Craft Beer Cellar Style of the Month December 2014: Trappist Ales

Style of the Month: Trappist

December isn’t exactly an easy time to find “moments of quiet reflection” in Craft Beer Cellar stores, but we’re proud to take some inspiration from a more reverent group for our final “Style of the Month” of the year. Trappist Ales are produced by only 10 breweries in the entire world, all certified by the International Trappist Association as upholding strict criteria:

  1. The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  2. The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.
  3. The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds.  Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.

-http://www.trappist.be/en/pages/trappist-beers (accessed: 1 December, 2014)

Trappist Ales

Throughout the month we’ll be exploring the beers of Achel, Chimay, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Stift Engelszell and The Spencer Brewery, both online and in-store. Westvleteren (of “Westy 12: One of the Rarest Beers in the World” fame) and Zundert (brewed in the Netherlands and not currently available in the US) won’t likely be making appearances on our shelves, but perhaps we’ll check in with friends across the pond for their stories about these beers!

This holiday season, we invite you to stop in and learn more about these fantastic beers with a rich history.

Craft Beer Cellar Certified Cicerones® Save Thanksgiving!

The Beer Geeks of Craft Beer Cellar are fond of pairing craft beer and, well, everything. From doughnuts to music, we believe a thoughtfully selected beer enriches any experience.

So naturally (and with a giant hat tip to the great work being done by our friends at Serious Eats in their “Ask a Cicerone” series), we picked the brains of our Certified Cicerone® staffers for their Thanksgiving beer recommendations:

Suzanne Schalow: Craft Beer Cellar Director of Human Things
Dish: Green Bean Casserole
Suggested Beer Pairing: Session IPA

This is a weird dish… Cream of Mushroom Soup, Green Beans, Crispy Fried Onions! Who knew? I like to mix it up with fresh haricot vert, bacon, fresh lemon juice, light cream, a plethora of mushrooms (shiitake or cremini, oyster & button), and of course those pesky fried onions. There are a lot of complementary flavors here: the crisp snap of the fresh beans and a light bodied session beer, the citrus character of the hops and fresh lemon juice, and the earthy character of the mushroom with a solid malt bill.While bacon and cream just make everything better, a light hop character will also cut through the fattiness of both of these ingredients.

One to consider: Notch Brewing Left of the Dial (In a freakin’ CAN) I like this one because it’s local to the Boston area and I can get it just about any time. I dig what they are putting down and love drinking local. Light on the palate and light on the head (if you’re planning on hangin’ in there for the holidays), but with an aroma that’s super bright, citrusy, and piney – some of my favorite hop characters!

(Extra note: You’ll never use Cream of Mushroom Soup, again. Hit me up if you want the recipe. Word!)

Left of the Dial IPA

Walter Miska: Head Beer Geek, Craft Beer Cellar Westford
Dish: Sweet Potatoes
Suggested Beer Pairing: Belgian-Style Blonde Ale

Let’s face it: for Thanksgiving dinner, we are not only pairing beer with food – but with our relatives/in-laws/etc. I’m looking for something with a little bit of a kick here. Belgian Blonde Ales are fruity, aromatic and warming ales which will fit perfectly on my Thanksgiving table. My pick: Ommegang Gnomegang, an award-winning selection fermented with Chouffe yeast and bottle-conditioned with Ommegang yeast.

Sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving classic, and one of the world’s healthiest foods! Rich in beta-carotene, sweet potatoes provide you with powerful antioxidant protection. Whether baked, fried or mashed these delights add just a touch of sweetness and substance to your Thanksgiving dinner. The mouthwatering aroma from the Belgian yeast, and lingering sweetness from just the right balance of hops and fruity esters make this one righteous pairing. Add to that the scrubbing effect from the highly effervescent beer, and you are ready for another bite.

Marc Marino: Minister of Beer, Craft Beer Cellar Westford
Dish: Thanksgiving Dinner
Suggested Beer Pairing: Saison

My strategy in this situation is to select one beer to pair with the entire meal. My table (and stomach) doesn’t have the room to support that sort of “a glass for each component” approach. In a perfect world, I’d have saved a half dozen bottles of Saison du Buff, made in collaboration by Dogfish Head, Victory and Stone for Turkey Day. The intensity of the saison matches well with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy, the major players at any Thanksgiving table. The rosemary, thyme, and parsley from the beer mirror the seasonings on the turkey and stuffing. The herbs in the beer will also simultaneously enhance the earthiness of the potatoes, and develop a nice contrast with the sweetness in any yam that you put out on the table.

