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A Day with Untold Brewing

A Day with Untold Brewing

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

Since I picked up my first craft beer in 2003, I’ve always enjoyed learning the story behind a beer, or the story behind the person behind a beer. As the landscape of craft beer in the United States has grown and evolved, I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many fascinating craft beer people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures. I’ve also witnessed breweries grow beyond being purely industrial spaces to the town’s community gathering spot.

I’ve recently been thinking about the concept of “community” in craft beer. Over the past four years in Massachusetts, breweries have popped up all over the state – in urban neighborhoods, industrial parks, and small towns. So, what does it look like when craft beer is genuinely a part of the local community?

The South Shore of Massachusetts is known for its small towns and quiet seaside views, and now, a thriving and locally focused craft beer scene. On a freezing and overcast day in January, I took a day trip to visit Untold Brewing in Scituate, MA.

Untold Brewing was founded in 2016 by Matt Elder & Kristin Greene (siblings who originally hail from Scituate), and Kyle Hansen. Their home is the old Scituate schoolhouse – a 165-year-old structure which was moved from its original location and underwent a stunning restoration to become the brewery’s taproom with the production facility attached behind it.

Matt & Kyle met in Seattle, Washington when they were both working at Georgetown Brewing Company. After four years working in the brewery and the lab, Kyle was feeling ready for a change and was contemplating trying out the East Coast. He broached the subject with Matt, who admitted that HE was thinking about opening a brewery back in his home state.

Prior to Untold opening in 2017, there weren't many options on the South Shore for locally made craft beer. I appreciated that in addition to giving the local schoolhouse a new life, many of their beers pay tribute to the town and history, and appeal to a broad base of beer drinkers.

Abigail, a crisp blonde ale, and Rebecca, a rich brown ale - named for the Scituate sisters who took up a fife and drum to trick British warships into retreat in the War of 1812 - are great beers for those who aren't hop heads. Pale 143 is a nod to Minot's Ledge Lighthouse which flashes 1-4-3: "I Love You." The hoppy beers at Untold have a distinct Pacific Northwest vibe: bright and bitter, with pine and citrus notes that come from classic American hops like Cascade, Chinook, and Columbus. 

Craft Beer Cellar Belmont began carrying Untold early last year. It was fortuitous timing: many Belmont customers were asking for a locally-made “normal” IPA – one that wasn’t hazy and sweet. The Belmont Beer Geeks started recommending Untold’s East by Northwest IPA because they liked the west coast-style bitterness with subtle stonefruit notes from Mosaic and Simcoe hops - and it became a huge hit! CBC Belmont now gets weekly deliveries from Untold, and the Beer Geeks love telling customers about their new seasonal offerings.


I was lucky to meet most of the Untold team on the day I visited – it’s a small crew and many have been there since the beginning. With coffee in hand, I chatted with their sales manager, Brady, about how happy everyone at CBC Belmont has been with the success of their beer. He had been in for a tasting at the store a couple weekends prior, and the store sold several cases in those two hours.

Truth be told, my visit to Untold served two purposes - to meet the team, and to see how they used PakTechs in their packaging. We're all familiar with the rigid plastic holders that adorn the top of 16 oz 4-packs of cans. PakTechs became popular with breweries because they were affordable, easy to apply, strong, and available in an array of colors. Consumers felt good that they were made from recycled plastic, and since the handles said “Please Recycle” they could simply toss them in their recycling bin.

However - thanks to a post from the Mass Brew Bros this past summer - we learned PakTechs weren’t as recyclable as they seemed. Even though PakTechs are made from recyclable material (100% PCR, HDPE #2), since they are small and light the machines that sort our single-stream recycling tend to sort them with paper and other non-plastics. Recycling facilities were built years ago accounting for the types of recyclable products that existed at the time. New “recyclable” items don’t always play well in the system and can gum up the process entirely. So instead of being recycled, PakTechs unfortunately end up in landfills.

Belmont ordered an official recycling bin from PakTech and started collecting extra handles - hoping that somehow a true recycling program could get started in Massachusetts. 

I won't bore you with the details of my months-long wild goose chase - but by December we were still at a dead end, and I had fourteen case boxes full of PakTechs stacked next to my desk. I should mention, these handles are indeed quite strong: of the hundreds I sorted, only one was broken. They are very much reusable.

