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Category Archives: Beers

the best hard cider

Fall in Love With The Best Hard Ciders on the Market

This blog post was originally posted on September 21, 2016, and has been updated to reflect our inventory.

Fall is in the air, which means a bottle of hard cider is probably in your hand. While you might drink it year-round (and we don’t blame you for that), there’s no better time than now to crack one open. Hard cider is one of the best, if not the best, drinks for fall because it’s a great way to mix up your beer repertoire. So what do we recommend you try this Fall? Here are some of our favorite hard ciders on the market. All of these are available at Wachusett Wine & Spirits while supplies last!

Downeast Cider Original Blend: Based out of Boston, Downeast uses freshly-pressed Maine apples (Red Delicious, McIntosh, Cortland, and Gala) for this tasty cider. After undergoing hundreds of test batches, the Original Blend became the foundation. Downeast also offers seasonal flavors such as Maple Blend and Pumpkin Blend.

Angry Orchard Crisp Apple: This popular option is a hard-to-resist, classic apple cider. It’s made from a variety of apples, such as Fuji and Granny Smith. We call it a “classic” due to its clean, refreshing finish reminiscent of the apples you picked when you were a kid.

Far From the Tree Nova: Brewed out of Salem, MA, this is an off-dry, hopped cider. It blends Galaxy, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops to achieve a combination of pine, grapefruit and passion fruit. Mixed along with apples only from Massachusetts, this is a unique yet successful cider.

far from the tree nova

Citizen Cider Unified Press: New England, especially Vermont, is the home to some great cideries. Citizen Cider deserves a spot on that list. Unified Press, their flagship cider, is made from locally-sourced apples and delivers a beautifully crisp drink that we think you’ll enjoy. They even offer pairings for it: pork and smoked fish are just a couple foods that will complement this cider.

citizen cider unified press

Ace Pineapple Cider: A pineapple cider? Crazy, right? Not quite. This cider is a good change of pace if you’re apple-d out. It has a semi-sweet initial taste with hints of apple and a tart finish. If you’re looking for something different from your usual cider, try this tropical one.

Stormalong Legendary Dry: Stormalong, located out of Sherborn, MA, offers a crisp and delicious cider made from several different kinds of apples, including Golden Delicious, Northern Spy, and Ashton Bitter. This is Stormalong’s flagship cider, so you know they stand behind it as a top-notch concoction. It is available year-round, so if you’re craving it outside of the realm of Fall, you’re in luck!

stormalong legendary dry

Woodchuck Gumption: We can’t talk about cider without mentioning Woodchuck — they’re a staple in the hard cider community. While they have plenty of ciders on the market, Gumption is spectacular. It combines the juice of common apples with the bittersweet juice of cider apples, leaving it with a sweet apple taste up front and a dry finish. Plus, the design is eye-catching, too.

The list of excellent hard ciders doesn’t stop there. At Wachusett Wine & Spirits, we’re always expanding our stock of cider. Keep up with us on Untappd, follow us on Instagram, or better yet, stop by to see what we have in-store! Feel free to ask our staff for recommendations on what kind of cider would suit you best. You might even find a new favorite to “fall” in love with.

Contact us today to see if we have your special something in stock!

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best summer beers

The Best Summer Beers for Backyard Barbecues

The sun is shining, the burgers are grilling,  and your buddies ask what you brought to drink after tossing your 6-pack into the cooler.   “Did you bring the usual?”  Confidently you reply, “Nope, not today my friends.”  Today, you branched out and got something perfect for this barbecue.  With so many choices for craft beer (especially in New England), you’ll want to pick the right beer for the right season.  If you want to raise some eyebrows and crack some smiles, we’ve gathered our top picks for the best summer beers.  When the weather gets a little too warm, your friends will thank you for bringing a summer beer that’ll cool them off.

