Mayflower Brewing Co. is known for its India Pale Ale. The Plymouth-based brewery is also known for its porter, and, appropriately, its Thanksgiving Ale. After seven years on the South Shore, Mayflower has firmly established these and a couple of other staples.
Like many breweries looking to meet the demand for more variety from a craft-thirsty customer base, Mayflower has recently begun to expand its offerings. In the fall, Mayflower launched the Cooper's Series, a limited run of beers available in kegs or four-packs. The first beer in the series was a Scotch Ale. In January came a double-IPA, named for John Alden, ancestor of brewery founder Drew Brosseau and the cooper on the Pilgrim ship Mayflower.
Mayflower first brewed Alden in December, as part of a limited 200-barrel run. Because Alden is a double-IPA, Brosseau elected to stagger the brewing process, releasing fresh batches of the beer several times. The first batch was packaged in January. Subsequent batches were just released and should be on store shelves for several more weeks.
Initial Cooper's Series beers appeared in 22-ounce bottles, but Mayflower quickly switched to four-packs. That's useful with Alden, which has 8 percent alcohol by volume. In a big bottle, the alcohol content could be too much.
IPAs are bitter by design, but this one is intentionally not made that way. "We used only a small amount of bittering hops, and favored late-kettle additions to provide mild bitterness and pronounced hop flavor and aroma," says Ryan Gwozdz, Mayflower's head brewer.
Poured into a glass, Alden looks like some familiar IPAs out of Vermont's Hill Farmstead, the Alchemist, and others. It's light in body, with citrus escaping from the bottle to your nose as soon as you crack the cap. Chinook, Citra, and Mosaic hops throw loads of grapefruit, lemon pith, and wet, spring dirt notes. It's still bitter. You taste the 80 IBUs (international bitterness units), even if they aren't puckering. The beer finishes dry and crisp.
After reviewing well over 100 beers for this column, I rarely find a beer that stands out. This one blew my socks off. Not that there was any doubt Mayflower is capable of this. Its flagship IPA is delicious, a lesson in balance and restraint, and a go-to in many spots from Braintree to the Cape.
But Alden is another step, a focused effort to make a small amount of something truly special. "This beer may come back, it may not," says Brosseau. "It depends on how people respond." Grab some while you can.
Mayflower Brewing Co. Alden ($11.99 for a four-pack) is available at Portside Liquors II, Pembroke, 781-826-8060 and at the brewery, 12 Resnik Road, Plymouth, 508-746-2674.