Tag Archives: Haverhill Brewery

Great International Beer Fest – A Review

I finally made it to my first real beer festival (though I suppose it’d be the second after Julio’s Springfest, which was free and had limited sampling).  I finally had a GIBF I could attend without something else coming up and getting in the way.  I only attended the first session.  We started our day later than we had planned, but had a good sized breakfast and then headed downtown.  We got in line right around 11:45 and met up with a couple friends in line.  Because we were there over an hour before the start, we spent a lot of time sitting there, but it was worth it.  There were a ton of people buying tickets at the ticket booth before getting in line.  I had my tickets waiting at the will call booth, which had no line.  Within the next half hour after arriving, the line filled up pretty quickly.  Being near the front, we were able to avoid lines at several tables after they let us in, but that didn’t last long.

The beer fest is setup kind of odd with breweries and other vendors mixed in with each other.  I would have preferred to have seen all the breweries together and the random other vendors in their own section.  I’ll go into the other vendors after I get through the beer.

To make the beer a bit easier, here’s the breweries we hit and what we drank (in no particular order, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten some).

  • Trinity Brewhouse – Imperial Brown Ale, Scotch Ale
  • Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies (a homebrew shop serving homebrews) – Barrel Aged Scottish Ale (cask), Porter (cask), ESB (cask), Irish Stout, English IPA, Altbier
  • St. John’s Brewers – Virgin Islands Mango Pale Ale
  • Gardner Ale House – Oktoberfest, Chocolate Porter
  • Milly’s Tavern – Porter, Pumpkin Ale
  • Woodchuck – Oak Aged Cider, Dark and Dry Cider
  • Harpoon – 100 Barrel Series Rauchfetzen
  • Saranac – Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA, Root Beer (non-alcoholic)
  • Paper City – Batch 108 Coffee Stout, Cabot Street Wheat
  • Watch City – Beejesus BPA, Bombed Blondeshelle Tripel, Kingpin Imperial Stout
  • Brooklyn Brewery – Local 1, Black Chocolate Stout
  • Newport Storm – Rum Barrel Oktoberfest
  • Offshore Ales – Nutbrown Ale, Hop Goddess
  • Pennichuck – The Big O Oktoberfest, Wassail Lager (cask)
  • Woodstock Inn & Brewery – Autumn Brew, Pemi Pale Ale
  • Shipyard – Barleywine
  • Olde Burnside – Ten Penny Ale, Dirty Penny Ale
  • Otter Creek – Wolavers IPA, Winter Ale
  • Haverhill Brewery – HaverAle, Eve’s Apple Ale
  • Rapscallion – Blessing, Honey
  • Sierra Nevada – Anniversary Ale
  • Spaten – Optimator
  • Berkshire Brewing – Cabin Fever
  • B&C Liquors (a store I believe) – Belhaven Scottish Ale

Most of those beers represent beers I have never tried.  My goal was to drink lots of beer that I’ve never had before (or can’t get).  I accomplished that, though I did have some beers I’ve had in the past.  The standout breweries were Watch City, Paper City, Gardner Ale House, and, even though it’s technically not a brewery, Blackstone Valley.  My favorite beers of the night were Cabin Fever, Gardner’s Chocolate Porter, everything I tried from Watch City, Shipyard’s Barleywine, and pretty much everything from Blackstone Valley.  Of course, I passed on some favorites while going booth to booth, but I was trying to avoid getting too drunk (and in that case, I was successful as I was not drunk).  The only brewery I had wanted to hit, but missed because we never walked by them in our 3.5 hours there, was Buzzard’s Bay.  I’ll have to plan a brewery trip some weekend.

In the course of the afternoon, we stopped by some other booths.  The Cabot Creamery booth was a nice break from beer and I love their cheese.  A company called Gerb’s Pumpkin Seeds had some good pumpkin seeds (I liked the roasted red pepper ones).  We got some food from Jersey Mike’s and Pizza Pie-er with a donation to the RI Food Bank (or something like that).  And we spent a lot of time (and money) at the Yankee Brew News table, mainly because we knew the people there (and bought 2 shirts a piece).

What I didn’t like… intermingled with the beer tables were Skoal, Gina’s Cigars, Port-o-pong (beer pong stuff), some random beer-related tshirt booths, the food I mentioned before, Capitol Billiards, HJY radio, and a basement finishing company (that was the only real oddball).  While I can understand having some of these places there (especially the food), I feel like they should have been place elsewhere in their own area.  Keep all the breweries together, put all the beer-related stuff nearby (Ale Street News and Yankee Brew News, for example), but put everything else somewhere else.  It was a distraction from the beer, which is what this show should have been about.

