The first time I attended NERAX North, was last year, and even though I did try some fine beers, and did take some notes as I normally do, AND had the pleasure of bringing my newly turned 21 daughter for the first time, I never put my notes into a blog post for some reason. Last year NERAX North was held at the Barking Dog Ale House, in Haverhill, where, I understand it had been held for a number of years. This year, we were at the Knights of Columbus on Washington Square, in Salem. I was again joined by my daughter; we sampled quarter pints in a room that was about half full, and sported a smaller number of beers (I think) than last year. There was food there, but we didn't try it, and I'm not sure who was catering. They had a number of dishes that you might see at a wedding buffet; things like chicken Marsala and rice pilaf. Looked good.
No lines, no waiting, so we didn't have time to pore over the program as I have done in the past, standing in line for an hour. We walked in and checked the board and Aeronaut was right up there near the top, as all of the nights samplings are noted alphabetically. Lets get to it!
Hop Hop and Away - Aeronaut Brewing Co., Somerville, Mass., USA (ABV 4.8%)
I've had a number of brews at Aeronaut, including some very early, experimental beers, that and the lower alcohol level was all it took to convince me to start here. I put my nose deep into this glass and it filled my head with aromatic fruit, Alessia said it first: Peaches. Peaches and the oil that squirts from the skin of red grapefruit. Pale, cloudy yellow with a wispy head that was gone after the first sip. The taste was crisp, and softly bitter, which left the mouth a lingering dry. The finish was super clean and bright with notes of chalk, stone, and minerals. Delicious, and a great way to start.
Robust Porter - Smuttynose Brewing Co., Hampton, NH, USA (ABV 6.2%)
Rich coffee brown color, with a syrupy, sticky consistency and a creamy, pale brown head. Molasses, wet tree bark and light leather on the nose. Dried fruits and fruit cake notes after a few more sniffs. This one is complex. Velvety mouth feel, eggnog, and that molasses comes through right away. A malty sweetness balances nicely with a background hop bitterness. Smoke lingers.
That - Teme Valley Brewery, Knightwick, Worcestershire, England (ABV 4.1%)
Pronounced TEM, I'm told. Sounds like Tim, with an E. "You wanna' try That?" the barkeep asks with a smile, "Lots of jokes about That, tonight," he adds when my smile isn't as large as he'd hoped. "Enjoy that," he ends, turning to help Alessia, who is still deciding. This one is very light on the nose, but what wafts up out of the glass is a yeasty stank, almost. Its so light, its not unpleasant but one gets the impression that some of those yeast strains weren't invited, they've just been in the brewery for 200 hundred years. But the first sip is surprising: I think its violets. Caramel yellow with a very light head, just a bit of creaminess from the carbonation. There is a nice balance of malt and hops, and a little basement aroma sourness. Hops are complex with a slight dark chocolate edge.
Reanu Keeves - Far From the Tree Cider, Salem, Mass., USA (ABV 5.5%)
We had to try it, just because of the name. Alessia asked for a sip, which we both tried. Alessia almost spit it out. I asked the barmaid to pour it out for us. It had an off smell, lemonade color, strong lemon flavor. Think Easy-Off (where are the apples?) After you swallow, whats left? Salt! I know, right?
Whammy Bar 2 - Clown Shoes Brewing, Burlington, Mass., USA (ABV 6.5%)
Pie! and berries on the nose. Alessia said blueberries when she smelled it, I'll buy that. Thin and light honey color, with a yellow, bubbly head. Malty and rich. Mint scented paste we used to use at the Lynnhurst Elementary school. Flavors dissipate on the palate with a clean, hop bitterness, and an herbal dry finish.
Green Beacons - Brecon Brewing, Brecon, Powys, Wales (ABV 4.3%)
Lightly carbonated, medium color pale ale. Slightly sour nose: feet and cranberries. Sharp, clean, and really dry. White, lacy head and tangy yeast on the back of the tongue. Tree fruit finish.
For Peat's Sake Imperial Stout - Paper City Brewey, Holyoke, Mass., USA (ABV 9.5%)
We had a fire in the yard last night, when I went out there this morning, it had rained and the fire pit had water in it. The coals were cool and soaked through... on the nose. Brown-black and leggy with a thin, bubbly head. Looks like the last sip of coke. Sweet, crusty smoked pork with lemon and rosemary, but just the crust. Burned caramel sweetness with the tang of burnt ends. You know that taste when you smoke a bunch of different things together, and then they all have a similar, nondescript flavor? Yeah, like that. Mild bitterness of hops is slayed by black smoke. Take this one in sips only, and maybe only after a rich meal when your palate has been tamped down and you need something to break through. Complex roasted fruits and vegetable notes. An interesting way to end the night.