Honorable mentions include Rosemary for Remembrance brewed by Idle Hands Craft Ales and 10 Commandments from The Lost Abbey. Other beverages for consideration include Smoking Wood from The Bruery and Fatty Bampkins Dry Cider.

Boulevard Tank 7

Kevin Wood: Staff Beer Geek, Craft Beer Cellar Westford
Dish: TANKsgiving Dinner (Except Pumpkin Pie)
Suggested Beer Pairing: Saison

My strategy is similar to Marc’s – to pair one beer with the whole meal (except the pumpkin pie because we usually do dessert as a separate course in my family). Boulevard Tank 7 was one of the beers I served to family last Thanksgiving and was well-received. The saison style is my choice because the relatively high carbonation cuts through the richness of the potatoes, stuffing, and gravy.The fruitiness and spiciness from the farmhouse/saison yeast blend nicely with the green bean casserole and cranberry sauce as well. I find Tank 7 finishes dry and refreshing enough with a light/medium body to wash down this hearty thanksgiving meal, but has enough intensity from the hops and spicy/fruity esters to match everything in this meal, except for the pumpkin pie. The earthiness and spiciness in this beer are a nice contrast to the sweet and savory flavors in the potatoes, gravy, cranberry, and turkey.

I also am motivated by trying to convert a wine-drinking family to beer and I think Tank 7 has that conversion potential, so I chose a cork & caged 750 ml bottle that makes a nice presentation. I would serve it in stemmed glasses, and be considerate of serving sizes, given the 8.5% ABV.

A consideration for pumpkin pie pairing would be Our Finest Regards from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project. A nice, smooth barleywine would be my style choice for the dessert course.

Kate Baker: Craft Beer Cellar Hoperations Manager
Dish: Turkey and Stuffing, Deviled Eggs, Pumpkin Pie
Suggested Beer Pairing: Saison, DIPA, Stout/Porter

I think we’ve all learned the “when in doubt, go Belgian” recommendation; I personally love this, because thinking about something like a Belgian Table Beer (Avril) or Mystic Table Beer, with the scrubby bubble character, light spice and citrus flavors, and low alcohol, it’s a perfect beer style to go with most any food! Not exactly what I’d drink with Pumpkin Pie, but, most other Thanksgiving Day foodstuffs!

Stillwater Cellar Door

I like Stillwater Cellar Door for the stuffing and the turkey, as a complementary matchup. Cellar Door is brewed with white sage, so you could even reduce the amount of savory and aromatic spices used in the food, and make up for it with the beer!

Deviled Eggs, I can’t do Thanksgiving without them! I would pair a higher alcohol Double IPA with the eggs; the bitter bite and higher octane of the beer will slash right through the fatty, rich character of the egg, particularly the filling! Use gorgonzola, bacon, avocado, you name it, in the filling, to add a little something extra!

For Pumpkin Pie, a Chocolate Stout or Porter, would be awesome! The coffee and chocolate flavors of a sweeter stout or porter would stand up nicely to the darker sugar, molasses, and spice flavor of the pie. A roasty brown ale can make your pie crust sing, especially if your crust is made out of graham crackers and chocolate cookies!

Ok, that’s me! Happy Thanksgiving!

Harpoon Grateful Harvest

Craft Beer Advent Boxes are BACK at Craft Beer Cellar!

Craft Beer Advent Box

 

Last holiday season, the Craft Beer Cellar Westford crew introduced a Craft Beer Advent Box, a gift box of twenty-four individually wrapped and numbered beers, thoughtfully selected by our Staff Beer Geeks.

The response was INCREDIBLE! Immediately after the announcement, phone calls started coming in to all of our stores asking when the boxes would be available. Our ‘elves’ worked around-the-clock to make sure that requests could be filled, and that we could spread a little beer-y joy each evening from December 1st to Christmas Eve. For the many of you that have been asking if/when these gifts will be available this year, we have good news…

We are proud to announce that Craft Beer Cellar stores will once again be offering Craft Beer Advent Boxes for sale beginning TODAY, November 1, 2014, for pick-up beginning November 15. Since individual store pricing (based on beer selection and availability) may vary, contact information for all stores is listed below.

Supplies are limited, so get yours early!

Belmont, MA
51 Leonard St
Belmont, MA 02478
617-932-1885

Braintree, MA
28 Commercial St
Braintree, MA 02184
781-428-3283

Brandon, FL
1937 W. Brandon Blvd
Brandon, FL 33511
813-413-4951

Clayton, MO
8113 Maryland Ave
Clayton, MO 63105
314-222-2444

Nashua, NH
108 Spit Brook Road
Nashua, NH 03062
603-809-4148

Newton, MA
1243 Centre St
Newton, MA 02459
617-916-0244

Portland, ME
111 Commercial St
Portland, ME 04101
207-956-7322

Warwick, NY
93 Main St
Warwick, NY 10990
845-822-8034

Waterbury, VT
3 Elm St
Waterbury, VT 05676
802-882-8034

Winchester, MA
18 Thompson Street
Winchester, MA 01890
781-369-1174

#CBConTour: Great American Beer Festival!

