Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Four Guys and Some Beer: The Able Ebenezer Brewing Company

When four guys decided to get together and start their own brewery, the Able Ebenezer Brewing Company was born. That might sound like a huge risk, and no doubt it is, but thankfully, they have the brews to back it up.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to attend the brewery’s first official tasting at the home of Carl Soderberg, one of the Able Ebenezer founders. Here, the brewery is currently in its pilot program phase, with beer currently being made in three to five gallon batches in Soderberg’s garage. Next year, the guys plan to open a tasting room in Merrimack and will be upping production to 310-gallon containers to support growlers and local distribution.
While the guys work on securing everything else needed to move forward from the home brewing to brewery phase, they are putting the finishing touches on four beer recipes and currently have two more “pipeline products” currently in the research and development phase.

“There is a story behind everything we do,” Soderberg said, from the pine tree in the brewery’s logo to the names of the beers themselves.

The brewery was named after Ebenezer Mudgett, a New Hampshire colonist who was involved in the Pine Tree Riot back in 1772. After the British claimed large white pine trees for shipbuilding purposes, several sawmill owners in Goffstown and Weare rebelled, later flying a pine tree flag.

“We liked the local history and the spirit that embodies us,” Soderberg said. “We are able, we want to accomplish things and stand on our own.”

The four founders met on different occasions years ago but came together recently to open the brewery. Zach Rand, nicknamed “the glue that holds the group together” and Jim Wilson met at Plymouth State University, while Rand and brew master Mike Frizzelle met while they were in the same platoon in the Army. Later, Rand and Soderberg met in the Army in a different platoon. Some years later, Rand and Soderberg connected while working at the same company. After discussing the possibility of the brewery, they reconnected with Frizzelle, who recently moved from the West Coast to brew beer in New Hampshire. Rand, Soderberg and Frizzelle all now live in New England, while Wilson, the brewery’s social media and marketing guru, lives in Texas.

Soderberg said they designed their current selections to appeal to a “full spread of tastes.”
The first beer on the tasting menu was Auburn, an Irish red named for the town where it’s currently being made and fashioned after Red Trolley, a beer from California. This beer is smooth and crisp with some subtle sweetness and notes of caramel and honey. It is recommended for brunch but is also a beer for any occasion.

The next beer on the menu, Emma Wood, also has West Coast influences. A Belgian specialty, this beer is a cross between a Belgian white and a hoppy wheat beer and named after a beach in California. As a home brewer, Frizzelle first shared this beer with family on Emma Wood beach.

As a Belgian white fan, I really enjoyed this beer and its flavors of orange and lemon zest. It would also be good with an orange slice.

Next we tried Homecoming, one of the brewery’s pipeline products. This beer is described as a “robust harvest ale.” It is made with real pumpkin but is unlike other pumpkin beers on the market, made with specialty malts, cinnamon, citrus and nutmeg. This beer was a bit too heavy for me, but Oktoberfest fans will love it. One of my friends also suggested trying it with Guinness as a black and tan. It was named not only for the fall season but the homecoming experience of people being home for the holidays like a reunion.

The next beer, named Notorious Offender under its working title, also carried some weight. Described as a “New Hampshire strong ale,” this beer doesn’t really fit into an established category. Frizzelle combined dark malts with a wide array of bittering and aroma hops. The result is a beer that is “intentionally offensive, but strangely fulfilling” according to the brewery description.

Burn the Ships, a smoked India pale ale, is actually the brewery’s heaviest beer, brewed with smoked specialty malt and dry-hopped to give it a unique smoke-filled conclusion. This beer is “surprising as it is revolutionary,” named for the founders’ experience of opening up the brewery and burning their own ships in this endeavor.

“Our ships have been burned,” Soderberg said. “We want our beer to be an experience. It’s something to talk about; there’s a story behind it.”

The final beer we tried was Tabula Rasa, an American Amber style ale that is slightly sweet with caramel, honey and fruit flavors. This beer is “designed to confuse the senses while warming the soul,” according to the brewery. Rand named this beer after a concept from John Locke. Its name means “blank slate,” usually used to describe a birth, when a person is at their freest.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Able Ebenezer beers I tried and think others will really like them too. Once their Merrimack location is open, they will have tastings, tours and growlers available for purchase. They are also hoping to be on tap at several locations around the Manchester area. 

