, and then you make the jump to an amped up double IPA, well, it might work but the bitterness might be a lot to take on the first sip.

Recently I was enjoying a delicious Velvet Moon Milk Stout by Mighty Squirrel Brewing of Waltham, Mass., just savoring the rich coffee flavor and decadence of the brew. Then I followed it up with a much drier stout. It was not a good experience and left me disliking the second brew. I even bad-mouthed it to a friend.

I gave the brew another shot several days later and it was a completely different, completely pleasurable experience. I’m glad I came back to it.

Juxtaposition matters, of course, when you’re making a dramatic shift from one style to another, but it also matters when you’re sticking with the same style. If you’re enjoying a bunch of IPAs, sometimes the combination of hops from the next brew can hit you right or wrong.

Food has an impact as well, potentially bringing out the right or wrong flavors from the beer you’re drinking.

Just keep it in mind. If you try a beer and you don’t like it, you might just not like it, but consider the possibility that other factors have impacted how you feel about it. Try it again in a different context.

Here are three random beers that can probably be enjoyed in succession but I don’t really know.

ArrrVP Oak-Aged Robust Vanilla Porter by Great North Aleworks (Manchester)

Great North Aleworks takes its terrific Robust Vanilla Porter (RVP) and ages it in rum oak cubes, which accentuates the vanilla in the brew and gives it a little “bite,” while the beer maintains a dry finish. At its core this is still RVP, just a little different. The ABV is pretty low at 6.6 percent, making it approachable too.

Blueberry Ale by Wachusett Brewing Co. (Westminster, Mass.)

Just a coincidence that I referenced Wachusett earlier in the piece, but when you have had more IPAs than you should, this is a perfect choice. The subtle sweetness from the blueberries and the light body provide the perfect counterpoint to all that hop bitterness.

Unraveled IPA by Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

This is good stuff: very juicy but also smooth, if an IPA can be that. It’s also a crystal clear pour, making it very unique for this style. It also has big citrus aromas.

What’s in My Fridge
60 Minute IPA by Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales (Milton, Delaware)
I hadn’t had this in forever and I’ll tell you what, this brew, now nearly 20 years old, absolutely stands up to today’s super-hoppy IPAs. Cheers.

Featured photo: ArrrVP by Great North Aleworks

Binge-watching and beer

Beer can be a critical component to pair with Netflix

The problem is that when one episode on Netflix ends, you’ve got less than five seconds to shut off the television before the next episode starts. If you haven’t made a conscious effort to have the remote in your hand the second the episode ends, you have missed your chance.

And once the next episode starts, forget about it.

That’s where I’ve found myself over the past couple weeks, cranking out episodes of the show Broadchurch on Netflix as if my life depended on it, as if I were playing a crucial role.

I couldn’t stop. The plot, the characters, those amazing British accents — the show had full control over me. (Did I watch it with subtitles because sometimes, just maybe, I have trouble understanding what exactly is being said with those heavy accents? Maybe. I don’t regret it.) The show first aired on ITV in Britain between 2013 and 2017.

I’m a sucker for murder mysteries, in show or book form, and I just feel that Netflix really takes advantage of me. Every night I’m thinking about how I can maximize my viewing time and considering just how much sleep I really need — or don’t need.

Anyway, binge-watching shows isn’t a new concept but I think it’s safe to say the practice has become more commonplace as we’ve all maintained a heightened state of isolation in our homes over the past year.

I think you need some beer to help you watch. Still, you can’t binge-watch an intense murder mystery show and drink a bunch of beers. Well, OK, you can — I’m not the boss of you — but the characters are relying on you to help them solve the case and you’re no help if your senses aren’t sharp.

I think you do need a little something to help you deal with the intensity. For me, that means a nice, rich stout or porter that I can sip slowly as I try to predict whodunnit. You might be in for a long night so you don’t want something that’s going to just knock you out. You just need something to take the edge off.

If you’re binge-watching something more lighthearted, like, say Schitt’s Creek, I think you can be a little more liberal with your drinking. But, frankly, I don’t think you binge-watch a comedy in the same way you just can’t stop watching something more serious. But that’s really your call.

Here are five beers to support you through your next binge-worthy show.

Smoke & Dagger by Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers (Framingham, Mass.)

This is lighter than you’d expect but it is packed with layers of richly flavored roasted malts. This is perfectly balanced and welcoming.

Geppetto by Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton)

This milk stout brewed with coffee is a decadent brew that hits you with big notes of chocolate and a little bit of roasted coffee too, as you might expect. It’s got a little sweetness as well.

Boneshaker Brown Ale by Moat Mountain Brewing Co. (North Conway)

This is a wonderful brown ale featuring notes of chocolate, roasted nuts and caramel in a fairly light package.

