Cambridge Brewing Co. off to a great start with its first bottled beers

This is the Cambridge Brewing in Mass., not Granby, CT-PGA

Written by Steve Greenlee for Bostonglobe.com

Cambridge Brewing Co. has been pouring great beer in Kendall Square since 1989, but only recently did the brewpub begin bottling its beverages.

It started last fall, when CBC put its hot-selling fall ale, the Great Pumpkin, in 22-ounce bottles. Now the brewpub is selling two year-round beers – a Belgian tripel called Tripel Threat and a Belgian IPA called the Audacity of Hops – as well as a rotation of single-batch beers, the first of which is a Scotch ale.

Why start bottling now?

 

“After 22 years, that’s a darn good question,’’ says CBC brewmaster Will Meyers.

The main reason is that CBC wanted to expand but couldn’t make the operation in Kendall Square physically any bigger. At the same time, the owners didn’t want to invest millions of dollars in a packaging brewery, Meyers said. “We were basically worried that we wouldn’t have a good time, that we wouldn’t enjoy ourselves and be saddled with a $5 million debt.’’

So, as many small brewers are doing, CBC hooked up with a packaging brewery – Mercury Brewing Co., home of Ipswich Ale – and arranged to brew and bottle there. Now CBC is making enough beer for 500 to 600 cases per batch.

Selecting Tripel Threat and Audacity as the year-round brews was easy, Meyers said. For one thing, both have been extremely popular at the pub. For another, he wanted to highlight CBC’s history of using Belgian yeast. (Tripel Threat was the first Belgian-style beer made by an American brewery.)

Choosing the single-batch beers could be trickier. CBC makes between 30 and 45 different beers at its pub over the course of a year. “We’ve got a pretty huge repertoire to draw from,’’ he said.

The first single-batch beer to go into bombers is Bannatyne’s Scotch Ale. The next one is a saison called Sgt. Pepper; it was bottled last week. A gruit – an unhopped herbal beer – is due in April, and a heather ale is on tap for the summer.

Here’s a taste of CBC’s first three bottled beers, each of which retails for $7 to $8:

Tripel Threat is a beautiful beer – bright golden with a 1-inch head of foam and lots of carbonation bubbles rising to the surface. The aroma is big: lemon, banana, passion fruit, even bubblegum, and yeasty esters. With 10 percent alcohol by volume, this is a major-league tripel, with an immense body and fruity profile marked by candi sugars and a lemon tang. Remarkably, there’s almost no aftertaste.

The Audacity of Hops is an aggressive marriage of a Belgian-style IPA and a double IPA. The color of apricot nectar, this beer (8 percent ABV) has only a small – but frothy -head, which is unusual as Belgian IPAs go. The hop-forward aroma attacks immediately with notes of citrus fruit and Belgian yeast. Indeed, this is a hop bomb – very dry, with a good dose of grapefruit and a long-lasting bitterness that refuses to fade.

Bannatyne’s Scotch Ale, a style also known as a wee heavy, is almost the opposite of those two. Dark brown with mahogany accents and a short, tightly beaded head, its aroma is a bold, sweet fusion of dark fruit, vanilla, and a bit of cherry. The beer (9.2 percent ABV) explodes with flavor: molasses, brown sugar, fig, prune, bready yeast, and warming alcohol – however, it’s not sweet. A world-class Scotch ale, Bannatyne’s is immensely pleasurable on a cold night.

New from Clown Shoes

 

Clown Shoes, another local brewer making great use of the Mercury facilities, recently released two beers that couldn’t be more different: an India pale ale and a Russian imperial stout.

Vampire Slayer is actually the second imperial stout from Clown Shoes. The first, a 12.5 percent alcohol monster called Blaecorn Unidragon, came out last fall. It was an unusual, hop-forward beast.

Vampire Slayer is the yin to that yang. Pitch black with a thin brown head, Vampire Slayer has an aroma that’s all malt. Pungent espresso notes spill out of the glass well before your nose approaches it.

This is a big, viscous, chewy beer. It even tastes black – bittersweet chocolate, French roasted coffee beans, smoke. Despite all that, it’s smooth on the palate, with an ever-so-slightly bitter aftertaste.

Reads the label: “Our second anniversary ale incorporates signature dark malts, holy water, and malt smoked locally with hickory, ash, and vampire-killing stakes.’’ It’s tongue in cheek but only mildly hyperbolic. Vampire Slayer is 10 percent alcohol by volume. A 22-ounce bottle costs $9 to $10.

The IPA is called Supa Hero, an homage to the way we locals pronounce (or don’t) our R’s. The label, too, is a shout-out to Boston – beer in hand, a superhero flies over landmarks such as the Zakim Bridge, the Old North Church, and the Pru.

The beer pours a pretty tangerine color with a little head that dissipates after a few minutes and a bouquet of pine and grassy hops. There is a little bit of citrus, but this is not as potent as are many IPAs or double IPAs.

Bitter and dry, but not sticky, Supa Hero doesn’t taste all crazy hopped like many IPAs or DIPAs, either (and this beer does straddle the IPA/DIPA line, with 8 percent alcohol). As the beer warms up, more orange/citrus flavors come through. The bitterness lingers, but here again it’s not a crazy bitterness – this IPA registers only about 50 International Bitterness Units.

Several varieties of hops were used in this beer, and I’m told the recipe will change from batch to batch, so this will rarely be exactly the same beer twice. This is a solid IPA, and it’s worth trying, but there are better ones out there at a lower cost. A 22-ounce bottle costs about $6 to $7.