Harpoon Camp Wannamango

In India, a basket full of mangos is a sign of friendship. But we think a basket full of Harpoon Camp Wannamango is a close second.  When it comes to this beer, there’s no escaping the refreshing mango aroma and taste.  You’ll also get a blend of passion fruit and subtle hops. If you’re looking for something light and easy to drink, this pale ale could quickly become your summertime favorite.

Dogfish Head Sea-Quench

Pucker up for a summer romance with this sour ale.  Sour beers are continuously becoming more popular every year and Dogfish Head’s Sea-Quench Ale is a great example of one.  Made with lime peel, black lime, and sea salt, be prepared for a unique taste when you take a sip of this ale.  It’s tart, it’s refreshing, and it’s excellent for anyone who wants to take a dive into the world of sour beer.

Jack’s Abby Sunny Ridge

sunny ridge

Summer marks the return of beachy days, long nights, and Jack’s Abby Sunny Ridge.  This pilsner is loaded with European hops but still contains a traditional flavor.  It has a light, golden hue and is extremely drinkable.  For any pilsner fans, you can’t go wrong with this one.  It’s perfect to bring along to barbecues, out to the docks, or even just out to the porch.

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin

Ballast Point has found a way to incorporate grapefruit into their beer for a refreshing take on their classic Sculpin.  With an ABV of 7%, this beer should be sipped a little slower than the others on this list – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t easy to drink.  Although technically an IPA, it wouldn’t be such a wild idea to give it to someone who isn’t usually a fan of them.  The grapefruit adds a beautiful aroma and tart taste that makes this an unforgettable beer.

Bonus: Downeast Aloha Friday

aloha friday

Beer isn’t for everyone, and cider isn’t just for fall.  In fact, the masterminds at Downeast have concocted a special summer drink to prove it.  Aloha Friday is bursting with refreshing and juicy pineapple.  This is the cider that will make you look forward to relaxation. We think they did a pretty good job naming it.

Not only is there an ample amount of seasonal summer ales, there’s also a lot of year-round beer perfect for the warm weather.  Have something else in mind other than what’s on this list?  Stop by to check out our ever-changing inventory!  Or, if you want to see if we have something in stock before swinging by, contact us today!

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our favorite New England breweries

5 New England Breweries You Should Know About

Narrowing down a list of our favorite New England breweries is a tall order. There are so many to choose from, all with their unique history and atmosphere. But that’s what’s great about them. Each tour is as unique as their brew. If you’re curious, you can take a tour of their facilities and learn about their processes. Check out some of our favorites as you make your way into the craft beer scene.

1. Allagash

As if a tour of the Allagash Brewing Company doesn’t already sound great, it’s also free! The renowned brewery out of Portland, Maine offers free tours several times everyday. Not only that, but you can get a few free samples for simply visiting the brewery. If you want to take it a step further, you can book a Grand Cru Tour and get an in-depth look at how the brewery functions. This includes tasting beers straight from the barrels. When else do you get a chance to do that? Although the Grand Cru Tour tour isn’t free, proceeds go towards an Allagash charity partner. You might recognize Allagash for their White, Black, and their newest Hoppy Table Beer. Don’t have time to take a trip to Maine? We carry most of their brews in-store.

2. Harpoon

Located near the Boston waterfront, Harpoon Brewery offers tours seven days a week. The $5 tour includes a beer tasting of as many beers as you want! And, if you’re not a huge fan of beer, they also have hard cider on tap. If you make your way over to their beer hall, you can buy handmade pretzels that are boiled in their Harpoon IPA. While they may have close to 20 beers on tap, we carry their poplar Harpoon IPA and UFO White.

3. Samuel Adams

How could we not mention this classic brewery? Right in Boston, Samuel Adams offers free tours every day of the week except for Sundays. You’ll get to experience the craft brewing process and learn the history of this 30+ year old brewery. Not to mention tasting some of their famous beers. Samuel Adams also offers a “Morning Mash-In Tour,” running every morning of the week. Here, you can taste exclusive experimental brews and more. This tour is $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends, which is a small price to pay for the experience. The Boston Lager and Rebel IPA are two popular ones that you’ll see on our shelves.

