Game On, Winter!

These Brews are in it to Win it!

On a windy Halloween night, I was driving home, only to be surprised by an entertaining line of leaves somersaulting across the street ahead of me. I imagined they were tiny trick-or-treaters and amused myself as to why they all wore similar leaf costumes.

“Slower than a slinking slug, able to blow over tall buildings; look up in the sky: is it a bird, a plane? No, it’s Leaf-Man! Fighting a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and photosynthesis.”

Keeping in the spirit of the night, I paternally slowed to a stop and let the litter of leaves cross. As my window lowered, I lingered to let some stragglers cartwheel past to catch their herd that had cluttered into a swarm along an old wooden fence. Dreamily, I sat listening to them wrestling and rustling as they rifled through their bags of booty. Images of my youth flickered in my mind like I was flipping through photos. I could even smell the candy corn! Then, someone honked at me—rightfully so! Just as abruptly as that driver’s horn snapped me back to reality from my warm Halloween memories, so did winter’s toll. One second it was a mild colorful fall day in Oz; then, Mother Nature lays on the horn and its 18 degrees in Kansas. And I was not ready, I blame it on Halloween coming so late this year. Luckily, the local brewers were better focused than I and are duly prepared for winter. Whether you want to pace yourself, so you last long enough to make it to the end of a Monopoly marathon, or just cuddle up with a crossword, there’s beer for any activity.

Just How Good Are Our Valley Brewers?

The local homebrew group “IBU” [Interstate Brewers Union] has once again taken the “People’s Choice Award … for the 3rd year in a row! The award was given out at the 23rd Annual New England Homebrewers Jamboree, typically held at the Tamworth camping Area, Tamworth, NH, in late summer. Congrats gentlemen!

First move goes to Tuckerman Brewing with First Tracks. This is their new winter seasonal. Just like getting in a first tracks run, this session IPA is a smooth, easy glider of a beer. This crisp, clean hop-forward SIPA shows the best of the Simcoe and Citra hops, plus locally grown barley from Shady Elm Farm in Conway, NH. At 4.9% ABV, you can keep your hand steady to extract the funny bone without getting buzzed. If your night activities require less dexterity, you can deal yourself four-of-a-kind of the 6288 Stout. These new cans open with a slight roastiness and a mellow maltiness. Then, this 6.2% winner takes the pot with a mouthfeel like pocket aces. New cans means new art work from the lovely Hanna Lucy. To fill out their hand, Tuckerman has an ace-in-the-hole that they keep close to the vest. There’s 50 Cent Day IPA, which is a juicy hazy NEIPA that is available in cans at the Tuckerman Tasting Room (TTR). If you plan to pick up some, check their website or Facebook page first so you can double down with some cornhole, open mic night, or catch one of the awesome live concerts.

It’s important to be able to play with others as demonstrated by the new collaboration between the Moat Mountain Brewery and the Woodstock Inn Brewery. I don’t yet know exactly who did the brewing or what they used to do it, but I have been clued in as to the name of this killer brew: Kank Hopper India Pale Lager. To further investigate the mystery beer, you need not check the study or the library, simply roll your way to either restaurant. Whichever you choose, there are plenty more brews to check off your list. Woodstock’s Wassail Ale is a cleaner take on the traditional spiced ale recipe. This strong 8% ABV winter warmer is a surprisingly easy drinking amber that could sneak up and club you with a candle stick if you’re not careful.

From Left to Right we have: Boneshaker Brown (Moat Mountain Brewing Co.), Ground Level Stout (Hobbs Tavern & Brewing Co.), First Tracks IPA (Tuckerman Brewing Co.), Salinity Now! (Hobbs Tavern & Brewing Co.), and Hornets Nest (Saco River Brewing).

Moat Mountain also has a heavy hitter in their winter seasonal Imperial Stout. Their 9% ABV hit man doesn’t toy around with ropes or lead pipes. It’s straight to the revolver. Luscious dark roast and chocolate malt notes blend to bluff you into a false sense of security. Before you know it, BLAM! It’s Colonel Mustard in the Billiards Room and game over!

Typically, I find meddling very annoying, but the medaling Hobbs Tavern is up to is the complete opposite, and in fact, quite noteworthy. For the third year in a row, Hobbs has been kinged. This year it was their Back Road Brown Ale that won Gold at the 23rd Annual Great International Beer, Cider, Mead, and Sake Competition in Bridgeport, CT. Unlike the back roads in NH, this brown beauty is as smooth and inviting as the polka dot play mat of Twister. Bring a six-pack to the company Christmas party and maybe you’ll get lucky enough to be pretzeled with Pat from accounting. To help break the ice, Hobbs has a new Belgian Golden Strong that’s standing tall and ready to roll. This big brew with a crisp, clean Pilsner malt backbone and a hint of citrus will keep you calm even as the blocks are being knocked out around you. Even if you can’t remember your left hand from your right foot, at 9.11% ABV, this is a beer you will never forget.

Next to spin the dial of Life is Rek-lis Brewing, based in Bethlehem, NH. Already with a carful of screaming suds, Rek-Lis has made room for their newest beer, Root to Rose, a 6% Pilsner dry-hopped with locally foraged rose hips. Added bonus: $1 per beer will be donated to Root to Rise, a nonprofit perma-culture foundation. The good karma created from these generous donations will surely let them climb that ladder all the way to the top. But to stay on top, you have to avoid those chutes and be thinking at least two moves ahead, which they have with their Queen of a Beer, Madame Noir. This double digit stout—10% ABV!—has been aged for one year in Pinot Noir barrels. Complex yet subtle, this powerful piece can move in any direction across your palate. With dark roast, smooth malts and a finish with grip, you had better keep your eye on her, for she’s liable to take your knight. To win you must expand, and Rek-Lis is in it to win it. The new brew house means cans and growlers will always be available. Plus, the new bar tallies their tap total to 24 handles, yippee! So, take a chance and go directly to Rek-Lis (do not collet $200, if you pass GO).

From Left to Right we have; 6288 Stout (Tuckerman Brewing Co.), Manley Milkshake IPA (Rek’-Lis Brewing Co.), Imperial Stout (Moat Mountain Brewing Co.), Wik-id NEIPA (Rek’-Lis Brewing Co.), and Old Course Porter (Saco River Brewing).

Hidden in plain sight on Route 16 is Seadog Brewing. You may know about their flagship Blue Paw blueberry ale or the delicate Sunfish wheat with hints of peach and grapefruit. What you probably don’t know is they have been sandbagging cask ales in that big red barn. They keep it cool, shuffling through beers, such as the Engine 3 Saison, White Horse Ledge IPA, or their future-tongue-fun Chocolate-Cherry Porter (with a twist … wink … wink …). This meld will melt the snow off your boots before the bang-bang shrimp arrives.

Lastly, don’t risk missing Saco River Brewing in Fryeburg, Maine. Still slinging a savvy slew of brews, Saco is slowly stealing the hearts of beer lovers across the map. In their mission to rule the beer world, they deployed two new DIPAs in a classic pincer move. The first, Ripple Effect, is unfiltered and full of hazy hoppiness. While the other’s name is classified and full of Lupalin espionage. If that wasn’t enough, they can sink your battleship with shots fired from their barrel-aged imperial Old Course Porter at 9.6% ABV.

Before I leave to go act out Elmer Fudd hunting rabbits, let me say thank you to all the players that made this game night possible.

Clem McAuliffe

Clem McAuliffe

Clem McAuliffe, owner of Vista Bev & Market, loves beer. He loves talking about beer, reading about beer, writing about beer and, of course, drinking beer.

All who enter the store quickly understand the benefit of asking, “Clem, what am I drinking today?”