I also didn’t like the fact that there was a lot of empty space.  This could be a real first class beer event in our little state.  There was a row of port-o-johns on one wall, but no beer tables facing them even though there was a ton of space.  There were also some rows of booths that could have been extended.  This could have been done if more breweries were present.  I was disappointed that Mayflower Brewing wasn’t present, even though they were listed on the website.  The other disappointment is that breweries can enter their beers in the competition without actually being present at the show.  It would have been nice to try the beers that were announced as winners, but some of them weren’t there.  There were also a lot of “macros” present… Coors, Miller, Corona, Presidente, Diageo (Guinness)… and they all had some crazy games, causing the frat-ish boys to all yell, causing everyone else to yell.  That was a bit obnoxious.  Finally, the lines were all 20-30 people deep at the height of the show.  More breweries means shorter lines.  Shorter lines means easier access to the beer.

Overall, I enjoyed myself.  I got to try a lot of beer that I wouldn’t normally be able to try.  I was able to try a bunch of beer that I will likely now look for in my local liquor stores.  Finally, I got to hang out with a bunch of friends and chat beer with the reps and brewers.  It was a fun day, though we were exhausted and felt like it was much later when we got home.  Next year, I’m going to see if I can be a judge.  It’ll require me taking a day off from work, but I’d get into the fest for free and take a more active part in the beer world.

Review: Cafe 412

Last night, after spending a couple hours at Nikki’s for the Thursday night beer tasting, I headed over to Cafe 412 at the suggestion of Mike (the beer guy and owner of Nikki’s).  I had known of the existence of this bar/restaurant, working for Providence College and all.  One of my former student employees, Jenny, had talked about this bar quite a bit as I believe she is friends with the owner.  So we headed over to this little bar on Douglas Ave and walked inside.  It was about 9:00 pm and the bar was completely empty.  It’s a small room with a U shaped bar and a couple of bar-height tables around the edge.  There’s a little nook with an ATM machine (that is “free”, in that they’ll take a dollar off your purchase for using it and paying the dollar fee) and a bathroom in the back corner.  In the middle of the bar are the taps and a row of bottles beneath displaying the beer.  There are 2 chalkboards hanging on the walls on either side of the bar displaying the beer list.  Behind the bar is a big reebar (sp?) rack to hold wine bottles with a neat arch made of tab handles for various beers.

The beer selection last night was pretty impressive, especially considering this is a college bar.  They had the following on draft:

  • Allagash White
  • Stone Ruination
  • St. Bernardus Abt 12
  • Victory Prima Pils
  • Ipswich Ale
  • Rogue Dead Guy Ale
  • Left Hand Milk Stout
  • Flying Dog In Heat Wheat
  • North Coast Red Seal Ale
  • Thirsty Dog Hoppus Maximus

In addition to that, they also had one tap that wasn’t being used.  Their bottle list was a little less impressive, though the standouts were Haverhill Leatherlips IPA and Whittier White, Long Trail Double Bag, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, Thirsty Dog Siberian Night, and Left Hand Sawtooth Ale.  There were probably about 25-30 bottled beers in total.   The beer was served colder than what would be ideal, but with a little time, it warmed up.  The Abt 12 was served in a St. Bernardus chalice, which was a nice touch.

Our waitress, Audrey, was fantastic.  She didn’t know a whole lot about the beers, but she seemed very willing to learn, and had informed us she was planning a trip to Nikki’s to mix her own 6 pack this weekend.  We also ordered some food.  I had heard their pizzas are really good.  Those who told me weren’t lying.  It’s a grilled flatbread pizza.  I got a margarita (fresh tomato and basil) on their whole wheat crust.  It was awesome, rivaling Bob and Timmy’s (though this was a little different from Bob and Timmy’s grilled pizza).  Everyone else also seemed to enjoy their meals (I don’t remember what people got, other than Susan who got nachos that looked fantastic).  We left around 11:30 and there were still only a few other people in the place.  I’m going to assume that because they actually card, it’s not a big hot spot for the students.

If you’re looking for a great low key bar in Providence that serves great food, Cafe 412 is worth a visit.  The beer selection, while not over-the-top, is great, the food is awesome, and the service is fantastic.  Check it out, have a beer or two, and enjoy their awesome prices (my pint of Ruination was $4 and the Abt 12 was $5).  Chatting with the waitress, it sounded like the owner wasn’t too sure how much longer he’d be able to carry some of the beers because they’re not big sellers and because of their high price.  We actually suggested to her that the owner should raise his prices on some of these beers (Ruination usually goes for $5-6 for a 10-12 oz. pour and Abt 12 is usually around $7-8 for a smaller pour as they filled it above the fill line on the glass).  I’ll definitely be going back, especially if I end up moving back to the neighborhood.