4. Jack’s Abby

Jack’s Abby has been making quite the name for themselves in New England. Located in Framingham, MA, their brewery is complete with a beer hall and kitchen. From there, you can get a view of the operations. They offer free tours on Sundays, but are open all other days of the week except for Mondays. Learn about their brewing process and then get your hands (and taste-buds) on some exclusive releases. Before you take a tour, stop by Wachusett Wine & Spirits to try the House Lager and the Hoponius Union.

5. Night Shift

For a rustic, relaxed atmosphere, you’ll want to head to Night Shift Brewery out of Everett, MA. For food, there are food trucks that frequent the brewery almost every day of the week. But you can also pack your own picnic. If gourmet food trucks don’t pique your interest, then maybe a free tour will? They offer tours every day of the week, where you can learn about their facilities and equipment. Some of their well-known beers are Awake and Furth, both of which you can find on our shelves.

There are dozens of New England breweries which are just a stone’s throw away. While you ponder which one to check out first, get a head start by visiting Wachusett Wine & Spirits. We have a large inventory of craft beer, which is always expanding. Stop by each week to check out our new shipments.

New England Craft Beer

New England Craft Beer: Our Top Choices Right Now

New Englanders are lucky. We have great sports teams, great local food, and to top it off, some pretty great local craft beer. Are you looking to expand your horizons? Check out our top choices for New England craft beer and breweries.

Allagash Black

We’re kicking this list off with something a little unusual. Allagash, out of Portland, ME, has 03something for lovers of Belgian beer and stouts. Allagash Black offers you the best of both worlds. It’s brewed with a delicious blend of grains and caramelized sugar, creating a stout with rich tones of coffee and chocolate. And while it’s available year-round, it’s one of our winter staples.

Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union

Sick of winter? Take a trip to the dog days of summer with Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union. This India-style pale lager is brewed in our own backyard in Framingham, MA. Delight your taste buds with the hint of tropical fruit and citrusy hops. It ends with a bit of bitterness, but not too much – just enough to make you want to have another.

Night Shift Awake

Love beer and coffee? Night Shift, out of Everett, MA, blends notes of fresh roasted coffee and chocolate to create Night Shift Awake. Because it is smooth and light in taste, this porter can be enjoyed on its own or with a meal. End your cold, wintry night with this beer (or two of them).

Smuttynose Baltic Porter

Smuttynose, out of Hampton, NH, offers a porter with Russian ancestry. Their Baltic Porter is brewed with lager yeast, making it bold with flavors of coffee, dark fruit and raisins. Creamy and smooth, it has a light bitter finish to balance out the taste. Smuttynose delivers a downright delicious beer that we’ll drink again and again.

Berkshire Brewing Company Coffeehouse Porter

Who’s in the mood for a rich, dark ale? Berkshire Brewing Company, out of South Deerfield, MA has you covered. Founded in 1993, these guys are veterans in the craft beer scene. Their Coffeehouse Porter blends morning and night without overdoing it. The creamy taste is satisfying and is sure to be a delicious choice for fans of porters.

You could take a tour of New England to experience these brews for yourself, or you can stop by Wachusett Wine & Spirits. Our inventory is always expanding. And who knows? Your new favorite craft beer might be from just around the corner.

ales vs lagers

An Overview Of Ales vs. Lagers

Beers not only come in all shapes and sizes, but they also come in different styles, too. Sure, there are ales and lagers, but which is which? There are plenty of options to pick from. Or, if you’re curious about that porter you had last night, maybe you’ll want to go out and try the closely-related stout. Let’s take a closer look at the different kinds of beer and what you can expect from each of them.

Beers fall into two major categories, ales and lagers, and what distinguishes each is their fermenting processes.

Ales

Ales are fermented at relatively warm temperatures for short periods of time. They are sweet, tasty beers and vary in color based on the grains used in the brewing process.

