Wanting to foster relationships with local homebrew clubs, when BHZ put together their Lift Off Competition for 2017 they restricted entry to homebrew club members that live within 25 miles of their Weymouth brewery. As I lived more than 25 miles away I couldn't enter the competition this year, but I did volunteer to judge. The competition was organized by the MASH Holes who I had a great time hanging out with at Jamboree and Homebrew Con.
Judging was at South Shore Homebrew Emporium in Weymouth. After sleeping through my alarm I managed not to arrive too late. In the first round I judged Strong Dark Lagers, and then participated in the Best-of-Show judging. Six beers advanced to the Best-of-Show round. Our job was to only pick the top three to be brewed on BHZ's pilot system. From there, the beers will be served at the brewery and winner selected at a special event.
For any readers not from Massachusetts, I live in an area north of Boston called the North Shore. Weymouth is located south of Boston on the South Shore. Although not separated by many road miles, Boston and it's poorly-conceived road and rail links separate the North and South Shore like Hadrian's Wall.
With no traffic on a Saturday morning it took me an hour to get to Weymouth. On a weekday it would easily have taken me twice as long. While I was in the area the plan was to always go to Trillium's brewery in Canton after judging. When I saw that BHZ was less than ten minutes from the judging site it made perfect sense to stop by the taproom as well.
The space at BHZ was really nice, lots of exposed wood and metal, and plenty of room to sit and relax. The staff couldn't have been more friendly.
I started with a taster of a juniper pils, Sunny & 79º. The juniper flavor was more prominent than most gins I have tasted, but it worked well with the base beer. I also enjoyed two barrel-aged stouts Adeline and Quaker State. I gave Adeline a slight edge over the oatmeal stout, Quaker State as I felt it had a more robust roasted malt and hop flavor.
The two beers that got my wheels spinning a bit as a brewer were Townie a 9% Irish Red Ale aged in rum barrels, and Red Rye Ale #23, a 10% red rye ale aged in Jamaican rum barrels. Technically speaking the base beers would be in the American or British Strong Ale category due to their high ABV. In a commercial as opposed to composition setting I don't worry nearly as much about style parameters. A commercial brewer deserves wide latitude in how they describe their beer to the public.
These two beers were a revelation because the vast majority of barrel-aged beers are imperial stouts. There are some barleywines and a few Belgian dark strong ales. The only beer available locally that experiments with different styles and wood is Innis & Gunn. These beers showed the kind of flavor a scaled up Irish Red or American Amber Ale brewed with rye can produce. In both cases the rum barrel was perfect for aging.
As homebrewers we should experiment with aging different styles with wood or in barrels. An ESB, Brown Ale, or even an IPA scaled up and aged on or in wood would make an interesting beer to try. Next time I go big with one of my beers, I think I might try a bit of an unconventional style.
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