Happy Sunday everyone! NERAX North has officially wrapped up and I was glad to have caught the opening night. This particular festival is all about the cask. Casks and I are like new cube mates in a corporate office. The first couple weeks of knowing each other you don’t really know what to think but after some time you will either like or hate them. I can now safely say I like the cask. I ended up signing up for NERAX to gain appreciation for these different ales. I took a friend of mine who had never had cask so I could get his thoughts.
The TAP in Haverhill was packed for the opening night. A great crowd of some of the friendliest beer lovers I’ve seen. Their were too many to chose from so I had to be strategic. Every time I went up to get my 1/4 pint sample I was confronted by a fellow fest-goer who asked me which one I just tried and recommended me one I should try. I chose 7 to try and was happy with every one of them except one that surprised me, Stone. I am unsure what it was but I was underwhelmed. This festival really showed me a different side to beer and I hope to try out casks on my continuing beer journey. Big shout out to JT from Smuttynose, who recognized me from the blog and we had a great chat about everything from casks to the Beer Bloggers Conference in Colorado. Hope we can get out there next year JT! Below is a list of the ones I have tried. “Different but interesting” were the words that kept coming out of my friends mouth as he tried his fist cask brew, which I feel are still the words I use. If you get a chance check out the NERAX website for more information on their mission and future events. I’ll leave you with some notes from the brews I tasted.
Berkshire Brewing Company (South Deerfield, MA) — Imperial Stout
Description: Russian Imperial Stout: You don’t need to be royalty to enjoy Berkshire’s interpretation of this dark-as-night brew. Rich maltiness produces hints of chocolate, licorice, coffee and ripe, dark fruit as the alcohol warms you.
ABV: 8.50% IBU: 30
Notes: Great representation from my old hometown (Western MA). One of my favorites from the fest.
Notch Session Ale (Portland, ME) — Notch Hop Session
Description: Hop Session is an American Amber brewed with three US hop varieties – Amarillo, Simcoe and dry hopped in the cask with Mt Hood. Hop flavor is predominate, yet balanced for multiple pints. Notch brews only Session Beers – beers below 4.5% ABV. Our first beer, Hop Session, is our interpretation of an American session ale. Look for more releases soon at NotchSession.com
ABV: 4.50% OG: 1.044
Notes: The lightest I tried, very refreshing.
Stone Brewing Company (Escondido, CA) — Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Beans
Description: Stone Smoked Porter is dark, rich and complicated. Our Smoked porter has a captivatingly deep mahogany color complimented by a silky dark tan head. Rich full bodied and robust. Smooth with chocolate and coffee-like flavors balanced by the subtle smoky character of just the right amount of peat-smoked specialty malt. Our special offering for NERAX North is modified with Vanilla Beans. These not only add vanilla notes it also accentuates the chocolate and coffee flavors.
Notes: Very unfortunate. I was excited to try this one the most and I was let down. A for effort?
Troegs Brewing Company (Harrisburg, PA) — JavaHead Stout
Description: JavaHead Stout contains a blend of locally roasted espresso and Kenyan coffee beans by St. Thomas Roasters in Linglestown, PA. JavaHead’s recipe is based off of our original oatmeal stout. After the boil, the hot wort passes through our hopback vessel on it’s way to fermentation. Packed full of whole leaf hops and a bed of ground coffee beans, the hopback vessel is similar to using a huge French press, intensifying the coffee nose and releasing subtle hints of coffee flavor. The result is a lush oatmeal mouthfeel balanced with cocoa, roast and subtle coffee flavors.
Dry hopped with Cascade.
ABV: 7.5 OG: 17P IBU: 60
Notes: My girlfriend who is not a Cask lover told me to taste this one. I didn’t need much convincing, as I love coffee beers. This one was my favorite of the night.
Castle Rock (Nottingham, England) – Black Gold
Description: A well balanced dark mild ale with some bitterness, full bodied, but not overly sweet. An award winning mild that delivers a light fresh taste to one of the more traditional of beer styles.
Note: Had to hop across the waters a couple times since Castle Rock was the big name of the night. Only 3.8% alcohol. Interesting but good brew.
Elmtree (Snetterton, England) – Dark Horse Stout
Description: Rich coffee and classic hops dominate the nose. Dark ripe fruit in the mouth and a velvet smoothness compliment the strength in the body.
Notes: Recommended by someone in line next to me and I was glad I tied it, Really good. See a pattern? I love my dark beers.
Mahr’s Christmas Bock 6.0% – Germany
Notes: Recommended by JT. Most refreshing and crisp of the night. I successfully visited 3 countries in one night!
Hope you all found a great brew to end your weekend!