I had been in contact with the Massachusetts Brewers Guild about my PakTech project and they provided me with a list of breweries that also had recycling bins. Lo and behold, there was Untold! When I reached out to find out about their progress, head brewer Kyle Hansen informed me that while they had a bin, they were reusing the collected PakTechs in-house and they would be happy to take all of ours. A few weeks later when their delivery driver, Chase, came with the latest beer drop, I sent most of my boxes with him.


Getting back to my visit, Kyle gave me a short tour of the brewery and explained how they reused the PakTechs: it was as easy as sorting them by color, making sure they were intact and free of stickers, and running them through their dishwasher for a quick clean. Any colors they don't currently use are put in storage, in the event they would be useful for a canning run in the future, or if another South Shore brewery might need some. The day I visited I brought two more boxes, and Jane and Liz (who manage front of house and marketing) got a kick out of sorting through some of the more obscure colors. 

Untold uses a Wild Goose Canning Line for their packaging: on one end, Pete supervised the empty cans as they made their way through the filler, and on the other, Chase grabbed the freshly labeled cans, placed them in flats, and snapped PakTechs on by hand.


After the first canning run, Kyle and I sat down to chat about what it's like running a small brewery in a town like Scituate. Historically, Scituate had a significant fishing industry, but Kyle informed me of one of the local sayings: Scituate is a drinking town with a fishing problem. Untold is certainly an easy stop for locals who take the commuter rail to Boston – only a four-minute walk from the Greenbush station, it’s not hard to imagine stopping by to grab a 4-pack or a quick beer after a day at work. The inside of the schoolhouse gets beautiful natural light, and the patio must be lovely on a day when it's not freezing outside!

Being at Untold reminded me of old-world beer culture in Europe. Originally, breweries were hyper-local, and the town brewpub was the place where the community could relax and spend time together (aside from church).  This small and locally-focused brewery model has started to become a part of American beer culture, and while it may not be flashy, it feels meaningful. You can sense a real connection between the beer and the people, and it's that connection that makes you want to hang around just a little bit longer for another pint. The one comment from Kyle that summed up their philosophy and has really stuck with me: "It's about an interaction, not a transaction."

When sometimes it feels like American craft beer is defined by long lines, instagrammable pictures, and beer ratings and check-ins, being with the team at Untold was a welcome reminder of why I loved craft beer to begin with - connecting with people and hearing their stories. 

MARY MACKENZIE

As her love for beer grew from a hobby to a profession, Mary has always felt strongly about community-building in craft beer: welcoming people from all backgrounds to the fold, helping everyone find a craft beer they love, and educating all types from craft beer novices to nerds (but she has a particular love for the novices).


In addition to her work in craft beer, Mary is also an accomplished operatic soprano. She has worked professionally as a performer, administrator, and educator in the creative arts for over 15 years.

Her first beer love: Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland, OH.

Diversity & Inclusion Policy

Diversity & Inclusion Policy

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

This policy was worked through and put into place by myself, COO Tatum Stewart and members of our Board of Directors.

Craft Beer Cellar is committed to fostering, cultivating and preserving a culture of diversity and inclusion across its’ entire network and at every Craft Beer Cellar location.

Our human capital is our most valuable asset. The collective sum of the individual differences, life experiences, knowledge, inventiveness, innovation, self-expression, unique capabilities and talent that our employees invest in their work represents a significant part of not only our work culture, but our company’s reputation.

We embrace, encourage and celebrate our employees’ differences in age, color, disability, ethnicity, family or marital status, gender identity or expression, language, national origin, physical and mental ability, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, veteran status, and other characteristics that make our employees unique, who they are and who we are, together.

Craft Beer Cellar’s diversity initiatives are applicable, but not limited to our practices and policies on:

  • recruitment, evaluation and hiring
  • wages, benefits and other methods of compensation
  • professional development, training, and education
  • promotions and/or transfers
  • social programs
  • layoffs and/or terminations

The ongoing development of our work environments are built on the premise of gender and diversity equity that encourages and enforces: a) respectful communication and cooperation between all employees, b) teamwork and employee participation, allowing for the representation of all employees and perspectives, and c) employer and employee contributions to the communities we serve, in order to promote a greater understanding and respect for diversity.

