Question: If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?
The first specifically spring beer reviewed in 99 Bottles this year is Smuttynose Brewing Company’s Bloom. This offering from the New Hampshire brewery crosses the line separating the metaphorical aspects of the season from the literal ones. Eight types of edible flowers were thrown into the kettle during the brew. If you’re the kind of person who likes the sweet smell of dirt under your fingernails after a long day of tilling, this beer will be of interest to you.
Yarrow, lavender, chamomile, rosebuds, elder flowers, calendula, nasturtium, and dianthus flowers were grown specifically for this beer at Meadow’s Mirth Farm in Stratham, N.H. The flowers are added to a Belgian golden ale base. The result is one of the more unique beers on the market.
Bloom pours a medium amber with a pebbly, white head. The smell coming off this beer rivals that of an English garden. Spice and bubble gum also waft up from the glass, a product of the Belgian yeast.
Bloom tastes like a trip to your local florist. Some saisons can have flowery notes, but let me stress that there are actual flowers in this beer. This is exciting for beer geeks, but it’s not so geeky that it’s not enjoyable. The finish is buttery and not all that clean. I get pollen. As a one-time try this is a must, but I wouldn’t make this my Friday night go-to.
There isn’t a lot of Bloom to go around, only 25½ barrels. Most of that will be put into 86 1/6-barrel kegs. The remainder of the batch is in a bottled-conditioned, 750-ml, cork-finished package. Bloom sells for a suggested retail price of $15.
I imagine you’ll be seeing it at the usual Boston bars in the coming weeks.
I met Sam Calgione in a blizzard. The Dogfish Head founder was standing in the doorway of the Publick House in Brookline, opportunistic flakes swirling around him. He was in town for Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beer Fest, an event that was canceled hours later due to the storm that gripped the region in February. Calgione and his Dogfish crew would later be stranded in Boston for the weekend, but first, there was the matter of lunch to attend to.
During an intimate lunch with Calgione and several representatives from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., the breweries debuted a collaboration beer called Rhizing Bines. This imperial IPA was continuously hopped with Bravo hops, then dry-hopped with an experimental varietal that lacks a name but is identified by a number: 644. A component of Sierra Nevada’s aroma-boosting Torpedo system made a pit stop at Dogfish headquarters in Delaware before moving on to Sierra’s new North Carolina brewery.
Rhizing Bines was the first beer we’d be trying during lunch, and it was the one I’d looked forward to most. I’d read that hop 644 imparts a unique melon flavor into the beer. As an avid IPA enthusiast, I’d never had anything like that.
The beer arrived at the table in Dogfish’s new IPA glass (more on that in a minute). The brew shined a bold orange in the glass; even after several minutes the structured white head held up in such a way that it appeared strong enough to stand on if you were painting the side of a building. I got a little of that blizzard-bleached scaffolding on the tip of my nose after sticking it into the glass.
There was an absolute and distinct cantaloupe smell wafting up from this beer. Other citrus floated in and out, but the melon smell is what’s burned into my memory.
The taste of this brew is part wheat-beer, part IPA. On this occasion and during one other tasting I got honey, spice, grass, caramel, apricot, dried flowers, and melon. There’s none of the overwhelming bitterness found in a typical double-IPA. Some hopheads on popular review websites have taken exception to the fact that there isn’t more bite in this 70-IBU, 8-percent ABV brew. To me there’s a great balance here, and a unique hop profile in a world of similar IPAs is a welcome one.
At lunch Calgione gave a short description of the beer, which he said was a true collaboration between the breweries. A representative from Sierra joked about leaving the arduous task of cleaning the hop sludge out of the Torpedo apparatus to Calgione’s crew. As the beer flowed, there were stories about life on the road. The flakes grew steadier through the window outside, and word from the governor was that roads were closing within the hour. Begrudgingly, it was time to go. In a few minutes I’d be home, stuck there for the weekend but with the memory of a great beer tattooed on my brain.
A note about the IPA glass, which broke shortly after my arrival at home. It’s a great glass in terms of getting maximum flavor and aroma out of your beer, especially your IPAs, but it’s extremely fragile. I’ve fared a little better with my second glass. You can order one from the Dogfish Head website.Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globegarydzen.