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Local flavor: Readers suggest their favorite regional beers

Date: 1/30/2014

By Chris Maza

I like to think of myself as a pretty normal, unassuming guy and with this column, I’ve tried to keep things fairly casual without a lot of jargon that might turn off the casual beer drinker.

My goal has always been to encourage the support of the craft beer industry, especially the blossoming one in this region. Because of that, I spend a lot of time suggesting beers based on my tastes.

This month, I decided to turn the tables. I turned to social media and asked you, the reader, to make suggestions to me and received a range of local and regional brews to try.

I picked as many as my modest reporter’s salary would allow, but vow to give the rest a go in the near future. All of the input was very much appreciated.

Total Eclipse

Brewmaster Jack, Northampton

I’m a big fan of porters, so I was more than happy to give this local libation a try. True to its name, it pours solid black, with a thick, coffee colored head and a nose that features some really nice chocolate and coffee notes. The taste doesn’t disappoint with roasted coffee bean and coffee throughout with a touch of rye and some quietly appealing finishing hops that make it a very balanced beer. It’s a bit on the heavier side, but the lactose in the beer adds a smoothing element that makes it an easy drink. A good tip: don’t pull this one right out of the fridge. Let it sit a while to ensure those flavors really pop.

Pop’s Old Fashioned Lager

Westfield River Brewing, Westfield

Pop’s is a newer creation by the folks at Westfield River and one of their offerings they have chosen to put in a can. Overall, I’d say it’s a pretty solid beer for that next outdoor get-together or tailgate, but it does leave something to be desired. Designed to be a pre-prohibition style lager, it has a gold, hazy look to it in a glass with a thin head and a pretty good, but not unbelievable combination of bready malts and some hops. It’s light with a decent amount of carbonation.

Evil Brew

Jack’s Abby/Evil Twin, Framingham/Brooklyn, N.Y.

Evil Brew is one of a few collaborations Framingham-based Jack’s Abby has come up with recently. A schwarzbier, which is German for “black beer,” Evil Brew certainly fits the bill, pouring very dark with a light head. Lots of nuts both in the aroma and the taste of this one with a hint of smokiness that instantly made it one of my favorites. It has a light body and crisp lager finish, making it one you can enjoy even if you tend to stray away from dark beers because of their heavier characteristics.

Spencer Trappist Ale

St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer

One of my late great aunt’s best friends was a monk living in Europe who introduced her, and by extension me, to the world of Trappist Ales by sending some Chimay many years ago. These special beers, which the monks create and sell in order to support themselves and their work, have always had a special place in my heart. So when I heard that a group of monks from right here in Massachusetts were the first to make Trappist ales in the U.S., I was on board. With a light golden hue and a cloud-white head, it’s certainly appealing to look at and a scent featuring banana, spices and clove, it gets the mouth watering as soon at it’s brought to the nose. Banana and some other fruits subtly dance around the taste buds, joined by the spices in a really complex, but balanced, profile with a light and well-carbonated body. It’s a very good take on the style, especially given the fact that these are first-timers who had previously specialized in jams and preserves. A hat tip to the Pretty Things Beer Project, who helped them get the formula right.

Thanks for all the suggestions, Cheers!