Employees and employers of all Craft Beer Cellar stores have a responsibility to treat others with dignity and respect at all times. All employees are expected to exhibit conduct that reflects inclusion during work, at work functions, on or off your work location, and at all other company-sponsored and/or participation events. All employees and employers are expected to complete and certify in our annual diversity awareness training to enhance their knowledge and be able to fulfill the responsibilities outlined above.

Any employee or employer found to have exhibited any inappropriate conduct or behavior against others may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of either employment or a store’s right to operate as a Craft Beer Cellar.

Employees who believe they have been subjected to any kind of discrimination that conflicts with the company’s diversity policy and initiatives should seek assistance from a supervisor, manager, or owner at your location. If you have notified a supervisor, manager, or owner at your location and do not feel that actions or remedies are being addressed, please notify Craft Beer Cellar, immediately.

Additionally, all employees, employers and/or store owners are expect to implement and follow Craft Beer Cellar’s Diversity & Inclusion Policy in relation to and in interacting with the customers that shop in our stores or frequent our tap rooms, as well as suppliers, brewery representative, delivery personnel and other business-to-business individuals that may frequent our locations.

Suzanne Schalow

Co-Founder and CEO of Craft Beer Cellar. Suzanne is an academic at heart and spends much of her time working on beer education, events and marketing. Passionate about the beer industry, telling better beer stories and finding that one beer that changes everything. In the meantime, you can rest assured she's fallen off in a Chalice of Chimay Premiere or Liter of Benediktiner Hell.

The beer she can't stop thinking about: 2016 Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bier

Maine. Microflora. Magic.

Maine. Microflora. Magic.

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

One of the more striking visuals we’ve had the luxury of experiencing during our time in the industry, is the juxtaposition of gigantic, very modern fermentation vessels (FVs), sticking out of the roof at Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine in a perfect row, and towering over a humble little cabin that holds a piece of brewing technology that is hundreds of years old. Substantial and Modest. Polished and Weathered. Contemporary and Traditional. The scene feels as though two very different periods in brewing history are coming together in an important way.

Inside those gigantic FVs, likely lies Allagash White – the brewery’s flagship offering and a world-class example of a Belgian-style Witbier (we’ve written about our love for White in the past). The cloudy wheat beer brewed with orange peel, coriander, and a secret third spice, makes up roughly 80% of Allagash’s production and is shipped all over the country to be enjoyed in places like Los Angeles (one of White’s biggest markets) and Chicago. White is the reason the aforementioned little cabin, tucked away outside in a back corner of the brewery, can exist.

This is the home for Allagash’s Coolship – or Koelschip, as it’s stylized on the wide and shallow, pan-shaped stainless steel vessel. The Coolship is simple in it’s appearance and design, but the details, process, and history behind the giant brownie pan-shaped piece of equipment are fascinating. While a date of invention is difficult to track down, the use of these vessels can be traced back hundreds of years ago to European brewers who needed a way to cool down wort fresh out of the brew kettle relatively quickly without the luxuries of a glycol system. The large surface area and shallow design of the Coolship allowed wort to be exposed to the near freezing Fall and Winter nights’ temperatures, and therefore cooling relatively efficiently before being transferred to a fermentation or conditioning vessel.

So why would a modern brewery like Allagash be using technology hundreds of years old when there are much easier ways of cooling wort today? Because while the liquid is in the Coolship, something magical happens. In the air all around us, there are native yeasts and microflora – the particular makeup of which is specific to each locale. While the wort is laying in its stainless bed, these microorganisms find a home in the cooling body of liquid. Once plentiful, the blend of yeast and bacteria, often made up of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus (amongst many, many potential others), begin to slowly convert the sugars of the wort into alcohol in what is described as spontaneous fermentation. The resulting flavors of spontaneous fermentation are beautiful, unique, and unmistakable, often described by terms such as: horseblanket, barnyard, tart, smarties candy, hay, funk, and complex.

