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.

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