By Chris Maza
Happy American Craft Beer Week!
That's right, folks. From May 14 through 20, the entire country is celebrating the art of beer making.
This isn't a week of excuses to get drunk. It's a show of appreciation for the people who, through hard work and creativity, produce something truly unique out of ingredients as simple as water, barley, malt and hops, overcoming odds in a business that has been ruled by automation and mass production.
The Declaration of Beer Independence sums up the importance of craft beer in American culture: "I declare the beer I choose to enjoy is not a commodity, but more importantly an artistic creation of living liquid history made from passionate innovators. The beer I drink furthers our culture and teaches us geography and helps to nurture a sense of community, and helps to make the world a better place ..."
There are several events taking place throughout New England this weekend, not the least of which is Harpoon Brewing Company's HarpoonFest 2012 in Boston, which will feature two days in which the brewery's doors will be open to the public who will be treated to an extensive lineup of Harpoon's beers and live music.
A complete list of events is available at www.craftbeer.com/pages/news-and-events/american-craft-beer-week/acbw-events.
Can't make it to any events? Create your own!
I, myself, will be hosting an American Craft Beer Swap for family and friends at which each guest will bring one or two of their favorites to share.
It's a great opportunity for people to try new things and foster the number one thing for which beer is intended gathering people together
How will you be celebrating American Craft Beer Week?
High and Mighty Beer Company has been busy lately.
In addition to starting to build its own brewery facility in Easthampton after spending the majority of its existence brewing out of the Paper City Brewery in Holyoke, the company that is rapidly expanding in size and popularity came out with some new intriguing beers.
The one that especially caught my eye was the Don Cornelius, a bourbon barrel-aged brown ale made with coffee, which was fascinating to me for two reasons.
One of the interesting things about this one is its alcohol content, which is 6.5 percent alcohol by volume.
The second is that it's a brown ale, a style that tends to be on the sweeter side.
Why did these stand out? Because at last year's American Craft Beer Fest, High and Mighty's Andrew Bosquet told me that the company's goal was to "produce quality beers with less than 5 percent alcohol that are well balanced, tasteful and not sweet."
It seems the folks at High and Mighty are expanding their repertoire.
It pours dark brown with a light off-white head with a nose featuring nice hints of coffee and molasses.
The beer, named in honor of the late host of "Soul Train," is just like its namesake in one sense it's totally smooth with just the right amount of carbonation and a lighter body than I expected.
In terms of taste, I was surprised to find it to be lighter in terms of the bourbon profile, but the roasted coffee and caramel notes made this an enjoyable drink that finishes off with hints of chocolate.
Overall, the Don Cornelius left me less than wowed, but it's still a very enjoyable take on the style.
Those who love India Pale Ales (IPA) must love what Samuel Adams has been doing lately.
It's no secret the folks at Boston Beer Company love their hops. After all, Samuel Adams' Boston Lager is one of the hoppiest lagers I have ever had.
However, lately they have been doing quite a bit in terms of developing IPAs. Last year I wrote about the Latitude 48 IPA and the subsequent Latitude 48 Deconstructed 12 pack in which they made five separate IPAs utilizing one of the five hops used in making the Latitude 48.
It made for some interesting drinking, but the differences from one IPA to the next were not always quite so noticeable.
This year, Boston Beer Company has stepped it up a notch with the Hop-ology mix pack, which features six distinctly different IPAs.
Included in this limited release are the more familiar Latitude 48, Third Voyage Doudle IPA and the Tasman Red IPA, along with three relative newcomers.
The newer varieties include the Dark Depths Baltic IPA, which is similar to a black IPA, the Whitewater IPA, which is a combination of a white ale and an IPA, and the newest addition to the family, the Gumpy Monk Belgian IPA.
If variety in a style is what you're looking for, this is one to pick up while it lasts.
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