We were lucky enough to be allowed the opportunity to watch a Coolship filling at Allagash during this brewing season. On a chilly December evening in Portland, we were joined by a small group consisting of other industry people both on the retail and brewery side, as well as some Allagash employees ranging from tasting room folks, to tour guides, and of course, a handful of brewers. The energy in the air the moments leading up to the fill was palpable. Even the Allagash employees who had witnessed a fill in the past, were showing a bit of nervous energy. The phrase, “This never gets old” was spoken on more than one occasion

In yet another moment of contrast that makes Coolship brewing at Allagash so unique, the brewers had the time that the fill would take place down to the minute. For a process that relies so much on the unknown – leaving fermentation to the unseeable microflora in the Maine air, Allagash makes sure to have all controllable variables on lockdown. From recipe development, to the brew deck, to the exact moment liquid hits the Coolship, the brewers had everything in tune to their specifications. Allagash brewed their first Coolship batch back in 2007, a mere blink of an eye in comparison to the years Belgian Lambic brewers have been utilizing Chips, but they’ve had some experience dialing the process in over the years. Rob Tod, Owner and Founder of Allagash would later tell us that night that they struggled at first to produce spontaneous beers worth drinking, finding that the initial batches were often riddled with off flavors and needed to be dumped. Luckily, that is far from the case these days.

From the second that the slightly-less-than-boiling hot wort starts to exit the brewing hose, through a strainer (to catch the whole leaf, aged hops used in these beers) and into the Coolship, the room begins to steam and fill with an incredible aroma. Think rustic bread fresh out of the oven. You’re provided with roughly 20-30 seconds to snap any pictures of the experience before the cabin is entirely filled with dense steam. It’s difficult to see one’s hand even six inches in front of your eyes.

As the sun continued to set on this crisp, early December evening, the bright orange glow of the Coolship provided warmth only in a visual sense. To beat the cold, we headed into the ‘Tiny House’, located just about 50 years from the Coolship’s cabin. We were met by a roaring wood stove, an incredible spread of local cheese and charcuterie, and what seemed like an endless amount of Coolship beers in their signature 375ml cork & cage bottles. If you’ve ever gotten to experience a tour to Allagash, hell even if you were just able to enjoy a single pour in the tasting room, their crew’s incredible hospitality has probably made an impression. This time was no different.

In between bites of brie on baguette and swigs of beers like Coolship Cerise, a stunning offering aged for six months in oak barrels on Maine grown Montmorency and Balaton cherries, the conversation shifted around a variety of topics. Tiny houses (of course), old school arcade game restoration, and upcoming cross-country trips. The best moments with beer are not centered around the beverage we love, but rather on the people we’re with. The Allagash Coolship beers that we were lucky to be enjoying played a perfect role in that sense. Highly complex and beautiful beers that paired incredibly with the spread of food in front of us, but never dominated the conversation.

As we parted ways, the beer in the Coolship rested quietly. It would remain there soaking up the best microflora Maine had to offer until about 7:00 AM the next day when Allagash’s morning brewers arrived. From there, this batch would be transferred to over to oak barrels where it will ferment and age for at least a year, potentially even three. With spontaneously fermented beers, each barrel takes its own unique path, which is why tasting and blended play such a huge role in the final result of the product.

Why would Allagash, a brewery whose bottom line rests on large batch production of one of the greatest Witbiers in the world take the time, energy, and resources to focus on a tiny Coolship program that in the end, is probably a net negative endeavor for them? In our opinion, it’s passion and respect for the industry that they’ve made such an impact on. Through these beers, they’re simultaneously paying homage to centuries old Belgian Lambic traditions, while continuing to innovate in a modern American craft beer landscape. After all, they were the first American brewery to build a Coolship. It reflects back on the juxtaposition that makes Allagash so unique. Substantial and Modest. Polished and Weathered. Contemporary and Traditional.

PHIL CASSELLA

Phil is passionate about telling the stories of the people and businesses behind the beer we love, primarily through the visual mediums of photography and design. With a B.S. in Marketing from Syracuse University and having completed the University of Vermont's Business of Craft Beer certificate program, Phil knew he wanted to be a part of this industry from an early age, and tailored his education around it. You typically won't find anything with an SRM greater than 10 in his glass, but there's a good chance it will be a Czech Pils, mixed-fermentation Saison, or a soft Pale Ale.

