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Shipyard's Smashed Blueberry

by Matt O'Connor

 

Welcome back loyal reader(s). Hopefully this column reaches you on a beautiful near-autumn Wednesday. If you were to ask your astronomer friend he would tell you that summer has officially ended, but it was still 72 degrees here a little more than a week ago, so I’ll just use the fact the Patriots are on my TV as a proxy: fall has arrived! With that, fall beers have arrived on your local shelves, too, so have at them. Heck, better be quick about it, the winter ale and holiday porter seasons can’t be too far away; brewing seasons are almost as bad as fashion seasons.

To celebrate the impending cold weather, I’m going to talk about a delicious dark beer: Shipyard Brewing Company’s Smashed Blueberry. Shipyard began brewing out of Federal Jack’s, a small pub in Kennebunk, Maine, in 1992. The company soon expanded to meet the demand which quickly outstripped the capacity of the small facility. In 1994, Shipyard moved to their current location, forty-five minutes up I-95 in Portland’s hip Old Port waterfront. It’s from here that Shipyard has grown to be the third-largest New England based brewery, after Sam Adams and Harpoon.

They currently produce a full line of ales, IPAs, stouts, and some delicious seasonal offerings, my favorite being their winter warmer, Prelude Special Ale. As an aside, both the brewpub and the downtown brewery are worth the visit. My recent trip to Federal Jack’s, after a day at the beach, featured a tasty meal and a full selection of fresh Shipyard on tap. Their Portland location is just one highlight in what is New England’s stealth foodie capital (lest you think I’m joking, consult the NY Times).

Smashed Blueberry is described by Shipyard as a hybrid between a porter and a Scotch ale. Now, in my column so far I haven’t really discussed basics of beer or beer styles, so allow me to bring a little education in, (forgive me if it’s elementary, knowledgeable drinkers).

First, the basic rule: generic beer is brewed with four basic ingredients: water, barley, hops, and yeast. The barley, referred to as malts because the barley is malted, provides the carbohydrate backbone that makes up a lot of the structure of the beverage. Hops have a variety of uses, they can be added during the heating process of brewing or during the later aging process. Depending on the time used and the hop type, they can result in lending light delicate citrus flavors or mouth puckering bitterness. The yeast strains all pretty much do the same thing, using the sugars present in the mix as food breaking them down anaerobically (I have a biology degree, thank you) by fermentation, producing alcohol and the carbon dioxide that gives beer its bubbles.

So, knowing that, what the heck does Shipyard mean when they say a cross between a porter and a Scotch Ale? Well, a porter is a style that’s a close cousin to a stout, like Guinness. The difference being that porters typically use a slightly different malt combination and a bit more hops to yield a sweeter, lighter tasting beer than your typical stout. For some great examples seek out Sierra Nevada Brewing Comapany’s Porter (Chico, CA) or Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (Cleveland, OH).

A Scotch ale is a less common style of beer, as your average scotch ale uses a large amount of malts by weight and is boiled longer during the brewing process. Remember, all beers are brewed by boiling. I’m looking at you, Coors Light. This long boil winds up giving the beers a sweeter body and a higher than average alcohol content. One great example is Old Chub Scotch Ale by Oskar Blues (Lyons, CO) available in cans or on tap. Don’t be afraid of all beers in cans, but that’s really a discussion for another column. Back to our beer at hand. Put these styles together and we have the dark, malty, sweet, and alcoholic beauty that is Smashed Blueberry.

The beer pours a great dark color with slight ruby highlights and at least from my bottle had very little head, just a touch. The smell up front is definitely awash with a roasted coffee and blueberry flavor, as you’d hope from a beer brewed with loads of fresh fruit. There’s a lovely butterscotch smell, called diacetyls, which I’ve picked up in a few other Shipyard beers, including the aforementioned Prelude winter warmer, so it might be a product of their common hop and malt selections.

Lastly, as in many high alcohol by volume beers, the alcohols give off volatile organic compounds called phenols, which you can detect in more prominently in vodka. Here they are restrained and refined. Taking a sip, the first surprise is the relatively high carbonation level for what appears to be a darker than night brew. However, the fruit comes through like jam on toast. There’s definitely some malt character to deepen the fruit; this is no Seadog Blueberry (also brewed by Shipyard). In the finish, the fruit wanes and the beer really asks for you to take another sip, which I will oblige. The drinkability is very high for the style and really will throw people’s conceptions of dark beers as not being refreshing for a loop. Drink up. Grade: A-

 

Facts:

Shipyard Smashed Blueberry

ABV: 9.0%

Glass: Traditional Pint Glass

Enjoy: Start at fridge temp, optimum taste at 50o

 

Also Try:

Harvest Brown Ale, Long Trail Brewing Company (Bridgewater Corners, VT). Brewed with real Vermont maple syrup and released for autumn, this mellow 4.6% ABV brown ale with subtle maple flavors is worth a try, but not my favorite so far this fall. Long Trail’s best is still their Double Bag Ale. Grade: B-

(Image courtesy of the author)

 

Matt O’Connor lives in Boston and is a proud graduate of Boston University. Explore beer with him as he quits his job in the sciences and starts law school. Send any requests, beer, or job offers to him at: matt.oconnor[at]theinclusive.net