Maritime Lager by Newburyport Brewing Co. (Newburyport, Mass.)

You don’t have to think about this beer; you can just drink it and enjoy the show, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Oatmeal Stout with Honey by Throwback Brewery (North Hampton)

Don’t let the honey throw you off; while this has just a touch of sweetness, this beer is really all about delicious roasted malts and big notes of chocolate.

What’s in My Fridge
Budweiser by Anheuser-Busch
Am I allowed to drink Budweiser without people throwing things at me? I’m not sure. It’s been a long time and the Budweiser drinking experience was pretty much as I’d remembered it — crisp, clean, not especially flavorful, but also not at all off-putting. It’s a beer. Relax, everybody, it’s a beer and it’s fine. Cheers.

Featured photo: Photo by Jeff Mucciarone.

Super Bowl and beer

Five beers to enjoy during the big game

I know you’re sullen because the Patriots aren’t in the Super Bowl. Hey, I am too, but there is still technically a game and it might be worthwhile to watch, even if you can’t get together with a bunch of friends and family like you might in normal times.

It’s still the Super Bowl and if times were less defined by Covid-19, you’d probably be drinking beer during the game. You still can! And I have some suggestions that might just make the game and the overall experience a little more palatable.

With the Patriots not participating, I think that gives you an excellent opportunity to spend a little more time pondering your beer than you would otherwise. If the Pats are in the game, your friends could probably fill your glass with Malibu Rum instead of beer and you wouldn’t notice because every fiber of your being would be tuned in to the game.

So, OK, silver lining, you can chill out a little bit.

Here are five New Hampshire beers you should drink during the Super Bowl (OK, maybe not all of them, but honestly, maybe, because where are you going?):

Alexandr by Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton)

Let’s start with something light, crisp, clean and easy. This Czech-style Pilsner is a perfect brew to sip as you take in a little of the pre-game analysis and theatrics — and with some apps. Pilsners get a bad rap sometimes as a beer that lacks flavor. True, no Pilsner is going to hit you square in the jaw like a big IPA, but they’re not meant to. That doesn’t mean this brew — and other craft-brewed Pilsners — doesn’t have plenty of character.

Ragged Mountain Red Ale by The Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grille (New London)

This red ale is smooth, malty and, honestly, kind of dangerous, because it goes down awfully easy. The rich amber pour is intriguing, as the beer’s body is really quite light, but not so light that you can’t appreciate the complexity. A great beer to have in your hand at kickoff and to eat Super Bowl food with.

New England Gangsta by Earth Eagle Brewings (Portsmouth)

We’re going to start to crank things up a little now, because, presumably, the game is starting to get a little more serious now that the players and the fans have gotten over the initial round of butterflies. But this West Coast-style IPA doesn’t crank it up so much that you’re going to knock yourself out. You’ll get some citrus and some pine on this with some pleasing residual bitterness. This is on the lighter side as IPAs these days go, but you’ll have plenty of hop character to consider as you critique the play-calling.

No Other Place Sour by Lithermans Limited Brewery (Concord)

OK, you got through the first half and you got through the halftime show, for better or worse, and now you need to wake up your taste buds. This’ll do the trick nicely. This fruited gose is going to hit you with bright, tart cranberry flavor in a low-alcohol package, which is exactly what you need right now.

Draken Robust Porter by Kelsen Brewing Co. (Derry)

The game isn’t over but it’s time to wind down. I think stouts and porters are great for doing just that. There’s no rush. You can sip them slowly and appreciate their rich, complex flavors. The Draken is full of roasted malt flavor and big on chocolate and caramel, and I think maybe some coffee, too? This is a great choice to enjoy as you watch the final minutes play out and to sip as you take in the trophy presentation ceremony.

What’s in My Fridge
Winter Lager by Samuel Adams Brewing Co. (Boston, Mass.)
When you haven’t had one of these in a long time, this brew is sort of eye-opening. It’s nice and easy to drink with a little sweetness and spice as you’d expect — just a perfectly enjoyable beer. Cheers!

Featured photo: Pick up some beer for the Super Bowl. Courtesy photo.

Beer and DIY

Good beer to help with home improvement projects

Over the course of several weeks, my wife painstakingly and tediously removed all the wallpaper from a stairway and second-floor hallway. She used a vinegar solution, a steamer and other products to complete the job.

I was an observer throughout the frustrating wallpaper removal process, and I did feel some guilt over that. But it is my turn now and I’m going to need some beer to get me through my role in this leg of the project.