GABF14_Logo_dates

With over 700 breweries pouring more than 3,500 different beers, The Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado represents the largest collection of U.S beer ever served. If you followed #CBConTour earlier this month, you got a first-hand look at this MASSIVE festival (October 2-4, 2014 was the 22nd GABF, and it has grown every year since its inception), along with some of the beer-y happenings throughout the “Centennial State” (hop puns appreciated).

Prepared with some insider knowledge from past GABF attendees (including many of our own Staff #BeerGeeks), we dove head first into the Saturday afternoon “Brewers Association (Craft Beer Cellar is a proud member of the BA)/ American Homebrewers Association (AHA Memberships are available for sale at many CBC stores)” session, which came on the heels of the GABF Awards Ceremony. (Special “CBC Style of the Month” Congratulations are in order to Wolaver’s Organic Brewing for taking home the GOLD MEDAL in the Pumpkin Beer Category.)

They say a picture is worth 1000 words… Here is our “Magnum Opus” from #CBConTour #GABF 2014:

Tickets for next year’s event go on sale July 29/30, 2015 (members pre-sale/general public). See you there?

And if you made it to GABF this year, we want to hear YOUR top beer picks, comments/recommendations for the event itself, the “outside-the-festival” events that you loved, and anything else we should know for a future #CBConTour visit!

 

 

Craft Beer Cellar Style of the Month October 2014: Pumpkin Beers!

Craft Beer Cellar Style of the Month:

Pumpkin Beers!

CBC Style of the Month: Pumpkin Beers

This October, the “Beer Geeks” of Craft Beer Cellar are proud to showcase some of our favorite pumpkin ales, lagers, and ciders as we (tearfully) accept that the days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing colors, and fall is indeed here again.

For the second year in a row, our customers supported our company-wide decision to refrain (as best we could) from putting pumpkin and other fall seasonal beers on our shelves before September 1st. As a token of our gratitude, many Craft Beer Cellar stores have already hosted “Pumpkin Parties” (check out some neat “Pumpkin Preference Data” from the CBC Nashua Facebook page, and see pictures from events at #TheWinch#TheMothership, and #TheLanding). And while there was a noticeable ‘orangification’ in our stores throughout September, we opted to feature Märzen/Oktoberfest beers last month to coincide with the start of the festival in Munich (September 20), and because, quite frankly, there is a lot of internal debate about whether or not September is still too early for Pumpkin Beer.

But October belongs to you, Pumpkin Heads! Many of our stores will be hosting special “Style of the Month” tastings (see individual store pages for more event information), and we’ll be providing you with some cool content both online and in-store.

Pumpkin Beer!

Like…

“Mrs. Young’s Pumpkin Bread” recipe from Craft Beer Cellar Braintree

A special nod to All About Beer Magazine‘s John Holl whose “The American Craft Beer Cookbook” has some fun pumpkin-related recipes (pgs. 136, 286; we know because we have the book in a lot of our stores ;) ).

This Library of Congress blog post from September 29, 2014 where the roots of Pumpkin Beer in America are explored.

And this Boston Globe piece featuring the “He Said, He Said” Pumpkin Beers from 21st Amendment Brewery and Elysian Brewing Company, as well as our friends Alexandra and Nicola, the founders of @RATEMYPUMPKINS!

 

Now we need YOUR input. What Pumpkin Beers top your list? Have you found a new favorite this year? Tell us in the comments, yo!

Beer Geek DIY: Shandy (A “CBC Style of the Month” Presentation)

If you’ve stopped by a Craft Beer Cellar store in these first few days of July, you’ve probably noticed the “Style of the Month” tags hanging next to some our favorite combinations of beer and fruit juice/soda. We’re featuring shandies and radlers this month, fun drinks with roots in UK and Central European pub culture (“radler” is German for cyclist, a reference to the beverage’s popularity as a mid-ride thirst quencher that’s low enough in alcohol not to inhibit a short bike ride home).

While there are many pre-packaged options available from Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg, The Traveler Beer Company, and more, it’s also fun to DIY. Craft Beer Cellar Newton‘s recent “Shandy Shakedown” event with Stacy’s Juicebar and Downeast Cider and the upcoming Drink Craft Beer Summerfest “B. Good Burgers Shandy Station” got some of our own Staff Beer Geeks thinking (and testing) combinations that we hope you’ll find refreshing!

