All posts by John Fortunato

IRON DUKE BREWING

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LUDLOW, MASSACHUSETTS

Part of Ludlow’s historic clock-towered old factory mill since 2014, IRON DUKE BREWING lives by the handy blue collar ethos “a celebration of hard work.” Reigning supreme along the Chicopee River, these friendly zymurgists have created a charmingly rustic topnotch garage-like nano brewery delivering well-defined hand-crafted beers.

Taking a ramp to the entrance, Iron Duke’s spacious high ceiling interior includes a wood-lacquered L-shaped bar servicing scattered seating towards the windowed brew tanks. A huge Styrofoam footprint along the red bricked bar wall serves as Iron Duke’s emblem.

There are olden beer trays and proprietary beer mugs above the fourteen copper draught handles at the bar plus a hanging TV nearby for sports fans.

My wife and I settle in on a Saturday night March ’19 to sample a few draughts.

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There were five flagship beers Iron Duke currently had on tap.

First up, politely creamed prohibition-era Kentucky Common Ale, The Common, left lemon spritz upon maize-flaked rye malts and grassy hop astringency in a soft-toned manner.

Dry rye malts infiltrated tangy grapefruit-orange-soured Dead Nuts Rye IPA, leaving mildly bitter piney hop resin at the sunny citrus finish.

Relying on a ‘bigger, bolder hop and malt punch’ than Dead Nuts, Stud Finder Imperial IPA launched tropical Topaz-hopped lychee fruiting, sharp grapefruit juicing and dusty floral herbage upon resinous pine wisps above candied caramel malts.

As for the two flagship dark ales, dark-roast ground coffee summoned dry Irish Porter, Baby-Maker, leaving brown-sugared molasses oats to sweeten its cocoa-powdered black malting.

And dry breakfast stout, Sinker, brought black-malted hop char bittering to Blackstrap molasses sinew above a seared oats base.

I also quaffed another six brews while the taproom filled up with local denizens.

Dewy moderate-bodied Irish Red Ale, Murph, brought dried fig, cold-brewed coffee and minimal caramel spicing to its mossy earthen bottom.

Brisk orange-hazed New England-styled IPA, 4 A.M., brought sharp grapefruit-peeled orange rind bittering to tart lemon-limed souring and sweet mango-pineapple-papaya tropicalia above peaty pale malts.

Bitter walnut-charred dark chocolate chalking contrasted hazelnut-glazed toffee sweetness for fairly rich Brown Ale, Putts Bridge.

Adventurous 7-Up/ ginger ale knockoff, Ginger Kerfuffle Pineapple Ginger Sour Ale, sprinkled sea salt upon lemonade-sugared pineapple juicing (leaving a latent alcohol kick).

Subtly bourbon-soaked vanilla bean sweetness picked up raw-honeyed bittering for hybridized amber ale, Generosity.

Best bet: heavenly 3rd anniversary celebrator, 156 Barrel Aged Nitro, an Alaskan Imperial Porter, spread exquisite bourbon vanilla sweetness across whiskey-dried mocha, toasted coconut and marshmallow illusions.

www.irondukebrewing.com

HIGH HORSE

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AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS

In a red brick professional building in the center of Amherst, HIGH HORSE began slinging suds for the UMass crowd back in January ’12. A closed-in benched porch welcomes patrons to the pub’s three-staged interior.

To the right side, a spacious tile-floored main area with twenty-stooled J-shaped wood bar features quaint windowed seating, a TV for sports addicts and brew tanks towards the front.

Edison lights and café tables don the cement-floored midsection and the broken-up left space offers creatively designed intimacy. Interesting modern paintings cover many walls.

On my Sunday brunch stopover, March ’19, had the omelet and French Toast alongside the only remaining house brew currently leftover from the soon-to-be disposed brew tanks.

Utilizing wild saison yeast for its mellow Chardonnay-barreled sour ale template, Le Bang Bang brought salty lemon-limed acidity to vinous green grape tannins and tart crabapple piquancy.

High Horse will have its new brewing equipment readied by springtime. There will be at least four offerings to start.

highhorseamherst.com

FORT HILL BREWERY

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EASTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS

Inside a cavernous maroon-paneled, stone-walled farmhouse with twin grain silos at the back patio deck, FOOT HILLS BREWERY opened in 2014. Its natural yellow pine furnishings, A-framed Crawford ceiling and tree-cut bar top bring a natural bucolic warmth to this large countryside pub.

Entering from the cozy front deck, the 15-seat L-shaped bar features 20-plus taps and to the left is a small stage area for local bands. A Barnes Aquifier System is used for the crisp underground well water.

Leaning heavy on the India Pale Ales and bringing European tradition to its lager-pilsners, Foot Hills does a great job getting the most out of each stylistic brew.

