By Chris Maza
Reminder Assistant Editor
November is a very tough month for me when it comes to beer. The Octoberfests which I enjoy so much are cleared off the shelves and the winter-style beers are starting to pop up.
In the first week of November, I am about as ready to drink a winter beer as I am ready to hear a Christmas carol. It's just too early for me.
So I decided to do a little searching for this month's beer selection and I came across two very different brews that caught my eye. So in the interest of being the most informed consumer I can be, I tried them both.
The first was from the Paper City Brewery, a Holyoke-based brand well-known in these parts for its decent, but often disappointing assortment of beers. This particular beer was the Triple XXX, which came in a 22-ounce bomber bottle.
The label had very little detail in terms of what to expect from the beer, but classified it as a lager. I found that it resembled an American-style lager, which tend to be lighter lagers, much like a Budweiser. For those expecting something like a Boston Lager by Samuel Adams, look elsewhere.
The beer was a hazy, light gold color with a light, foamy head and had no real notable aroma to it. Upon first taste, the beer started out with a very minute amount of hoppiness and lacked any real character. On the back end, it finished with an almost metallic aftertaste that made this beer wholly unsatisfying.
It was light, easy to drink and with 6.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), it was very much comparable to other beers of its style.
That being said, the ordinary and underwhelming experience of the beer was also on par with the style. Once again, Paper City fails to do anything to separate itself from the norm.
The other beer I tried was a daring one. Daring for me because I normally don't go for fruity beers and daring for the brewer because it is a very different style than its usual brews.
Boston Beer Company, also known as Samuel Adams, started a line in 2009 called the Barrel Room Collection and in particular, the Stony Brook Red was intriguing to me, which seemed to mimic the style of a Belgian red ale.
My affinity for Belgian reds is one of my dirty little secrets. As a man who usually scoffs at beers produced with fruit, perhaps you can call me a hypocrite for enjoying such a style that incorporates such strong fruit flavors.
Upon pouring this beer, I found a fizzy head that didn't stick around for long and a rich, dark reddish hue, with a smell that is just as rich, filled with the scent of tart fruit and cherries.
In a lot of respects, this beer almost drinks like a wine, although the very active carbonation adds a whole other element of enjoyment. The taste of the beer delivers on what the scent advertises. There's a decent amount of sweetness from the cherries and hints of oak that mix well with the tart flavors experienced on the back end.
With a medium body, this beer is also a good, solid drink, though the spritzy carbonation makes it not nearly as smooth as other beers. Also, at 9 percent ABV, it is definitely something to enjoy in moderation, possibly with a nice dinner involving red meat or while just relaxing at home.
I was impressed with the first of the Barrel Room Collection that I tried and I surely will give the others in the line a go in the future. This is a very different take on beer than what casual beer drinkers might be used to, so be warned. Still, if you're up for something a little different, give this one a go.
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