As a general rule, beer stories are better than stories about milk and cookies and tea. Tweeting about the contents of my glass one night last week, I caught glimpses of a beer story I wanted to hear more about.
“This Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys collaboration is truly exceptional,” I wrote.
My tweet, in reference to the beer being reviewed below, attracted the attention of Stu McKinlay and Sam Possenniskie, of the New Zealand brewery Yeastie Boys. Their response was playful:
“It certainly looks great,” they wrote. “Maybe you can convince Pretty Things to drop their no novelty ingredients rule.”
Our Turn, Your Turn, a collaboration between Yeastie Boys and Somerville’s Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, was tasting great. But what novel ingredients could it be missing? I reached out to Pretty Things brewer and cofounder Martha Holley-Paquette for details.
The brewers first met at the Shelton Brothers festival in Worcester in 2012. They stayed in touch, as much as you can from the other side of the world, and formed a mutual respect for one another.
“They aren’t like most brewers from the US, in that they are kind of preppy and wear bright purple trousers,” says Holley-Paquette. “And although they are very good, creative brewers, they’re not at all precious or beardy. So needless to say we got on really well with them, although I think we each think the others are a bit weird!”
One thing the New Zealand brewers thought was a bit odd about the Somerville ones was that they didn’t want to use novelty ingredients for their collaboration. Yeastie Boys makes a beer called Gunnamatta, an IPA brewed with Earl Grey Tea. When it was suggested to them they use tea in this beer, Holley-Paquette and her husband, Pretty Things brewer Dan Paquette, were against it.
“You don’t see top wineries putting flavors in their wines, so why would a top-notch brewery feel the need to add something stupid to their beer,” Holley-Paquette says.
In the end, both brewers agreed to step outside their bounds a little. McKinlay demonstrated that if you brew a strong cup of black tea and let it cool, it starts to smell insanely malty. Holley-Paquette bought a load of her favorite tea, Yorkshire Gold, but the tannins were off. The couple then had an “epic tea-sniffing session” at Christina’s in Inman Square, and settled on linden flower, which they thought paired nicely with a backpack full of lemony Southern Cross hops Possenniskie brought from New Zealand.
Our Turn, Your Turn appears straw-colored, a hazy summer day packed into a tulip glass. Bubbles slowly rise, but the beer’s appearance isn’t overly fizzy. I get lots of wheat and a whiff of something floral.
This is a wheat beer, but it’s a hoppy one (the commercial description says the beer was “meant to be around 25 [IBUs] but drinks like it’s 40+”). It doesn’t taste like a beer brewed with tea, but there’s medicinal quality to it. Sweet and bitter interplay nicely before funneling into a crisp, dry finish. The beer is superbly balanced; I could drink this all day.
Despite the discussion over the tea (“we still don’t like novelty ingredients!” Holley-Paquette made sure to emphasize), Our Turn, Your Turn is as tastefully restrained as you’d expect a Pretty Things beer to be. Among the many standout Massachusetts breweries, there continues to be no safer bet for creative beer of consistent quality than Pretty Things.
Notch’s Session Pils in cans
After three years of selling low-alcohol “session” beer in Massachusetts, Notch Brewing Company has released 12-packs of cans of its Session Pils.
“From day one I wanted Notch in cans,” says brewer Chris Lohring. “It wasn’t a point of differentiation I was looking for, but the function. Any place session beer fits, session beer in a can usually fits better.”Gary Dzen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen.