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The Times
Norman Miller reviews brews, offers food pairings and writes about breweries.
Beers from Backlash, Saranac, Maine Beer, Trader Joe’s sampled
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By Norman Miller
Norman Miller reviews brews, offers food pairings and writes about breweries. Norman is a reporter and beer columnist for the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, email ...
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The Beer Nut
Norman Miller reviews brews, offers food pairings and writes about breweries. Norman is a reporter and beer columnist for the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, email nmiller@wickedlocal.com or call 508-626-3823. Or, follow the Beer Nut at his Twitter page at www.twitter.com/realbeernut.
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By Norman Miller
Dec. 18, 2013 12:11 a.m.



Sorry for the lack of posts lately – been using up my vacation time by the end of the year and working on my new book.

But just because I’ve been busy, doesn’t mean I haven’t been drinking some new beers. Here’s some quick hitting reviews of some new beers available now.

First up is Backlash Beer Company’s Outbreak, the second beer in the Uprising! series. The Uprising series is a collection of three double IPAs that use the same malt bill as Salute, but with different hops.

If you’re like double IPAs (I do), you’ll probably really enjoy Outbreak. It’s very aromatic. Once I poured it in the glass, I got the scent of grass and pine. Both those are in the flavor, but I also get some pineapple, maybe even some melon.

It’s starts of sweet, but the hops keep it from getting overly sweet, keeping this 8.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) beer relatively balanced.

Next up is two relatively new beers from Maine Beer Company – the 2013 Ale and Red Wheelbarrow.

The 2013 is brewed in collaboration with the Allagash Brewing Company, which used to be neighbors of Maine Beer. It’s a 5.5 percent ABV Belgian pale ale.

I was underwhelmed. Certainly, there was nothing wrong with this beer, but when two fabulous breweries like Allagash and Maine Beer get together you just expect … more. I wanted it to be more than a nice Belgian pale ale. I wanted it to be amazing. This beer was a victim of too high expectations.

On the other hand, the Red Wheelbarrow, a 7 percent hoppy red ale. This beer, like most of Maine Beers, is a star from the moment you pour it. Maine Beer produces some of the best smelling hoppy beers on the east coast and this is no different.

When you drink it, you’ll get flavors of pine and melon from the hops, and the malts add a sweet caramel body. After I finished a bottle, I was left wishing I had bought a second one.

Now, turning to two new beers from Saranac, brewed by F.X. Matt. Each mixed 12 pack seems to include at least two or three new beers that sound interesting to me, and the winter pack is no different. The three new beers are the Decoction Concoction (featured in tomorrow’s Beer Nut column in the MetroWest Daily News), as well as the Moonshadow Black IPA and Rudy’s Spiced Christmas Ale.

First up is the Moonshadow Black IPA. Black IPAs are a style that I’m hot and cold with. I find most of them to be decent, but except for a few exceptions, they don’t stand out.

That’s where Moonshadow stands – it’s a decent Black IPA, but it’ s not a standout beer. It smells really good, but when you take a sip, it tastes like a  beer that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a hoppy IPA with dark malts, or does it want to be a roasty black beer with more hops than expected. It seems to be trying to go in both directions at once. Again, I have no problem drinking this, but I wouldn’t go out of my way.

Rudy’s Spiced Christmas Ale was kind of a disappointment. When a beer describes itself as a “spiced” Christmas ale, I’d expect cinnamon, nutmeg and other winter spices.

But the spices in the Rudy’s Spiced Christmas Ale are barely there. You can taste barely a hint. I wanted Christmas in a glass and I didn’t get it.

The final new beer is the Trader Joe’s 2013 Vintage Ale, brewed by Unibroue in Canada. Each year, I’m excited to head to the Framingham Trader Joe’s and buy a bottle of the Belgian dark ale, and this year was no different.

The 2013 Vintage Ale is an excellent beer … if you like anise. I don’t. Anise is perhaps my least favorite flavor, and because of that, the mild anise flavor dominated.

Despite that, I still found the Vintage Ale to be a quality brew – effervescent, full-bodied, nice sweetness with just a hint of hops. If it just didn’t have that anise flavor, I’d probably buy four or five more.

So, that’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to try a few more new beers over the rest of the holiday season.

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