The Beer Nut: Fancy artwork helps, but the taste is the test
When it comes to craft beer destinations, Vermont is one of the top states. It seems there is a brewery, brew pub or a decent bar on every corner.
Because of the bounty of brews available, it takes a lot for a brewery to stand out from the pack.
The Rock Art Brewery of Morrisville has been able to do that throughout its 10-year history. Featuring the Native American fertility deity Kokopelli on all of its bottles, the artwork stands out compared with cows, farms and other pictures common to Vermont brewer's bottles.
But brewery owner Matt Nadeau is quick to say that no matter how original or different the label artwork is, it all comes down to the beer.
``We made great beer, and we continue to make great beer, and thank God that pulled us through,'' he said.
Rock Art has an eclectic collection of beers in its portfolios -- ranging from lagers like the 80 Schilling Export Lager to an English barley wine in the form of the Ridge Runner. The White Tail Golden Ale is a nice blonde ale, while the India pale ale is very good.
Most recently, Nadeau has begun producing the brewery's Extreme series. With the tag line ``This ain't for no mama's boy or daddy's girl,'' and coming in 22-ounce bombers, the Extreme series is definitely different than other Rock Art beers.
``It is a change from our normal lineup,'' Nadeau said. ``I wanted to have the Rock Art brand on it, but I wanted our fans to know it's going to be something different.''
So far, Rock Art has released three Extreme beers: the Magnumus Ete Tomahawkus, Infusco and The Riddler.
All three clock in at 8 percent alcohol by volume, and Nadeau is right -- they're definitely different than the normal lineup.
The Infusco and The Riddler are ``Belgian-influenced,'' while the Magnumus Ete Tomahawkus is basically a high-octane, English-style bitter ale.
``I've been attending a few festivals now, and I've been trying a lot of these really different beers, and I said, `Rock Art can do that,' '' Nadeau said.
Although brewed with Belgian yeast, the Infusco seems to be a style in and of itself. Nadeau describes it as a Belgian-style black ale.
``There's not a lot like it out there,'' he said.
There should be. It's a darn tasty and interesting beer. The first thing you smell is a strong aroma of black licorice, mixed in with various spices and a little smoky smell.
The licorice smell transfers into the taste. Mix that in with a toasted malt flavor, and it combines to produce a wonderful beer.
``It's not a typical session beer,'' said Nadeau. ``It's going to be one you can age for a couple of years."
The Riddler is closer to a recognizable style -- Nadeau said it is loosely based on a Belgian-style dubbel. It is brewed with nine different malts and four different hops.
It has the taste of wheat at first, but the Belgian yeast quickly brings some spicy flavor. You can taste the alcohol, but it is not unpleasant at all.
``The Riddler is really neat,'' Nadeau said. ``It's an interesting beer, but it's also the first time we brought in a different yeast.''
Next up on the Extreme beer series is the Vermonster, which will be the Ridge Runner on steroids. It will be 10 ABV and about 100 IBUs. (IBUs stand for international bitterness units. It is a way to measure how bitter a beer is. This will be an assault on your palate.)
``It's a good package size for us, and it's been going great,'' Nadeau said. ``It's been fun.''
Rock Art beers are available at Marty's Liquors in Newton, Liquor World in Medway and Julio's Liquors in Westborough.
Eurobrew of Ashland and Atlantic Importing Company of Framingham are joining together to host the Sudbury River Legendary Brewfest.
The event will be held Thursday, Sept. 6, at Eurobrew, 58 Union St., Ashland.
More than 100 craft and import beers will be featured, including Dogfish Head, Great Divide, Avery Brewing and Bear Republic.
Food and non-alcoholic drinks will be available. There will also be raffle prizes and slot car racing at Modelville Hobby, featuring two eight-lane slot car tracks.
Tickets are $15 (half price for designated drivers). Tickets are available online at www.eurobrews.com/brewfest or by calling Eurobrew at 508-881-9900.
Proceeds from the festival will benefit the American Cancer Society.
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, contact email@example.com or 508-626-3823.