Cream Crème Cherry

I have a few beers to write about (it seems as though I will always have a beer to write about, there are so many different beers out there).  I’ll go in reverse (based on the title).

Tonight, I had Haverhill/The Tap’s Haver Ale, a cream ale.  It pours a pale amber color with a small head and ample carbonation.  It smells light with a little grassiness to it.  The taste is light, but somewhat creamy, even with all the carbonation.  It has a slight grassy bitter hops aftertaste, but it’s just for balance.  The mouthfeel is pretty creamy as well, but light.  This is a great warm weather beer and a style you don’t normally see very often.  It was very tasty and definitely worth a try.

Last night for dessert, Susan and I split a bottle of Southern Tier’s hot new imperial beer, Crème Brulée.  They call it an Imperial Milk Stout.  I would call it an imperial vanilla stout.  Either way, this is one very different beer.  It pours a very dark mahogany brown with no real head.  Upon popping open the bottle, the smell is strong.  It’s very a very sweet vanilla and heavy cream scent.  It’s nothing I would have ever expected from a beer this dark.  Upon first sip, you can tell this is a sipping beer.  It’s very strong in flavor.  To be honest, it tastes just like creme brulee.  It’s creamy, it’s sweet, and there’s a lot of vanilla and cream flavors in it.  It has an aftertaste of roasted malts that don’t necessarily fit in, but also don’t ruin it.  The only issue is that it is slightly boozy (no shock there at 10% ABV).  This is not a beer to drink on your own.  I split the bottle with Susan and even then it was tough for us to finish (in fact, we ended up pouring a little down the drain not because we didn’t like it, but because it was tough to finish).  This is a beer to be split between 2-4 people and have as dessert.  It would pair well with anything chocolate, vanilla, or creamy.  I have a second bottle that I plan on aging for a year to see if the alcohol will mellow and the roasted bitterness will lighten up a bit.  This would be one awesome beer if the sweeter side was more prominent throughout.

Finally, last night with dinner, I had Smuttynose Hanami Ale.  The label says it’s an ale brewed with cherry juice and other natural flavors.  From what I could tell, it’s an amber ale brewed with cherries.  For a fruit beer, it’s a good one.  It pours a nice amber color with a small head.  It immediately smells like cherries, but not overwhelmingly so.  It has a nice cherry flavor, but it tastes like there are some spices mixed in as well.  I imagine that’s the “natural flavors”.  It’s a very easy drinknig beer, though not overly light.  It’s worth a try.  I’d buy it again.

2 Beers You Should Try…

I like beer, as can be seen by some of my previous posts and by the tagline of this blog. I am lucky to have Nikki’s Liquors nearby to fill my craft beer needs. I recently picked up 2 mix-a-6’s from Nikki’s with a bunch of beers I haven’t tried (and a couple favorites). I’m going to write about 2 of them. If you can find these beers at a package store nearby, you should try them. One is widely available, the other, I’m not so sure.

Anchor Porter, pretty widely available, is perhaps the best porter I have tried. It’s nicely carbonated, thick black, and all roasted malt with a slight bitterness to it. It’s about as perfectly porter as you can get before it becomes a stout. The only other porter I’ve had that was this good was Smuttynose’s Robust Porter. It’s very similar in flavor and thickness, with less carbonation. Both are amazing porters, both are a must try.

Oskar Blues Old Chub is an awesome Scottish style ale. It has a very carmel-y malty roasted chocolate flavor to it. It almost tastes like it was aged in oak barrels as it has that nice oak/whiskey flavor to it. I’ve had only a couple Scottish ales previously (from Sam Adams and Trinity Brewhouse). I’ve liked all that I’ve tried and this one was definitely the best of the 3. If you can find it, buy some. Don’t be put off by the can that it comes in. Cans do not equate to macro piss beer. In this case, it equates to a nice tastey powerful brew. At 8% abv, this isn’t for the lightweights (though one wouldn’t hurt…).

As I go through the rest of the beers in the mix, I’ll write more about them. Just for reference, the first 2 before these 2 were New England Brewing’s Sea Hag IPA, which also came in a can and, while good, was just your average IPA, and Victory’s HopDevil Ale, which is one of my favorite IPA’s (second only to Great Divide’s Titan IPA with Haverhill Brewery’s Leatherlips IPA coming in at a very very close third). Needless to say, my favorite style is the almighty IPA. Yes, I am a hophead.