Monday, June 13, 2016

Thirst Boston: Drinks Of Note

Besides all the seminars at Thirst Boston, there were Pop-Up Bars as well as a couple tasting events, including the New England Craft Showcase (pictured above), which featured 18 local drink producers from the New England states. A similar event was held at the last Thirst Boston, though there were only 12 producers last time. This event, as well as the Pop-UP Bars, were Free for anyone who had a ticket to any other Thirst Boston event, such as a seminar ticket.

I think the local aspect of this event is great and it is an excellent way for people to learn about what is being produced in their own backyard. Many of these local producers are relatively new, having been established within the last five years, and people may not know they even exist. I certainly found a couple producers that were new to me. New distilleries, breweries and wineries are popping up all the time in New England so it's great to have the opportunity to bring a number of them together in one place.

I'm going to present a few of my favorite finds, drinks and/or producers which I haven't tasted or written about before. There were some producers which I met at the last Thirst Boston and wrote about back at that time. I also didn't have the time to taste from all 18 producers at this event. Though the event lasted for 2.5 hours, it conflicted in part with a seminar I attended. I hope Thirst Boston holds this event next year and if so, I highly recommend you check it out. I suspect it might even be larger next year, adding more local producers.

A Sake Brewery in Massachusetts? Yes, one recently opened in Waltham and you should check out their two Sakes, a Junmai and a Nigori. Founded by Todd Bellomy (pictured above) and Daniel Krupp, Dovetail's goal is to "produce high-quality Sake in small batches using the finest ingredients." They have been in the market for only about a month and you can find their Sake in several wine/beer stores as well as 6-7 restaurants. For example, you can find their Nakahama Junmai on draft at Tasting Counter. Check out their List of where their Sake can be currently found.

For rice, they are using Yamada Nishiki, often considered the King of Sake rice, which was grown in Arkansas at maybe the only place where Sake rice is being grown in the U.S. The rice has been milled down to 60%, which technically would qualify it as Ginjo but they have chosen not to label their Sake as such. Both of their Sakes are Junmai, "pure rice" Sake which only contains four ingredients: rice, water, yeast and koji-kin. Dovetail grows their own koji and use Japanese yeast strains, using different yeasts for their different Sakes. Their Sakes are also Nama-zake, "draft" Sakes which have not been pasteurized twice as usual. Both Sakes are available in 500ml bottles as well as on Draft.

The Nakahama Junmai has a touch of sweetness and presents a smooth and fruity taste, some melon and pear. Todd recommends pairing this Sake with meat-based dishes, grilled foods, charcuterie, cheese and tacos. The Omori Nigori is a bit more full-bodied and sweeter than the Junmai, though it is far less sweet than many other Nigoris you will find. There is lots of fruit, a bit more tropical, flavors in the taste. Todd recommends pairing this Sake with fried food, spicy food (such as Mexican or Thai), and even suggests you drink it on ice! Of the two, my preference is for the Nigori but both are worth checking out.

In the near future, I hope to tour the brewery and will be able to provide you many more details about their operation.

During my weekend in Vermont at Taste Camp, I found plenty of excellent producers, of wine, cider and spirits. One of the producers I didn't see there was Mad River Distillers though I was fortunate to see them at Thirst Boston. Around 2011, they purchased Cold Spring Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont and decided to start a distillery there, which became Mad River Distillers. They produced their first spirit in 2013, a rum. Currently, they produce several different rums, a bourbon, a rye and a brandy.

Their Revolution Rye ($50) is produced from 100% local and organic rye, using 3 different types of rye including a toasted chocolate malted rye. It was smooth and delicious, with plenty of spice, enhanced by some nutty notes and chocolate hints. As a Rye lover, I was impressed with this spirit. The First Run Rum ($30) is made from fair-trade certified Demerara sugar and aged in charred American oak. Sweet and silky, with underlying spice notes, the rum also possessed some strong caramel and vanilla flavors, especially on the finish. You could enjoy this on its own or in a cocktail. The Maple Cask Rum ($40) begins as the First Run Rum but then is aged in American oak barrels which were used to age maple syrup. It has only a subtle hint of maple and the sweetness now tends more to butterscotch than caramel. This could add some intriguing flavors to a rum cocktail.

Back in 2012, I toured Privateer, a new rum distillery in Ipswich and you can read my prior review and follow-up information. I think it is time I returned to the distillery to get an update, and to talk with their new Head Distiller, Maggie Campbell. At Thirst Boston, they had a couple of their newest products, which were both impressive but very different.

The Navy Yard is a single barrel rum, aged for at least two years in new American oak, and bottled at 102 proof in very limited quantities. It was bold and delicious, with a nice complexity of flavors, including caramel, butterscotch, orange, almonds, vanilla and subtle spice notes. This is definitely a sipping rum, which will deliver new flavors in every sip. Highly recommended.

The Queen's Share is also a single cask rum, aged for about three years in new American oak, and bottled at 114 proof in very limited quantities. It is a blend of their other three rums and was a lighter, more elegant style than the Navy Yard. However, it still possessed a similar complexity with lots of fruit, honey, caramel, vanilla and spice notes. It too is a rum to slowly savor on its own, relishing each unique sip. Words are inadequate to describe the complete experience of drinking these two rums.

Privateer also had a punchbowl full of a tasty cocktail, full of watermelon flavor, yet still mainly dry with a nice acidic bite. It was refreshing and would be a great summer drink. I think I'll have to make this for a cookout soon.

Rumson's Rumwhich has been in business for 1.5 years, is located in Salem, Massachusetts, and they produce four different rums. Their rums are distilled and barrel-aged in the Caribbean but then blended, finished and bottled in Salem. Their Spiced Rum is about two years olds, bottled at 80 proof, and some vanilla and nutmeg has been added to it. It is their #1 seller and possesses an alluring aroma and a pleasant taste of vanilla, spice, butterscotch, and cinnamon. Easy drinking, this would be a good choice for cocktails. The Grand Reserve is a blend of rums aged from 5 to 23 years and is made in an English style. It is bold and rich, with an intriguing complexity and a lengthy finish. A fine sipping rum, this would be wasted in a cocktail.

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