Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

A round up of randomness from the Northeast brew scene…

  • Banded Horn Brewing recently enlarged their tasting room and capacity, doing all this and breathing some much-needed life into downtown Biddeford.  The once mighty mill town still has a ways to go, but things are definitely looking up thanks to businesses like Banded Horn willing to take a chance here.  Thumbs up
  • Boston Beer Co. trying desperately to win back market share with new packaging that unfortunately is more ham-fisted than hipster.  Fall line up features a creepy scarecrow, a pumpkin that apparently exploded, a cartoon pretzel, and something that may or may not be an owl wearing ski goggles. Sam himself is no longer that happy guy raising a mug, he’s been replaced by an angry statue.  Can’t imagine too many brewfans saying ooh, this looks more like craft beer, let’s buy it!  Thumbs down
  • Maine Beer Co. expanding — again — because they do what’s right.  Or at least most of the time…the right thing would be to build the damn taxes into your taproom prices.  Not much in the brew scene is as annoying as ordering up a 10 ouncer, passing a portrait of Abe across the counter, and then having the server condescendingly inform you that you need to cough up another 22 cents. Thumbs up and thumbs down
  • Cornell University Cooperative Extension trying to help New York breweries operating under the state’s Farm Brewery License. Enacted in 2013, it requires licensees to use at least 20% New York-grown malt and hops.  Sounds tough but feasible?  The numbers will ramp up to 60 percent in 2019 and 90 percent in 2024. Cornell Cooperative Extension is providing a networking platform to bring the state’s growers and maltsters together with the growing roster of farm licensees — currently 160 and sure to be more.  Thumbs up
  • Cryptic Date Codes  As more retailers jump on the craft beer bandwagon, we’re seeing improvements in distribution and brand reach. Geographical limitations aren’t what they used to be, and unfamiliar stuff is showing up at retailers…and sitting.  And sitting.  Got a lot of shelf turds out there, so before you shell out hard earned scratch for the unknown DIPA from New Mexico, you turn the can over.  Instead of something like “JUL 07 17” you find “006123367GABORK.”  Don’t embrace the rancid goodness of decaying hops, put that crap back.    Thumbs down
  • Castle Island Brewing Company just released Hi-Def, a double IPA, and their first year-round offering in that style.  Hi-Def utilizes Warrior, Citra, Mosaic and Idaho 7 in the hop bill.  Thumbs up
  • Flights give way to “Sample Pours” — whither goest the brewfan favorite, the reasonably priced sampler?  Standard fare in the ramp-up to craft beer fanaticism in the 2000s, more and more breweries are dropping this for three or four dollar mini pours.  To the breweries who still offer the “pick any four/$5” or “house sampler $6” stuff, a big thumbs up.  But to the newcomer breweries with investors and consultants and pricey mini pours, we don’t care if the serving is bigger, it’s a perception thing:  Thumbs down
  • Maine Beer Company ok yeah the tax bit is annoying as hell but at least they still do sample flights.  Thumbs up
  • Hopsters in Newton MA is doing a thing where you and your peeps can go and brew your own batch, experience the brew thing without having to invest in homebrew equipment, without making a mess all over your kitchen, and without having to store a repurposed cooler in your closet.  You can bottle it, can it, or a mix of both right there on premises.  Yields about three cases.  Thumbs up

Photo:  Doing what’s right