  • Brown Ale: Boasting a dark color, brown ales have a high level of malt, making them less bitter than stouts and porters. While some popular ones contain a nutty malt flavor or a caramel aroma, brown ale flavor can vary. Some are sweet, some are slightly hoppy, and some are earthy and malty.
  • Pale Ale: Made with the use of pale malt, pale ales are one of the most popular beers around. While amber ales fall under this category, most are blonde in color. Pale ales can have a noticeable hoppy flavor, and some even contain a fruity aroma.
  • India Pale Ale (IPA): Known for their strong hoppy flavor, IPAs have a higher bitterness when compared to pale ales. They are typically brewed with a big herbal or citrus character. Some feature a stronger malt presence than others, balancing out the intensity of the hops.
  • Porter: These dark beers consist of roasted malts or barley. They have notes of roasted grains, chocolate, and toffee. Porters usually have malts present, making them taste sweet. Although similar to the stout, porters don’t contain any harsh notes.
  • Stout: Stouts live up to their name. Traditionally, they were the term used for the strongest porters, with a noticeably higher alcohol content averaging 7%-8%). Stouts have a heavily roasted flavor with hints of coffee, chocolate, licorice, or molasses. Although noted for their malt flavors, some stouts contain bitterness.
  • Belgian Style: Belgian style beers can be complex. They usually balance malt sweetness and hop bitterness with fruity, spicy, floral, and herbal aromas. Ranging from light to full bodies, it shouldn’t be surprising for these beers to contain a higher-than-average alcohol content.
  • Wheat Beer: A mixture of barley and wheat grains, wheat beers are light in flavor. Hops are not too noticeable in them. Some will have a fruity flavor, such as apples or bananas, to them. Their all-around lightness makes them a great summer beer.

Lagers

Lagers are fermented at cold temperatures for longer periods of time in comparison to ales. They are generally crisp, smooth, and have a balanced taste and aroma.

  • Pale Lager: They are light in color, flavor, and alcohol content. Some popular varieties can contain a strong hop flavor, slight notes of maltiness, or floral aromas. Pilsners are a prime example of a pale lager.
  • Dark Lager: Malty flavors are common in dark lagers. They have a fuller body than pale lagers. These beers can have a crisp or smooth taste varying in level of “hoppiness.” Some even have a slight sweetness with hints of coffee or chocolate.
  • Bock: Bock beer has a powerful malt presence that makes them generally stronger than your typical lager. Ranging in color from copper to gold, most bocks are only lightly hopped. If hops are present, they are balanced with the malt flavor.

Aside from our list above, there are even more subcategories of beer you can get your tastebuds on. Visit Wachusett Wine & Spirits to see our impressive and ever-expanding variety of beers. Still not tempted? We’ve got a beer cave! With a vast selection of stouts, IPAs, wheat beers and more, you’re bound to find your favorite ale or lager. You might even discover something new!

belgian-beer-styles-and-food-pairings

Belgian Beer Styles & Perfect Pairings

Belgian Beer Styles

Belgian beer comes in all shapes and sizes, although most are ales, flavored with fruit and malts. Here are some of the most popular Belgian beer styles.

Trappist

In order for a beer to be considered a Trappist beer, it must be brewed in a monastery either by the monks themselves or under their supervision. The name refers to the location of origin, instead of beer style. Many Trappist beers actually have very little in common and can range from an extra blonde ale to trippel.

Dubbel

Dubbels are a stronger brown ale with a complex, sweet malt flavor. They often have an ABV of 6 to 8.5%. Take a sip and you’ll notice no bitterness but hints of chocolate and toffee. When serving Dubbel, any glass will not do. We recommend serving it in a tulip glass, or a red wine glass if you do not have a chalice-style beer mug.

Tripels

Tripels gets its name from requiring three times the amount of grain a typical beer needs to brew. They often have a higher alcohol content than other Belgian brews, ranging from 7 to 10 percent. Expect a slightly bitter taste with a spicy and floral aroma.

Quadrupel

Quadrupel is stronger and bolder than its Dubbel and Tripel sister styles, often having an alcohol content of 10% or more. They often have a complex fruity flavor similar to wine, which compliments it dark sweet flavors. Expect a deep brown or amber ale that has a full bodied flavor.

