I'm in Boston this week, and Chicago on Thursday (see you there?).
I *did* spend a couple hours researching -- basically asking twitter what I should do with two young children in Boston and how I should get my dad beer on while doing those things -- but the paper on which I wrote said research, I don't know where it went. Stupid paper. Stupid me, for writing it on a little paper, stupid tight jeans for being so tight and pushing everything out of my back pockets, stupid cluttery work bag and all the other stupid bits of paper, but also stupid paper.
So we landed, and we were without plan, at least until dinner, and we walked to the end of the corner. There was an Irish pub on the corner, any old Irish pub, even worse, one with a menu and live music that took up a whole corner on Mass Ave, so one of *those* Irish pubs. When you are with family, you often swallow your pride along with the baby puke and the weird stuff that your toddler put on your spoon when you weren't looking.
I said nothing, and we sat down.
The beer menu at first was super boring looking. There was Guinness of course and some cream stout and some other lager and blech. But I spotted enough to order us a quartet of decent beers: Allegash Saison, Peak Fresh Cut Organic Pilsner, Jack's Abby Hoponius Union Hoppy Lager, and Otter Creek Backseat Berner IPA (for me).
Hey that ruined the narrative in my head. Those are good beers. Everyone was very happy with my order. My wife enjoyed the session pale that is the Hoponius Union, her mother enjoyed her pilsner, her father the saison, and I had a fruity, big, drinkable DIPA from Vermont. Nothing wrong here. We were even drinking in 70 degree weather in Cambridge, on the street, across from a church. It was Boston, and it was great.
Dinner was around the corner, and I knew the food would be good, and I should have learned that the beer would probably be good, but I was still suspicious. I hadn't picked the place, you see.
Of course it was amazing.
The three courses we had at Craigie on Main were fantastic, if a step short of oversalted. Crunchy, soft, savory sweet, and put together by a dedicated group that we could watch in the kitchen, working very hard, very earnestly, and very quietly. I went with a bottle first -- Maine Zoe, a great New England Amber to follow a great New England DIPA -- and then finished with a beer on tap that wasn't even from the region. But if you see Founder's Breakfast Stout on tap, and you're heading towards dessert, you have to fall in line.
Not sure if the lesson is super clean and easy. Obviously you want to spend a little time researching where you are going, obviously you're going to have better beer if you put a little effort into it, and obviously I'm hoping to make it to Trillium and the Mead House while I'm here.
Because I'm not going to be happy with the place around the corner, even if it was pretty fantastic for a place around the corner.
Zoe Amber, Maine Brewing
Appearance = 4/5
It was a little darker than I expected, or maybe it was the restaurant lighting. But it was more brown than red. It did have a nice head, with good lacing, but it was fairly brown and I had been hoping for a secret DIPA, like Modern Times' Blazing World or Ninkasi's Dawn of the Red, or if I was really lucky a Troegs Nugget Nectar. It was clear from the pour I was not getting those things. But that nice big tan head relieved me of my stupid expectations and set me on a new path.
Smell = 4/5
It smelled of the earth. Of pine needles on wet earth. Others say fruit but I didn't get a ton of that. Mostly wet earth.
Taste = 4.5/5
So this was a little like those secret DIPAs listed above in that it was hoppy. Not overly hopped, not a bitter bomb, but this is a hoppy amber. You get your sweet, malt-forward amber qualities, but the finish on the beer is citrus and sharp, enough to get you interested in diving back for more of the sweet, malt, pine, citrus, do it again in that order. Don't know how people think this isn't well balanced. Maybe they just don't like ambers, but hell I don't like most ambers and I liked this one. If you like hoppy ambers, you'll like this.
Overall = 4/5
Okay, so it's not sweet and fresh enough to push Nugget Nectar from the throne. It's not enough of a pale ale to battle Blazing World. But get down to Ninkasi's red, and you've got a fair fight. These are the ambers you are looking for -- malty, sweet, full, and yet also citrus fresh. It's enough to make you rethink your dislike of the style, even.