From Craft Beer Cellar Belmont‘s “Beer Geek Mark“:

After weeks of thinking about it, I convened my first homemade radler experiment, mixing Jarritos grapefruit soda with Two Roads Ol’ Factory Pils and Unibroue Blanche de Chambly.

“A witbier radler?” you say.

Oh yes, I wanted to go a little unconventional with at least one of these. Blanche de Chambly, in my opinion, is a great beer on a par with any of the other witbiers on the market. But how would it blend with grapefruit soda?

Blanche Radler
Using one part soda and two parts beer – measured very unscientifically – it turned out to be a generally pleasant experience. It was a little on the sweet side, understandably, but not annoyingly so. The carbonation from the soda, combined with traditional witbier flavors (orange, coriander), made for a unique, pretty tasty combination.I wonder if it would have been better with the bitterness of grapefruit juice rather than the sweet soda. Perhaps in my next experiment.
Pils Radler

As for the Ol’ Factory radler… I would drink this all day.

On its own, Ol’ Factory Pils is nice and crisp, with a notable hop finish from its dry-hopping. This, in combination with the soda, made for an incredibly delicious, pleasantly bitter grapefruity flavor that went down easy on a warm summer evening. I used the same ratio of soda to beer as in the witbier radler, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Editor’s note: Unibroue Blanche de Chambly is available in all Craft Beer Cellar stores nationwide, while Two Roads Brewing Company Ol’ Factory Pils is currently only available in Craft Beer Cellar stores in Massachusetts. But their Stratford, CT brewery is DEFINITELY worth a visit. Tell ‘em we sent you, yo!

Let’s Talk About Pumpkin Beer

In July. Ugh.

It’s unfortunate that we have to have this discussion right now. Summer has just broken in New England, and while the heat and humidity aren’t exactly conducive for enjoying multiple beers on the patio [raise your hand if you’ve stuck your head in the freezer at least once already this season], it sure beats the alternative:

So we’re not complaining.

This, on the other hand, is really, really frustrating:

Just look at that grin. It's practically obscene.

Just look at that grin. It’s practically obscene.

First, a plea: If you’re frustrated by the fact that pumpkin beer has landed on the shelves at your local retailer already (or will be very shortly), be considerate in how you voice your opinion. When we held off on selling pumpkin/fall seasonal beer before September 1st last year at our Belmont and Winchester locations, we learned A LOT about the nature of “Seasonal Creep” (the preferred industry term for the phenomenon of seeing orange beer in July). Multibillion-dollar market forces (can) drive brewers (and distributors, and retailers) of all sizes to buy/sell beer “early.” It’s frustrating as heck, but to some degree we are all complicit in it. Thus, a proposal:

Be civil. Brewers, distributors, retailers, bar owners, and consumers that make, sell, buy, and drink pumpkin beer in THE BLAZING HEAT OF SUMMER aren’t bad people.

Don’t judge, please. We’re going to file this one under “Craft Beer Cellar does what Craft Beer Cellar does.” To each their own.

Ask questions. What can we help clarify?

Vote with your dollars. About pumpkin beer or anything else. Consumers yield TREMENDOUS power and influence. Exercise it.

On that note, we at Craft Beer Cellar are proud to say that, once again, no pumpkin or fall seasonal beer will hit our shelves before September 1st. This is a decision that we do not make lightly, and we appreciate the input and support from our brewer, distributor, store owner, and customer partners in making it. In the interest of full disclosure, we may buy some particularly sought after or “top staff pick” beers when they become available, so that we can offer them to our customers in September. If we do, they’ll go to the back room, basement, and off-the-floor coolers. But/So, if you’re jonesing for a particular pumpkin beer a little early, feel free to ask and we’ll help the best we can.

Oh, and there will be parties. Oh yes, there will be parties.

Enjoy this GOURDgeous day. [Cricket ;)]

-CBC

Thank You! -Suzanne

Suzanne Headshot

Thank You!

I found out yesterday that the Master Cicerone® Exam results are in and ready to be divulged to the seven of us brave enough to expose ourselves to the highest level of the Cicerone® Certification Program. I will have my results by noon, and we intend to update this blog accordingly. You all deserve to know, as much as I do, for your love and support during this process. Regardless of the results, please know that none of this stops here. If I fail to earn the title of Master Cicerone®, I will go back out there and get it done! If I am lucky enough to earn a seat at the table, I promise to keep learning, educating, and pushing the envelope. Either way, I will continue to work tirelessly every single day for amazing beer, for its continued education, and for my community.