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Straightforward Czech-styled Hera Pils let light grain malt sweetness slip inside herbal grassy hop astringency in a pleasantly easygoing manner.

Delicate Saaz hop herbal musk and earthen grain dew soaked Branch Manager Pilsner, a dry German-styled moderation.

Mildly creamed hefeweizen, Vice Beer, gathered banana-clove-bubblegum sweetness for its honeyed Graham Cracker wheat sugaring and tart lemon spritz.

Dried fruit spicing ensconced Love Thy Neighbor Dopplebock, as fig-sugared prune, plum and raisin illusions rode alongside desiccated orange tartness over light Vienna malting.

Easygoing Farmers Fresh Session IPA gave its crisply clean lemony grapefruit tang a light vanilla-creamed crystal malting that sweetened above grassy herbal hop restraint.

Juicy yellow grapefruit tanginess dominated brisk summertime moderation, G-Fresh Grapefruit IPA, staying mellow as mandarin orange, clementine and lemon meringue wisps gather below.

Zesty lemony grapefruit and dry wood-toned pale malts headed Fresh Pick New England IPA, a clean-watered moderate-medium body utilizing Simcoe-Mosaic-Citra hops to gain dainty orange, peach, pineapple and tangerine illusions to push forward its sunny grapefruit thrust.

Another grapefruit-empowered Imperial IPA, Jigsaw Jazz, let dry-hopped Citra juicing break out zesty grapefruit rind, pith and peel bittering complemented by lemony mandarin orange, tangerine and tangelo illusions.

Lively lemon licks brightened spritzy Checkmate Chuck Imperial IPA, picking up mild lychee, white grape and honeydew nips to offset its subtle grassy-hopped resinous pine bittering.

Refreshingly sea-salted gose, The Pianist, gained lightly acidic lime peel bittering and sour lemon briskness and will please wild ale fans. 

Dark chocolate and iced coffee fronted delicately oak-aged Bill The Butcher Imperial Stout, a surprisingly dry departure with earthen dew mustiness and soured wort graining leveling off the mocha expectancy.

Cocoa-enriched Tim’s Udderly Milk Stout plied dark chocolate syruping to mildly spiced dried fruiting, leaving light-roast coffee, molasses, toffee and hazelnut illusions in its wake.

forthillbrewery.com

 

SHIRE BREU HOUS

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DALTON, MASSACHUSETTS

Inside a preserved stationary factory in the tiny metropolis town of Dalton due northeast from Pittsfield, SHIRE BREU HOUSE opened in 2017. Its marbled hardwood floor, chandelier lounge and small hearth add elegance to the rustic concrete-columned exposed pipes.

The nearly oval 20-seat centralized bar featured upscale pub fare and fabulous spirits to go alongside rangy homemade draughts. Wooden booths and tables surround the 20-stool bar. A simple black-on-white-painted Shire Breu Hous insignia dons the back side wall.

Bananas Foster French Toast and smoked salmon were thoroughly enjoyed for brunch during my February ’18 swing.

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Shire’s well-balanced house beer selection really kicked ass!

Tropical dry-bodied New England-styled hazy India Pale Ale wrangled tart lemon-dropped gooseberry, guava and melon rind illusions out of limey Huell Melon hops, finishing quick with a spicy citrus zesting.

Another fine New England-styled hazer, Mango Milkshake IPA, let lingering yogurt-soured lactose acidity sink into vanilla-sweetened mango tartness, relegating its delicate melon rind, mandarin orange and honeydew snips.

Smoothly centrist Eagle ESB left dewy moss sweetness, brown-leafed foliage, nutty nuances and herbal notions upon biscuity caramelized malts.

Equally subtle, moderate Dunkel Weizen allowed mild honey-roasted dried fruiting to seduce delicate coffee-cocoa-chocolate tones.

Robust Policemen’s Porter injected mildly creamed coffee overtones and setback black chocolate bittering into walnut-dried hop char.

Creamy vanilla-beaned cocoa nibs reinforced richly complex golden stout, Trompe l’Oeil, leaving brown chocolate spicing alongside citrus-juiced pale malts.

Even more complex, lactose-aided milk stout, Colantha Mooie, draped dark chocolate syrup all over dark-roast coffee, sweet vanilla and smoky earthen peat.

Part of a rotating series of ‘barrel-aged’ elixirs, tequila-aged Key Lime Gose brought whiskey-soured lemon zest to salt-licked key lime pie tartness.

www.shire.beer

WANDERING STAR BREWING COMPANY

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PITTSFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS

In an unassumingly raw green aluminum warehouse in the Berkshire Mountains industrial corridor, diminutive Pittsfield microbrewery, WANDERING STAR BREWING COMPANY, was established in 2011 – just after railroad-bound Pittsfield Brew Works went out of business.