The beer he can't stop thinking about:
Notch The Standard (preferably served Mlìko)

A Window To The World

A Window To The World

Saturday, December 8th, 2018
Photography by Phil Cassella

You usually see the “three-tier system”, created after Prohibition, described as “Brewer, Distributor, Retailer”. However, that first tier also includes Importers, which is how foreign producers get their beer into the country. Importers face many of the same logistical challenges that Distributors do, but exacerbated by geography and border customs.

B. United International is a fairly young distributor, having been founded in 1994. They focus on both long-established classics as well as innovative, new offerings, but above all is freshness. So much so, in fact, that they bought special refrigerated tanks to transport beer & cider directly from breweries before it is even packaged!

Recently, some of our team took a road trip to Oxford, CT to meet their team and tour their facilities. In addition to the warehouse and barrel rooms that you may expect, they also have a small brewhouse, tasting room, packaging lines, coffee roaster, and greenhouses! We started off sampling some fun offerings in their portfolio, such as:

  • 1996 Vapeur Cochon - A 22 year-old vintage of a spiced saison. Easily one of our overall favorites of the day.
  • Schlenkerla Helles-Märzen - This beer is a blend of the "non-smoked" Schlenkerla Helles "aufkraeusened" with classic Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen. Look for cans coming soon through the Tanker Truck program (see below!)
  • Bayrischer Bahnhof Berliner With Oats - A classic Berliner Weisse brewed with oats for added body.
  • Birrificio Baladin Birra Nazionale - Made with 100% Italian ingredients, this beer helped to establish some of the first hop farms in the Mediterranean!
  • Kiuchi Brewery Anbai Ale - Anbai literally means "salty plum", but can also be translated to "just right". Anbai Ale, at its base, is a higher ABV version of Hitachino White Ale, infused with locally-grown green sour plum (ume) and finished with a pinch of Japanese sea salt (moshio).

After that, we took a break for lunch and then got a tour of the facilities and grounds. One of the most impressive things was their refrigerated tanks. They have two huge ones, each with four compartments, with 3500 liters in each section, as well as some smaller 1000-liter ones. These allow B. United to import beers and ciders that they normally would not be able to. Some of the producers can’t package enough to fill a large order, or sometimes the cost of all of the bottles or kegs necessary is cost prohibitive. With these tanks, they can take the liquid directly from the source, ship it to the US in one easy container, and then can or keg it themselves back in Connecticut. 

Of course, the majority of their product arrives packaged, which is where their immense warehouse comes into play. As part of their focus on sustainability, they built it into the side of a hill, and the insulation from the earth allows them to rely solely on passive cooling! It was also great to see some of the vintage beers and sakes that they have saved.

There is also an experimental side to B. United. For starters, they are working on a coffee project, where they allow the beans to ferment along with some fruit, wood, and/or beer. They also house a brewery called Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores, or OEC. Focusing on wild and spontaneous fermentation, they age a lot of their beer in some of the wooden barrels that they get during the importing process, and sometimes add fruits that they grow in their own greenhouses.

The beer being produced under the OEC brand is some of the most experimental and thought provoking liquid that we’ve ever experienced. Halo, a 3.2% blend of Table Beer and their house kombucha was an incredibly refreshing, yet complex offering. We also got to sample Artista Zynergia: Eros, a wild blend consisting of a variety of OEC barrels as well as beer from Belgium’s Alvinne. Bracingly tart, the blend was conditioned on peaches and quince.

We cannot recommend visiting the folks at B.United and OEC enough. A trip to Connecticut can result in experiencing a very wide world of beer and other miscellaneous fermented beverages.

Patrick Howe

Coming from a large corporate retail background, Patrick loves the personal interactions and direct influence that comes with a smaller company. He was a customer first, before joining the ranks at the flagship store in Belmont, and now works as the Technology Manager for the franchise company. When not dealing with e-mail, e-commerce, or other e-mergencies, he's usually spending time with his family. Patrick will try any beer once; twice if it's dark or English.

The beer he can't stop thinking about:
Fuller's London Pride

Smuttynose Is Still Here

Smuttynose Is Still Here.

