Tucked away inside the experimental Jamaica Plain brewery of The Boston Beer Co. is a room you can smell as soon as you crack open the sliding door. Samuel Adams doesn’t brew much of its beer in Boston anymore. But a national craft brewery with Boston roots keeps a funky secret inside its walls here.
Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch is proud of his barrel room. On a tour of the space earlier this year, Koch introduced me to something called Kosmic Mother Funk or KMF, a blend of yeast and bacteria used in Sam’s Barrel Room Collection beers. A secondary fermentation with Brettanomyces yeast helps turn malt and hops and water into a sour, funky substance. That sour beer is then imparted into the five Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection brews.
Samuel Adams started the series with three beers — New World Tripel, American Kriek, and Stony Brook Red — in 2009. They introduced a fourth beer, Thirteenth Hour Stout, and last month debuted a fifth, called Tetravis.
Tetravis is a Belgian quadrupel-style beer. It’s typically strong, lugging with it a 10.2 percent ABV. It is decidedly a cold-weather beer, which seems appropriate as we transition between seasons. Opening up a bottle on a nice summer day seemed out of place, but there are sacrifices to every job. When I popped the cork a wasp fluttered toward the mouth of the bottle, attracted to the smell wafting from the opening.
The beer pours a cloudy brown. Candied sugar and fruitcake form a welcoming nose, like the scent from a warm oven on a cold morning. As expected the first sip is very sweet, a mashup of plums and baked bread and caramel. This sweetness is cut, however, by a welcoming acidic bite from the KMF. Quads are heavy, but this one is a few degrees lighter. That bit of levity has brought me back to Sam’s Barrel Room beers quite a few times.
Koch is proud of the balance the beers in the series show.
“You’ve got to get the KMF to the point of being borderline pleasant,” he says. “I don’t want to release a beer unless it’s a pleasure to drink. Even if it’s weird.”
Michigan’s Founders Brewing Company consistently makes some of the best beers in the country. Founders doesn’t stick to a particular style; stouts, scotch ales, and IPAs are all exceptional. It’s an impressive range, and new releases are always worthy of seeking out.
Mango Magnifico hit shelves a couple of weeks ago. It’s an eclectic offering for Founders, a high-gravity fruit beer brewed with mango and a touch of Michigan-grown habaneros. I’m something of a spice freak. My Florida grandmother grows hot peppers, dries them, chops them in a food processor, and sends them to me as homemade red pepper flakes. I’m not averse to heat.
The use of habaneros in Mango Magnifico, on the other hand, is not for the faint of heart. I can smell the spice as I pour the beer into a tulip glass. Consider it an olfactory warning.
The beer’s mild-mannered golden appearance does nothing to prepare you for the taste.
It pours like a golden ale. For my immediate thoughts after the first sip I go straight to my notes. I wrote:
“Oh wow. Sweet fruit then tang then spice then more sweet then a lingering burn on the back of the throat.” There’s peach in here, too, or maybe that’s mango. The mouthfeel is thick and all-encompassing. The beer is tougher to get down as it warms.
One of my more consistent Twitter followers said he loved this beer for the ability to taste sweet and spicy in the same sip. To me, the 10 percent ABV is too much here. With all that spice I’d like a drier finish. It could make for an interesting aperitif, but the ABV and sweetness requires this to be an after-dinner sipper, which doesn’t quite work, either.
Head of the Charles gets a beer sponsor
Sierra Nevada Brewing has agreed to a three-year sponsorship to become the official beer of the Head of the Charles Regatta, held annually in Boston and Cambridge. The 49th annual regatta will take place this year on Oct. 19 and 20.
Regatta participants and spectators will be able to taste Sierra Nevada’s offerings at multiple pouring locations along the Head of the Charles course throughout race weekend, including the Reunion Village, Eliot Bridge Enclosure, and Director’s Tent. More information about the regatta is available on the event’s official website.Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeGaryDzen.