Hampton-made beer already big hit with local 'brewerati'
By Rachel Forrest
Hampton Union, Friday, November 9, 2012
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Blue Lobster Brewing Co. is one of several new nanobrewries located in Hampton.
Shown are owner Michael Benoit, left, and David Sakolsky, head brewer.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]
It's been a busy year for the owners and brewer at Blue Lobster Brewing Company. While their tasting room opens for the first time on Thursday, Nov. 8, they've already made quite an impression the Seacoast "brewerati" and just folks who like great local beer alike.
When their "Excess Is Not Rebellion" Double IPA made its debut on Oct. 20 at the Powderkeg Beer and Chili Fest in Exeter, the lines were long and that delicious brew, as well as a "single" IPA, ran out within two hours. Brewery owners Michael and Roberta Benoit, along with brewer David Sakolsky, were happily surprised.
That didn't prepare them, however, for the maiden voyage of one of their two flagship brews, Gold Claw Ale, a 4.5 percent ABV, pleasantly hoppy pale ale on draft at 6 p.m. at both the 401 Tavern and The Community Oven restaurants in Hampton (I hear it was a wee bit earlier at the 401). I got there at 6 p.m., followed by a mass of beer bloggers (including our own Brian Aldrich from Seacoast Beverage Lab) and the guys whom I see all the time at beer events showed up and poof! They went through more than a barrel — 31 gallons — during the evening, a good indication that their recipe for Gold Claw might also be a recipe for success for this new nanobrewery.
The Gold Claw is a great beer. It has that crisp hop flavor I love but it's low in alcohol, so you can enjoy a few without getting too tipsy or feeling old and decrepit the next day. The Gold Claw, along with Black Claw Stout, are the two flagship brews for Blue Lobster, the brews that will be on draft in restaurants in order to get you to come into the tasting room to buy some to take home.
While you won't be able to get the Gold Claw again until about Nov. 15, the tasting room opened Nov. 8 with the stout and their specialty "Excess is Not Rebellion." Beer lovers can purchase growlers of the brews as well as sample in the tasting room attached to the brewery.
We've been waiting a long, long time for this. Brewer David Sakolsky worked at the famed Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont, a land where great local brews are made, and Michael (and Roberta) have been homebrewing for eons. What we get from that are some smart, talented people making great beer — already.
Still reeling from the overwhelming response to the brews, Sakolsky explained the way they'll create and release their beers.
"We felt the area needed a hop forward pale ale and this is a good one to start with from a consumer education standpoint. We'll get people aware of our base beers and then they'll come into the tasting room to try the more specialty beers. If you see a brew with an odd name like the Excess is not Rebellion you know that's a special beer that won't be around long — we won't make it again until we get the hops during harvest in January. We put the first batch of Gold Claw in on Sept. 28 and the base recipe is similar to one I've been working on for a long time. It's a really soft, gentle pale ale. We didn't want bitterness to get in the way and we wanted a drinkable beer so we kept the ABV down but the mouthfeel up without any break in flavor."
For Gold Claw, Sakolsky used Falconer's Flight hops, a blend from the Pacific Northwest using hops like Simcoe, citra and sorachi ace hops for a touch of citrus and grapefruit along with some spice and earthy flavors.
He also uses Ahtanum as a bittering agent, a hop variety similar to Willamette with a citrus and floral character much like Cascade but some resinous or earth notes as well.
Benoit and Sakolsky do collaborate on the beers, first by just talking.
"We sit around and talk flavors," says Sakolsky. "Then we make a batch and tweak. It's the old adage, 'There's no substitute for experience.'"
Benoit says that while they do collaborate, in the end, Sakolsky is the brewer.
"Our philosophies are the same but we approach the job differently. From a beer perspective it's up to him to develop the recipes. He has a list of things he came to the party with."
In the works is a Wheat IPA and a Citrus Porter and Benoit says he'd like to try a Scotch Ale. For now, they just want to keep up with demand, but make sure the brews are absolutely the freshest they can be.
"I was overwhelmed by the response on Friday," says Benoit.
"You'd like to have confidence in what you do and we did but not that much confidence. It caught us off guard. We really have to stick to what we set out to do and that's put good beer in every one of the fermenters as possible, get the next ones up and running and keep them full. Friday was the first day of the honeymoon and then you're spent but we want to keep that going. It's a delicate balance because it's important that the beer be as fresh as possible."