Belgian Beer and Food Pairings

If the individuality of each Belgian beer doesn’t tickle your taste buds enough, here are some great food pairings that will further enhance their flavors.

Chocolate with Trappist Beer

Trappist beer is the perfect pairing for chocolate because they both come in many different varieties. The mild fruit and spice flavors of a Trappist Dubbel pairs well with dark chocolate with a high cacao content.  If a sweeter milk chocolate is more your speed, try pairing a Trappist that has a heavy hop content to counteract the sweet.

Sausage with Dubbel

Belgian Dubbels often have a rich, complex flavor that needs equally complex flavors to pair with. Dubbels pair well with typical barbeque favorites such as slow roasted pork and smoked sausages.

Ham with Tripel

No matter if you’re looking for the perfect pairing for your ham sandwich at lunch or a special ham dinner, we recommend a sweeter tripel. Are you planning to throw a party? Create a deli tray with prosciutto, Swiss, and crème brie.

Bread Pudding with Quadrupel

You’ll need a rich dessert in hand to counteract the strong flavors of a quadrupel. Bread pudding plays well with the caramel undertones in this brew. If you’re in the mood for savory instead of sweet, try a strong cheese such as gouda.

Are you interested in having a Belgian beer make an appearance at your next social gathering? This month all of our International beers that are on the shelf (not the cooler) are on sale. All 4 and 6 packs are 10% off and all single bottles are 20% off.  This is a great opportunity to try some of the fantastic imported brews that we carry.  Contact us today or stop by to find the perfect Belgian beer for you.

holiday-baskets

Holiday Shopping at Wachusett Wine & Spirits

We know that the holiday season can be pretty stressful, between holiday parties every other day and trying to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Lucky for you, your holiday shopping has become a whole lot easier. Wachusett Wine and Spirits is your one-stop shop for almost everyone on your gift list. Check out these great gift ideas everyone would love to find under their tree.

Gift Sets: We have both beer and liquor gift sets featuring some of our finest products. For beer, we have gift sets from Ommegang, St. Bernadus, and Mad Elf. Liquor gift sets include Jack Daniels, Baileys, Kaluha, Grey Goose, Glenmornagie and Courvoisier VSOP.

Large Format Bottles: From Anchor Brewing, St. Bernadus, Allagash, Arrogant Bastard, Guinness and more. These make great gifts for the beer lover on your list.

Holiday Beers: Spencer Holiday Ale, Port Brewing, Ridgeway Elf Beers (Lump of Coal, Bad Elf, etc) and more winter beers!

Custom Made Holiday Baskets: Stop by the store or contact us to order a custom basket featuring beer, wine or liquor. We can make suggestions based on a price range or you can tell us exactly what you are looking for!

Scratch Tickets and Season Lottery Tickets: These make the perfect stocking stuffer and also are a great way to keep your guests entertained before a holiday feast. Leave a ticket at each place setting and see who is feeling lucky that day.

Barware: We have a wide selection of glasses, wine openers and accessories. These are great items to include in a gift basket too!

Premium and Hand Crafted Spirits: The perfect drink (and gift) for the holiday season! Come pick up a bottle of Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey, Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon, A Midwinter Nights Dram or see one of our associates for a recommendation! We also have other whiskeys, small batch gins, vodkas and liquors.

Gift Certificates: Can’t quite put a finger on what they’d love? Our gift certificates are available in any amount.

In a rush to dash off to the next holiday party? No problem! We have gift bags available, so there’s no need to worry about stopping to wrap your present. From our family to yours, we hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season. Cheers!

For the love of beer

Happy Fat Tuesday

20150118_162210Last month my wife and I traveled to the Big Easy for a long weekend.  While there we feasted on some beignets at the famed Cafe du Monde, strolled through the French Quarter and rode the St. Charles streetcar through the city. Fat Tuesday is the biggest day of the year for city of New Orleans. If Bourbon Street was rockin’ and rollin’ on a Thursday night in January we can only imagine the revelry today.

