Looking at a local brewery on a Flashback Friday


The ferryman Charon, whose likeness greets visitors to Fitchburg’s River Styx Brewing on Boulder Drive.

I’m not going to pretend this post was by design, that this was something planned well in advance or something.

I was simply trying to clear a bit of space on my phone by deleting some interviews from the past few months and stumbled across this. I had kinda forgotten I even had it.

What I came across was audio from River Styx Brewing’s first keg tapping party in December. The Fitchburg brewery packed Partner’s Pub for the event, at which it unveiled Cronus Lord of Time, named for a Greek god.


Cronus Lord of Time at Partner’s Pub in Fitchburg.  (SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE PHOTO / JOHN LOVE)

Before going any further, I’d be remiss to mention how good the beer was. It’s an imperial stout poured inky black and had a vanilla presence in its smell. There was a strong cinnamon flavor to it that worked well, followed by a subtle maple syrup sweetness.

It’s something worth seeking out once the doors at River Styx open on Boulder Drive in Fitchburg.

I stole a few minutes of time to talk to Scott Cullen, who owns and runs the brewery wit

How his beers come to be:

“I’ve been into home brewing for over nine years. I’ve been drinking a lot of beers and talking to a lot of people. A lot of it comes from personal experience, knowing the beers I like. There’s a lot of tweaking and a lot of work to get it where you want.”

On his influences:


“I have a lot of influences because I’ve tried a lot of things. It’s not just one or two things. Every brewer i talk to, every beer I taste, they all have an influence on me and what i’m trying to do.”

On Cronus Lord of Time:

“That one’s about seven years in the making. We finally got it to where we wanted and we’re really proud of it. It’s probably going to be one of the beers you see most often at the brewery, at least for stouts.”

Cullen also pointed to Tritons Trident, which he called “our flagship beer,” as a beer he thinks will go over well. He said it’s an American IPA that’s been in the works for eight years or so. Cullen described it at the time as “a lighter, juicy, drinkable” IPA.

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Back to business and a brown ale

I’m trying to reboot here. I want to get things going.

I really, really do. But a lack of available time to write, let alone consistently try new beers, has made that difficult.

So we’re going to give this a go again. We’ll see how it works out. Posts will probably be a bit sporadic and for that, I apologize.

Here it is. The return. And it’s a doozy.

Founders Brewing Sumatra Mountain Brown is the type of beer I both love and find extremely dangerous. It’s absolutely delicious, but its ABV is sneaky, checking in at 9 percent without that being apparent during consumption.unnamed

The Sumatra Mountain Brown is exactly what you’d hope for in something that calls itself an imperial brown ale. The flavors are bold and rich; caramel, chocolate and coffee are the stars here, with just enough bitterness to keep it from becoming cloyingly sweet.

It’s an absolute delight on a slightly chilly late-Spring or early-Summer night and would be right at home in the presence of a campfire. The only downside to this brew is that at 9 percent without any overwhelming alcohol taste, it could be easy to put down a few of these in a hurry and end up in trouble just as quickly.

If that’s your goal, then there are many far worse options for getting tipsy in a hurry.


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Folks, it’s been way too long since I’ve updated here. This isn’t going to be an exciting return; rather, this is a promise that I will be posting new stuff here. And soon.

I’ll even pinky promise if you want.

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A couple quick hits from the weekend

Rather than go through a few other beers that I had in great detail, I’ve decided to post just a few lasting thoughts about them.

There are a couple reasons for this: First, I didn’t really take notes on anything I drank over the past few days. Also, I’m not feeling all that wonderful today (thanks a lot, head cold).

Friday night was a visit to the Gardner Ale House. The place puts out pretty decent representations of each style it brews, but one that stands out to me is the Wicked Big Stout — how’s that for a stereotypical name for a Massachusetts-brewed Imperial Stout? Anyway, the Wicked Big Stout is a roasty, chocolatey, coffee-rich stout that hovers somewhere in the eight- to nine-percent ABV range with a nice boozy burn at the end. But it’s not all roast and sweetness. There are significant hop notes that blend nicely with a dark chocolate bitterness throughout.

Also, I tried the Narragansett Private Stock Imperial IPA, brewed to commemorate 122 years of brewing from the company. This is one I’d like to forget and since it’s a one-off brew from the company, it shouldn’t be hard. It was simply too hoppy, with a resinous, piney flavor that was unrelenting. I know these are things that are flavors associated with IPAs, but it was a bit much. A little bit of citrus would have gone a long way to make this a much more enjoyable experience.

And finally, Alesmith’s Speedway Stout lives up to its billing as an Imperial Stout with coffee, and a heavyweight at that — the Speedway Stout comes in at 12 percent ABV. The coffee is immediately noticeable, fading into chocolate and a bit of bitterness and back to the coffee in the finish, if I recall correctly. It was a fairly nice treat.

I’ll be back with more — and more detailed reviews — later this week.

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Beer review: Night Shift Brewing Viva Habanera

When it comes to beers, I’m not going to lie: I often get sucked into what seems unusual. If it’s a little off the beaten path, there’s a chance I’m going to try it. And as fan of spicy peppers, when I saw the Viva Habanera by Night Shift Brewing, I couldn’t help but be excited. 

The fact that Night Shift is a Bay State brewery — it’s based in Everett — added to the idea that this could be something special.

A 6.7% ABV rye beer, the Viva Habanera was a unique experience that I’d likely try again, especially in the company of friends. Continue reading

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Beer review: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, from www.brooklynbrewery.com

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, from http://www.brooklynbrewery.com

The number of times of I can say my mind has been blown by a beer can be counted on one of my hands. My experience with the Brooklyn Sorachi Ace from the Brooklyn Brewery is the most recent of those to have qualified for that designation.

Where I thought the Sam Adams Infinium fell a bit short of combining a champagne and beer, the Sorachi Ace — whether intended or not — mixes the taste of a delicious farmhouse ale with the crisp, dry body of a champagne.

Made with the Japanese hop variant of the same name, which is known for its lemony flavor, the Sorachi Ace is a unique experience that couples well with a delightful flavor. Continue reading

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Beer review: Ballast Point Victory at Sea

Before even starting, I want to put forth my most sincere apologies for not posting anything in… well, far too long. My passion for beer hadn’t withered, but documenting each beverage and posting reviews and such kind of got lost in the cluttered mess of life and fell to the back burner.

With that said, I’m hoping to begin consistently posting on here again, beginning with this post.

Often, I’ll gush about how wonderful a beer is. There’s no real objective way to quantify the greatness of any given beverage, so it comes down to a matter of personal taste.

Ballast Point Victory at Sea, photo courtesy of http://www.ballastpoint.com/

Ballast Point Victory at Sea, photo courtesy of http://www.ballastpoint.com/

So when during a recent visit to the marvelous Armsby Abbey in Worcester, the other three members of my party — one of whom doesn’t often enjoy darker beers — all shared my opinion on the Ballast Point Victory at Sea, I had the feeling we had stumbled upon something quite special.

Labeled a “Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter,” the Victory at Sea exceeded any expectations I could have possibly had for it. Continue reading

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