I am currently undertaking a process that involves “sealing” the ripped up walls from all the scuffing and scraping that comes with the wallpaper removal process, and then applying a skim coat of plaster. The next step is another coat of sealer, which also acts as a primer, followed by a couple coats of paint.

Also, all of that is according to, for your information. I don’t know what I’m doing.

The wallpaper removal was undoubtedly worse, but this is still a lot. Plus, there are ladders involved and I’m more of a “don’t-go-past-the-third-rung” kind of guy.

Jobs like this, particularly ones that don’t involve lots of sharp objects, need beer. You want to do a good job — I know I want to do a good job — but you also need to reward yourself for your efforts. And let’s be honest, stuff like plaster and paint, well, they need time to dry before you move on to the next step.

I think most people have found themselves tackling more home improvement projects in the past nine months than they expected. I know I have, and beer has been a critical component of these jobs.

You can’t just choose any beer, though. I suppose you can but I’m not sure you should. That double IPA or that imperial stout in the fridge may be tempting but the high ABV on those beers is going to slow you down — and maybe bring your efforts to a complete stop.

That’s not what we want. We have to get this job done. To do so, more sessionable beers are your friend, beers that are, say, 6-percent ABV or less. The specific style, of course, is less important. The big thing, and I’m being serious, is that you want to be able to enjoy a beer or maybe two while you work, but we still need to complete this project and do it well — at least to the best of our abilities.

Pilsners are an obvious choice: crisp, clean and refreshing. Beers like the Dirty Blonde Ale by Portsmouth Brewery, the Koastal Kolsch by Great Rhythm Brewing or the Alexandr Czech-style pilsner by Schilling Beer Co. would make excellent choices.

While an imperial stout might not be the best move, a “regular” stout or porter would be perfect, maybe even ideal. You can slowly slip a stout or a porter over an extended period of time and still enjoy the robust, complex flavor.

The Java Roots stout by Granite Roots Brewing is very smooth and boasts huge coffee flavor. Other local options include the Robust Porter by Smuttynose Brewing Co. and the Robust Vanilla Porter by Great North Aleworks.

While sours aren’t my go-to, I like how the tart brightness of a sour wakes me up in the middle of a project. The Jam Up the Mash Dry Hopped Sour by Collective Arts Brewing was a good friend to me as I painted and plastered. The SeaQuench Ale by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery would be another favorite sour of mine.

Brown ales would be perfect companions as well, with their nutty, sweet flavors.

Find something you like, that doesn’t bog you down, and get to work.

What’s in My Fridge
Winter Warmer by Harpoon Brewing Co.
(Boston, Mass.) This is my all-time favorite holiday beer and a very nostalgic choice. I know the nutmeg is a bit much for some and straight-up off-putting to others, but I love the holiday spice and sweetness this beer brings. It’s so festive. It’s also dangerously easy to drink. Cheers!

Featured photo: Jam Up the Mash dry-hopped sour by Collective Arts Brewing.

Beef stew with beer

Let’s get cooking

Usually, we make New Year’s resolutions that involve eating less food or at least less of the stuff that tends to add pounds to our waistlines.

Many of you will very likely try to take a similar approach this year, and hey, I don’t blame you. It’s just that I know from personal experience it’s not worthwhile for me, so I’m going to slap on an apron and get cooking because this guy needs to eat.

At this time of year, when the holidays are just about behind us and the weather is cold, I’m craving rich stews and roasted meat — aren’t we all?

Stews are great for a number of reasons but I love that you can take a tough cut of meat, like beef chuck or pork butt, and just simmer it for hours until the meat is tender and delicious. The finished product is nearly always flavorful, warming and satisfying and that’s really what we’re going for.

So let’s make some beef stew — and in case you were wondering when I was going to bring up beer, that moment is now because we’re going to use beer in the beef stew.

Beef stew is so forgiving, especially if you use chuck. Really, the only issue is that you have to be patient and just keep simmering it until the meat is as tender as you want it. I like big chunks of meat and vegetables but chop or dice the ingredients to whatever size you please — just try to be consistent so items cook at the same rate.

Using stout for the broth adds a layer of complexity and richness that, I’m sorry, you can’t get from broth alone. I really like how the flavor of the thyme — and I would emphasize that fresh thyme is critical in this case — pairs with the beef, garlic and the maltiness of the stout.

In choosing a stout, I think Guinness is your baseline but any dry stout or porter will work. Smuttynose Brewing Co.’s Robust Porter or the Workingman’s Porter by Henniker Brewing Co. would be great choices. I think stouts with lots of coffee and chocolate notes are delicious but I’m not sure how well they’d work in this stew. I’m not saying don’t try them; I’m just saying don’t blame me if it doesn’t work out.