In addition to the wild 24/7 party scene, New Orleans is known for their delicious creole cuisine and their specialty cocktails.  The city boasts about having some of the best bars and bartenders in the country.  In fact, the first bar in America, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is located in the heart of the French Quarter.  Throughout our stay we found a couple of great watering holes. Most of the bars offer drinks to go so you can walk the streets of NOLA and take in all of the sights.

20150117_174545One of our favorite stops was the Carousel Bar located in the Hotel Montelone.  The bar makes one full rotation every fifteen minutes.  We enjoyed a  Sazerac, a classic New Orleans drink.  A Sazerac is made with rye whiskey, simple syrup, absinthe (or an absinthe substitute), Angostura bitters (some recipes call for Peychaud bitters too) and a lemon peel to garnish. There are of course other famous New Orleans beverages including the Hurricane and the Hand Grenade which is served at the Tropical Isle.  We downed one Hand Grenade our first night there (When in Rome…right???). However, I would strongly recommend sticking with the New Orleans classics such as the Sazerac, Mint Julep and Brandy Milk Punch.

Thirsty yet? How about mixing up a cocktail and raising a glass to the tradition of Mardi Gras? Cheers.

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Wait!! Don’t Drink That Yet!

Did you read our January newsletter? In case you missed it, here’s our “How to Guide to Starting Your Own Beer Cellar“.

Our Recent Experience

We wanted to share with all of you our recent experience with tasting some beers that had been hanging out in our beer cellar. And when we say cellar we are talking about the empty cardboard box that sits on the workbench in the basement.  Nothing fancy here…

On Christmas Day we decided to crack open a couple of beers that we had been hanging on to and a few more beers that would have been great to age but we were just too eager to try them out. It’s always fun to share these beers with family and friends to compare personal preferences.  We shared Rising Tide’s Polaris which we had bought last year on a trip to their brewery in Portland, Maine.  The Polaris is actually the Ursa Minor (an American Stout) aged in Jim Beam Bourbon Barrels. We also sampled the Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Stout and Mystic’s (Chelsea, MA) Spectral Evidence which is a New England Imperial Stout.  We finished up our tasting with Allagash’s Curieux which is a Tripel Ale also aged in Jim Beam Barrels.

The Results

So what were the results?? The Polaris and the Anderson Valley were the fan favorites. Both of these beers were perfect and ready to drink. They were smooth and malty.  The Anderson Valley definitely had more of bourbon taste to it while the bourbon in the Polaris provided a more mild backdrop.  The Spectral Evidence was also a solid beer but wasn’t as complex as the others.  The Allagash Curieux which we purchased this summer on a trip to the Portland, Maine brewery could have aged a bit longer.

Have you shared some of your favorite beers among friends? We would love to hear about it.

Until next time…cheers!

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Road Trip: Western Massachusetts

photo 1So we have been really busy getting Wachusett Wine and Spirits up and running but we took some time this past Sunday to head out to the western part of the state.  We checked out Bear Swamp Orchard located in Ashfield.  Bear Swamp is a family owned and operated orchard and cider house.  They are producing some FANTASTIC ciders.  All of their products are organic and they are fermenting their ciders using wild yeast.  The result – some really tasty, funky ciders.  We brought home their traditional cider and a cider that they are aging in Jack Daniel’s whisky barrels.   And of course, we brought home a peck of pick your own apples.  Bear Swamp is photo 2working to expand their operation so they can share their products with more retail stores (they are currently selling in a handful of liquor stores out in the western Massachusetts). We will be in touch with the owners so we can share their fabulous products with all of you!

 

On the way back we stopped at Northampton Brewery.  It was a perfect day to sit on their rooftop deck.  We shared some great beers including Daniel Shay’s Best Bitter and the Black Cat Stout.  It is a terrific brew pub and definitely worth visiting if you are in that neck of the woods. Until next time….Cheersphoto 3 (1)