A rustic cement-floored pub with scattered seating, puny lounge area, wood pews and a billiard table, its small wooden serving station featured eight draught lines serving rangy suds from the rear brew tanks.

An intimate garage hangout, Wandering Star’s gained credibility all over New England/ New York thanks to bustling entrepreneurial brewer, Chris Post, a guiding light concurrently advising nearby North Adams craft brewery, Bright Ideas Brewing.

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On a frigidly sunny Saturday afternoon in February ’19, I sampled all eight beers currently on tap.

First up, summery Tangerine Cream Ale loaded pulpy navel orange, blood orange and tangerine tartness atop acidulated wheat-crackered pilsner malting.

Next, bone-dry Brut 66 brought bubbly champagne fizz to mildly vinous white wining, brisk El Dorado-hopped citrus zest and parched Amarillo-hopped wood tones.

Smooth New England-styled IPA, Wobbly Pop, fortified its mildly embittered piney grapefruit tang with oats-flaked wheat malts and dry-hopped Mosaic, Simcoe and Amarillo varieties.

Dewy English-styled Thunderbolt IPA placed orange-dried lemon rot above toasted grains, resinous pine and vegetal musk.

Year-round flagship, Loopy Juice Double IPA, retained a juicy lemony grapefruit zesting underscored by mild wood tones and sugared pale malts.

Better still, dramatic Nelson Sauvin-hopped Loopy Juice spinoff, Horatio, rallied limey gooseberry, guava and green grape tartness against sweet ‘n sour citrus tones.

Crystal rye malting anchored Catcher In The Rye, leaving sweet chestnut, bitter walnut and spiced citrus illusions at the pumpernickel-doused finish.

Fabulous dry Irish Stout, Mild At Heart Porter, brought dark chocolate syruping to peanut-shelled hazelnut, walnut and Brazil nut illusions as well as hop-charred molasses sap.

Candied tangerine-orange tang elevated cocoa-powdered black chocolate and dark-roast coffee for creamily mocha-bound Chocolate Orange Porter.

For dessert, gummy Arrowhead Apple Ale tasted like sweet apple cider with a mild sour citrus kick.  

 

ABANDONED BUILDING BREWERY

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EASTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS

Inside the mammoth red-bricked Eastworks building, a 500,000 square foot converted mill on the outskirts of Easthampton, ABANDONED BUILDING BREWERY occupies a mid-sized back space since May 2015.

A wood-floored warehouse pub with maroon-butterscotch walls, high ceilinged exposed ducts, strewn rustic furnishings and centralized modern art design, its steady influx of people comes from the restaurants, shops, arthouses and marijuana dispensary inundating Eastworks multi-floored complex (as well as the local bike path riders).

A small wooden serving station features ten draught taps emanating from the rear brew tanks.

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For starters on this sunny Saturday afternoon in February ’19, I went with all the IPA permutations for comparison and contrast.

Abandoned Building’s most popular brew, Dirty Girl IPA, spread spicy grapefruit juice all over earthen pine oiling and French-breaded pale malts in a pleasantly straightforward manner.

Summery tropicalia informed juicy yellow-hazed New England-styled Pan Galactic IPA, letting zesty lemon, grapefruit and pineapple tanginess gain New Zealand-hopped limey gooseberry souring.

Bolder and more stimulating, busy New England-styled The Other End Double Dry-hopped IPA brought dewy spruce-tipped earthen tea moisture and resinous hop pining to bittersweet lemony grapefruit, orange and mango tanginess above bready pale malting.

Another hazy dry-hopped medium body, Temporary Sanity IPA, left rustic herbal barnyard acridity to temper its juicily hop-embittered yellow grapefruit tang.

Creamy vanilla-spiced Shake IPA went after the milkshake dessert crowd with its sweet citrus-candied strawberry glaze contrasting mild plain yogurt souring. In its nitro version, the berry-citric nature gets downplayed as soft-toned yellow grapefruit bittering picks up recessive pine tones.

Underwhelming fruit-caked Odin Quad stayed crystalline, but its dried-fruited cherry, plum and raisin sweetness and dark chocolate malting lacked determination.

Stylishly mild Night Shade Stout casually spread coffee-roasted dark chocolate bittering across cola, walnut and hazelnut Nutty dark-roast coffee enriched java-enhanced Coffee Night Shade Stout.

Four Roses bourbon informed excellent Bella Donna Bourbon-aged Imperial Stout, where soothingly comforting whiskey-dried port wine warmth caressed syrupy chocolate-draped vanilla sweetness, mild molasses sapping and dry cherry snips.

abandonedbuildingbrewery.com