Get your apron on.

What’s in My Fridge
Fat Tire Amber Ale by New Belgium Brewing Co. (Fort Collins, Colorado)

This is just an easy-drinking beer that has just enough flavor to make it memorable. I bought a six-pack recently just to make sure I had one beer that would please anyone. Cheers!

Beef and Stout Stew
4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2-3 large carrots, chopped
2-3 large celery stalks, chopped
3 large onions, chopped
3-4 large potatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
16 ounces stout
4-6 cups beef broth
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 sprig fresh thyme
Fresh parsley

Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat and when hot, add oil. Season meat with salt and pepper. Brown meat, in batches, until all sides are browned. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Turn the heat to medium and add onions, celery and a big pinch of salt and cook, stirring for 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and stir for a minute or so. Add carrots and cook for 5 minutes so carrots soften up a bit.
Add flour and cook for a couple minutes, stirring. Pour in stout carefully as it will bubble up, and scrape the sides and bottom of the pot. Add meat back in, along with another pinch of salt, pepper, potatoes and thyme.
Pour in 2-4 cups of the beef broth and assess the consistency. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for roughly two hours, adding more broth if needed, until meat reaches desired tenderness and the stew has reduced to your desired consistency.
Serve with fresh parsley and a beer.

Featured Photo: Let’s make stew with some stout. Photo by Jeff Mucciarone.

’Tis the season

Beers for the holidays

You need some beer to get you through the rest of 2020. Has a truer statement ever been made?
In a year like no other, I think we’re all eager to get the rest of this year over with. Yes, OK, we should probably take a minute and try to enjoy a subdued holiday season, but really, let’s get 2020 in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible.
Beer isn’t going to help the end of the year get here any faster, but maybe it will help make the road a little less bumpy and the holidays a little more enjoyable. Well, we can all hope.
We’re celebrating the holidays with fewer people all together this year, but I think we’re still all looking for the same things when it comes to beer at this time of year: rich, malty, maybe a little sweet and maybe with a little spice. I’m thinking flavors of chocolate, caramel, mint, nutmeg and vanilla, and so on.
Here are a few beers to help get you through the holidays and through the rest of the minefield that is 2020.

Kringle’s Krook by Portsmouth Brewery (Portsmouth)
This robust black ale has plenty of roasty, toasty malt character and it’s balanced out by sweet flavors thanks to the addition of candy canes and fresh mint—so yes, this is like drinking a peppermint patty in beer form. A seasonal treat for sure.

Sundae Nights Mint Chocolate Chip Stout by Kettlehead Brewing (Tilton)
Wow. If Kringle’s Krook is a peppermint patty in beer form, it sure sounds like this one is mint chocolate chip ice cream in beer form. This imperial milk stout, which comes in at 10.8 percent ABV, is brewed with cocoa nibs, mint and a “heavy dose” of milk sugar, says the brewery. My goodness — I look forward to trying this indulgent brew.

Bell’s Christmas Ale by Bell’s Brewery (Comstock, Mich.)
My dad said he and my grandfather used to take the Samuel Adams Scotch Ale and mix it with a Budweiser to lighten it up in terms of body and flavor, as the brew was quite “strong.” Look, I was just a kid when he told me this, and at that time who was I to question the move? I’m an actual adult now and as such I have questions, like, I don’t know, maybe just don’t buy that particular beer if you need to water it down? I don’t understand. Anyway, Bell’s Christmas Ale is a bold, richly flavored brew with big notes of caramel and a nice touch of warming alcohol — perfect for sipping by the fire.

Winter by Wachusett Brewing Co. (Westminster, Mass.)
This is a nostalgic pick for me from an underrated brewery as many family holiday gatherings featured this brew as a prime selection. Winter features a traditional holiday bouquet of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in a roasty, toasty brew that doesn’t overpower your palate. Extremely well-balanced, Winter is the quintessential holiday brew.

Udder Vanilla Milk Stout by Loaded Questions Brewing Co. (Portsmouth)
I haven’t tried this one but when you combine lactose, vanilla and chocolate malt together in a beer, are we not talking about a glass of chocolate milk? What could possibly be wrong with this one? The brewery says it has “restrained sweetness,” which I think suggests this brew might have a good bit of versatility, too.

What’s in My Fridge
Pompadour by Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton)
This is about as good an American pale ale as I’ve ever had. It’s been a few years since I’ve had this one and it just did not disappoint. Characterized by flavors of citrus, peach and maybe apricot, this is easy drinking and delicious. Absolutely one of my favorite beers of all time. Cheers!

Featured Photo: Beer is your friend as we close out 2020. Photo courtesy Portsmouth Brewery.

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