A few words about my process . . .

On January 10th, 2014, I officially registered to sit for the spring Master Cicerone® Exam, to be administered in early May. I had been kicking around the idea of trying to get it done since early in 2013, but I knew that improving my beer knowledge and sharpening my palate would require a significant commitment of time, energy, and focus. I panicked the moment I hit the submit button; the exam was only four months away! How would I hone my skills to be able to “demonstrate encyclopedic knowledge of all issues related to brewing, beer, and beer service?” Good question.

Remember that time that we opened two stores in five days?

On the heels of Craft Beer Cellar Portsmouth’s January 9th opening, Kate and I headed to Brandon, FL to put the finishing touches on the first Craft Beer Cellar outside of New England. After I got back, I thought I’d be able to commit several hours a week to the cause. Before I knew it, we were deep in February, and the exam was in less than three months. A few weeks later, Kate & I were in the process of teaching a series of beer style courses at Craft Beer Cellar Newton, and in the midst of our last class, someone asked when the exam was. It hit me . . . it was just two months away!

Beer Smart Academy

Thank you to everyone who attended our first CBC BEER SMART Academy sessions. It was an awesome way to expand my own knowledge and learn collectively. Click the photo for information about our next sessions: Sensory Evaluation!

In the final eight weeks leading up to the exam, I went underground into an academic dungeon, surrounded by nothing more than my computer, beer, and a mountain of study materials. On most days, I studied for ten hours with breaks for conversations with Kate or someone on the team in Belmont or Winchester. I handled a little business with our growing brand team: Pham, our Brandwith Boss, or Lee Movic, our Brand BadAssador. Without my immediate team (all 20 of you), I could have never prepared myself for this exam or likely even gotten to Chicago. I am grateful!

As a result of this journey, I learned how much support I have. Kate Baker, my incredible business partner and partner in life made the academic dungeon of our home bearable, and cursed me if I dared to think of coming into work. After pulling both of our work weight in any given day or week, she worked tirelessly to coordinate brewery and barley farm visits, sessions with draft specialists, a beer & cheese tasting, and countless blind tastings. Additionally, customers, brewers and brewery representatives, distributors, local bartenders, family members, current Master Cicerones®, and, most of all, members of our amazing Craft Beer Cellar family all got behind me. The tweets, Facebook messages, emails, text messages, and phone calls of support for this crazy upcoming exam were humbling! While I may be a little more entwined and confused by the academics of beer every day, I felt a little stronger with my community, my family standing behind me holding me up. I am certain that I will never be able to completely express my gratitude to every person that supported and believed in me during this process. I am eternally grateful!

I dream in SRM (#BeerGeekJokes)

I dream in SRM (#BeerGeekJokes)

This is what craft beer has always been to me, and why I do what I do. Master Cicerone® or not, I will continue to represent great beer in this world, and to provide the best retail experiences in all of our stores. Our customers are the highlight of our days: education, tastings, and one-on-one conversations. As we continue to climb the rungs of the most tedious beer education ladders, we know not all of us will make it to the top. But we are all better for our commitment to learning and our experiences along the way. Thank you for loving good beer and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your love, admiration, and support in my own climb to become a Master Cicerone®!

-Suzanne

Updated June 18th, 2014 at 12:32pm: I just spoke with Ray Daniels from the Cicerone® Certification Program. Unfortunately, I did not receive a passing score. So, back to the books, yo!

Stop by Craft Beer Cellar Belmont today if you’re curious for more info. Or find me on Twitter: @SuzanneSchalow #madluv :)

National Running Day

A short post this morning, as Craft Beer Cellar wishes the best to everyone participating in “National Running Day.”

Will Run For Beer

Many of our Staff Beer Geeks are Marathoners, Ultra-Marathoners, Half-Marathoners, 10K-ers, 5K-ers, Joggers, Walkers, Hikers, Bikers, Swimmers, Ball Players, Yogis… You name the activity, and we’ve got someone that does it. We strongly believe that beer can and does play an important part in an active lifestyle, both for nutritive value, and for the strong sense of community that exists in both craft beer & sport.

Volunteering

Many of our stores host regular running/cycling meetups, and all are happy to provide you with information about area groups. If you belong to a group already, or have an upcoming event, please let us know so that we may share it with our fans and customers.

If you’re lacing ‘em up today, have a great run!

A few resources:

Draft Magazine’s “Beer Runner”

Greater Boston Running Company (Newton) (One run per month ends with a tasting at Craft Beer Cellar Newton)

Cambridge 5K Race Series

Craft Brew Races

Running for Brews: Tampa