To stay up to date on the brewery’s progress, visit the brewery website at ableebenzer.com, or follow them at: facebook.com/ableebenezer and on Twitter: @AbleEbBeer.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gift Guide: NH Wines for Everyone on Your List

Wine is a great holiday gift, especially when it comes from a New Hampshire winery and supports local businesses. Here are some suggestions sure to please every wine lover on your list.

Coffin Cellars in Webster makes an Apple Wine that celebrates one of fall’s favorite fruits and utilizes apples that would otherwise only be acceptable for cider or compost. Using fruit from Carter Hill Orchard in Concord, the Austins have created a wine that is crisp and smooth, perfect for white wine drinkers. At only $15 a bottle, it is also a very affordable gift. You can pick up a bottle at the winery, open year round on weekends from 1 to 5 p.m. or at many local retailers, including the Concord Co-Op, Korner Kupboard and River Hill Market, all in Concord.

For the port or dessert wine fan, Hermit Woods Winery recommends their 2012 Deep Blue, an intense after dinner treat loaded with blueberry aromas and flavors. This wine is not only delicious, but contains antioxidants and nearly a pound of low bush blueberries in each bottle. This wine was just released this year
Earlier this year, Bob Manley, Hermit Woods co-owner, described this wine as a “party in the mouth” and suggested trying it drizzled over blueberry pie and ice cream.

At $32 a bottle, this wine is worth the splurge. Hermit Woods Winery is currently closed for the season before they open in their new location in Meredith next year, but this wine is available at Oglethorpe’s in Meredith. There, you can pick up a handcrafted gift to go along with the wine.

Zorvino Vineyard’s number one selling wine, Fragole Z, also makes a great gift for a variety of wine lovers. “Fragole” means strawberry in Italian and this wine is loaded with luscious fruit aromas and flavors without being too sweet. At $14.99, it is affordable and can be found at the winery in Sandown or at many gourmet shops and wine retailers.

In addition to an impressive selection of many grape and fruit wines, Zorvino’s tasting room also includes a variety of gift items, including cork holders, gourmet foods and clothing.

Jewell Towne Vineyards in South Hampton recommends their Seyval, an off-dry, crisp white wine with hints of pear and apple. The grapes are grown right in the on-site vineyards, which span across the border of New Hampshire into Massachusetts.

According to owner and winemaker Peter Oldak, “Seyval is a white grape variety which does very well in the New Hampshire terroir. It makes a wine that is excellent with poultry or fish or as a sipping wine. It would be a nice complement to a Christmas dinner.”

Like Zorvino, the Jewell Towne tasting room also contains a selection of great gifts for wine lovers, including handy branded tote bags perfect for carrying wine to holiday gatherings.
If you know a white wine fan who likes something light and sweet, get them a bottle of Sweet Baby Vineyard’s Niagara. According to owner and winemaker Lewis Eaton, “This wine is perfect for the holidays and pairs with ham, turkey and a wide range of desserts.”

It can be purchased at the Kingston winery or at several other retail locations. Niagara is a cousin of the Concord grape that originated in New York. It produces wines that are slightly more ‘grapey’ but still very drinkable.

This wine is available at the Kingston winery or at several retail locations. They recently redesigned their labels, which are eye-catching yet sweet. Pair a bottle of wine with a set of their stemless glasses as the perfect gift set.

If you are in the southwestern part of the state, pick up a bottle of Barnett Hill Blush from Walpole Mountain View Winery. This semi-sweet blush wine is a blend of eight grapes with aromas of spicy orange and sweet tea and tart kiwi flavors.

According to owner and winemaker Virginia Carter, this wine pairs well with a turkey dinner with all of the fixings, complementing sweet and savory dishes because it isn’t too sweet or dry, with some fruit. As it is a blend, it is also a good choice if you aren’t sure if someone likes red or white.

All of the grapes in this wine are grown right in Walpole Mountain View’s vineyard and is available for $16 at the winery and in area stores. Stemless glasses are also available in the tasting room.

New Hampshire wines make great gifts because they support local businesses, and in many cases, local farmers as well. If you can’t get to one of the wineries, look for these wines at several supermarkets like Shaw’s, Hannaford and Market Basket and in N.H. Liquor and Wine Outlets.

In addition to glassware, these wines can be paired with a variety of accessories, including decanters, wine charms, toppers and chillers.