We stop in Holyoke as our half way point between Maine and home. Last year at a gas station I saw in the beer fridge one of the Paper City Brewing Company's ales and I recalled I liked it. This year I headed into town and found a variety twelve pack for 13.50 USD.
As I have said before, these variety packs are the best way for a brewer to get a fan base as you get to know the product without a great outlay. I look for them when travelling and this is one of three I picked up duing my week in New England. One hint - if you are not sure of your stock, a brewer ought to go with a 4 variety selection. The brave go with two bottles of six types. Sometimes this can mean you show your weak hand, as with Cooperstown, but Paper City is one of the brave and rightly so. In fact, this brewery does more than a few things right and really deserves to be better known:
- Cabot Street Wheat: [click right for detail] This brew pours whipped egg white head, golden colour with a real lean towards a yellow tinge. A hefe-weizen which is light, crisp and fresh. The homage to this south German beer, under its clean green grassy wheat, leans more to the banana side of the spectrum rather than the clove. The hops have a rough edge which balance off well. The yeast is traditional hefe-weizen, an unfiltered reminder being left in the bottle. This is a vastly superior product to the eastern Mass. version produced by Sam Adams.
- Dorado Lager: Holyoke has a significant latin presence and having a cervesa on its repetiore means Paper City is paying attention. This lager is fruity in the peachy/orange range with a slight astringent adge which neatly cuts its biggish rich malty mouthfeel. It is a denial of the tedious thin sway of pilsner on the lager market and it is masterful in doing so.
- Nut Brown Ale: This is a favorite style of mine and one not done well usually. Paper City almost pulls it off. I'd call their effort a good decent nut brown. It is definitely not a US brown as it leads with the malt and not the hops. The yeast, however, is a bit out of balance and does not support the nuttiness of the grain which should be a hallmark of this moreish style. I am guessing that was created to be served cold which would cause the yeastiness to recede but also cause the nuttiness to hide as well. There is chocolate and something of the chalky side I like in a nut brown but it is all a slight bit out of balance.
- Riley's Stout: The day and the day before I had this beer I also had Gritty's Black Fly Stout. Standing up to that competition is a great claim to fame and Paper City has earned it. They are not exactly of the same sort, however, the offering from Gritty being a creamy stout from heavy reliance on rolled barley in the mash tun. Riley's Stout would be rich rather than creamy with a good claim to the classic black malt burned toast theme. It is tempered, however, by chocolate malt and a well balanced use of the minty hop Northern Brewer to create a very nice medium bodied stout. The head pours rocky and tan, hanging on and on to the side of the glass. The yeast is clean and supportive and all in all I am reminded of a lighter version Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout. Worthy.
- Banchee Extra Pale Ale: this straw coloured ale has a white fine rocky head and smells like sweet orange blossom. The malt is fruity with green and slightly astringent hops over a light but grainy brew. Very nice.
- Goats Peak Bock Spring Lager: I really like this lager...and that's sure something I never thought I would ever write. It has a big malty profile - more like a marzen than a bock, its tight off-white foam head sits over the red hued drink the colour of deep amber maple syrup. It is sweetish with cherry in the fruity malt balanced with a light touch on the German hops. The yeast is a little spicy and earthy, slightly dairy sour but more subdued than most lagers falling on the wrong side of the line.