Friday, October 26th, 2018

2018 began with somewhat of a rough start for the craft beer world. Just two weeks after we rang in the new year, on January 15th, Green Flash announced that they would be pulling out of 32 states after building a distribution footprint that covered the entire country. Three days later, we were hit with news that the legendary Portsmouth, New Hampshire brewery Smuttynose would be sold at a bank auction due to “overleveraging of investments and missed growth projections”. Just one day after that, on January 19th, we learned that California’s Mendocino Brewing and New York’s Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. suddenly closed and laid off all employees as billionaire owner Vijay Mallya faced charges of money laundering in excess of $1 billion.

It was a sad stretch of days within the industry as many questioned whether or not the whole year would be heading down this path. Craft Beer Cellar HQ is based in New England, so of the three, Smuttynose hit closest to home. Though the brewery’s relevance had been waning for years, there’s no debating the quality of beers like Finest Kind IPA and Robust Porter. Taste aside, the combination of dated branding and producing brewpub styles of the 90s had slowly diminished the excitement around Smutty.

Since January, we hadn’t heard much about Smuttynose other than their sale to Venture Capital firm Runnymede Investments back in March. The classic regular rotation beers were still available in the market and demand remained roughly stagnant. It felt as though they may slowly fade into the sunset. That was until we received an email titled, “Smuttynose is making big moves!” earlier this week. 

Attached in the email was a press release and information on two new (and hazy!) releases. Mysterious Haze and Whole Lotta Lupulin are a double dry-hopped New England IPA and a Double IPA, respectively, and are packaged in 16oz 4-Packs with fresh, modern sticker labels. The release of these two beers symbolizes a sort of rejuvenation for the Smutty brand that has been taking place behind the scenes in the months since their purchase.

According to the press release, “After ownership transitioned last spring to a local family-owned NH investment firm, Runnymede Investments LLC, Smuttynose has already made strides towards the future. In the past several months, Smuttynose has increased its staff to 84 full-time and part-time workers, added several new members to their marketing team, and beefed up their sales team with more representatives and account managers.”

All of this sounds like things are moving in the right direction for the brewery. The anticipated double release will take place at long-time Smuttynose supporting establishments throughout the end of October and into the beginning of November. Cans are expected to hit stores within their distribution footprint beginning in November as well.

THE BEERS

Mysterious Haze
New England IPA
6.7% ABV, 47 IBU
Malt: 2 Row, Malted Barley, Wheat Malt, Oats, CaraHell
Hops: Citra
Yeast: Chico

Introducing Mysterious Haze, a new year-round offering from deep within the hop labs here at Smuttynose Brewing Co. This medium -bodied, double dry-hopped New England IPA is a master class in showcasing the tropical characteristics of Citra hops, featuring initial notes of grapefruit, guava and mango that melt beautifully into a complex aftertaste of citrus and delicate herbs. Just how much will you love it? That’s a mystery only your first sip can unravel.

Whole Lotta Lupulin
New England Double IPA
8.6% ABV, 90 IBU
Malt: 2-Row, Malted Barley, Wheat Malt, Cara Malt, CaraHell
Hops: Amarillo, Simcoe, Centennial
Yeast: Chico

Whole Lotta Lupulin marks its triumphant return to the Smuttynose year-round lineup, a double IPA as bold as it is balanced that’s sure to satiate even the most seasoned hop palates. Brewed with a bursting combination of complimentary hops – including Citra and Amarillo– and anchored by a sturdy yet not overpowering malt foundation, it drinks lighter than its 8.6% ABV might imply, imparting notes of tropical and guava and an intoxicating aroma of floral, resinous pine.

PHIL CASSELLA

Phil is passionate about telling the stories of the people and businesses behind the beer we love, primarily through the visual mediums of photography and design. With a B.S. in Marketing from Syracuse University and having completed the University of Vermont's Business of Craft Beer certificate program, Phil knew he wanted to be a part of this industry from an early age, and tailored his education around it. You typically won't find anything with an SRM greater than 10 in his glass, but there's a good chance it will be a Czech Pils, mixed-fermentation Saison, or a soft Pale Ale.

The beer he can't stop thinking about:
Notch The Standard (preferably served Mlìko)

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