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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Newburyport Brewing Company: Three Beers, Two Guys, and a Tasting Room

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Wanting a slight change of pace and the association between beer and mad-scientist level hot summer days have motivated a departure from reviewing DVD releases of "unreal" television series and films to offer thoughts about the Newburyport (Massachusetts) Brewing Company (NBC) in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Watching and reviewing the awesomely entertaining and informative documentary "Beer Wars" a few years ago, a general interest in regional underdog competitors of national firms, and a desire to entertain a special beer-drinker in my life prompted visiting the recently opened NBC facilities.

Brewery owners and buds, but not chief cooks or bottle washers, Chris Webb and Bill Fisher started the business ala Drew Carey and his buds in Carey's '90s ABC sitcom out of a desire to make their own beer. Having a venue to play music with their band was a bonus. No, their group is not Fischer Z. (Google it everyone.)

A large poster in the tasting room that prominently included the quote that "cans are the future" prompted asking Webb to explain the reason for that bold declaration. The skepticism related to cans being the traditional receptacles for beer and many current microbreweries promoting jug-like growlers. Webb initially stated that the snobbery regarding cans was fading.

Webb then explained that cans protected beers from their arch nemeses light and heat. He added that cans were light-weight and recyclable.

A clever Webb-design innovation related to the six packs was using plastic caps that looked like the lids that kept open cans of pet food fresh to hold the beer cans in place. Webb beat me to the punch regarding essentially joking that the cap design saved Flipper from a choking hazard.

Webb added that the caps were made from 96-percent recycled material and were 100-percent recyclable. He demonstrated as well that that design made it very easy to snap your empties back under the cap for easy transportation home. That design also allowed for easy post-purchase customizing of the variety of brews or other beverages in a six pack.

A special bonus regarding the really cool design was that it facilitated including the free guitar pick in every six pack. Looking for that SWAG was almost as much fun as childhood Saturday mornings digging through cereal boxes for the toy.

The product-design cleverness extended to NBC's beer-can style pint glass. Webb demonstrated how it could be tilted to rest on its edge.

Seeing the expression "yeat" on t-shirts and other merchandise prompted asking Webb about that term. He explained that it was a very early form of "holmes" in that 18th and 19th century sailors from Newburyport would shout it as their ships passed to identify themselves as being from Newburyport. Modern variations include "the Bs (or the Celts, or the Sox, or the Pats) are wicked pissah this year."

As a aside, a street-wise high school classmate from Los Angeles introduced me to the term "holmes" many years ago. I stupidly thought that he was calling me Sherlock Holmes because I was pretty clever; I guess that I was not as clever as I had thought. My classmate got a huge laugh when I asked about it.


Returning to the business at hand, sampling the very tasty British grains that enhance the beers was the highlight of a great tour of the brewery. It was also fun to see the small-batch manufacturing process and smell the different types of hops that Webb and Fisher freeze to keep fresh.

Complete candor requires confessing that the "Laverne and Shirley" theme song ran through my head while watching the cans wend their way through the assembly line. 

Additional topics regarding the facilities included NBC only using metal kegs for reasons that included avoiding accidents such as the truly tragic death of a genuinely "nice young man" at the nearby Red Hook Brewery when the plastic keg that that worker was cleaning exploded last year.

On a happier note, Webb reported as well that efforts to use renewable energy included plans for wind turbines.

A tasting of the three beers that were named for Newburyport-area landmarks was another high point of this great visit. Beginning with the light and slightly citrusy and spicy Plum Island Belgian White introduced me to that style of beer. It was good but a little non-traditional for my taste.

Webb explained while sampling the Green Head IPA, named for the most deadly insect since Mothra, how an India pale ale is heavier than a pale ale. He added that its alcohol content was higher than its cousin. These elements made the IPA a little too sturdy for personal tastes.

Webb added that the heavier qualities of the IPA essentially made it the beer to have when you are only having one. 

Ala Goldilocks, the Newburyport Pale Ale was just right for me. It had the proverbial full flavor without making me feel as if I had just eaten a meal; it was also smoother than the IPA.

Webb shared that brewmaster Mike Robinson was working on new beers, which included seasonal varieties. He also did tell me a little bit about Mr. Robinson, who made absolutely no effort to seduce me, for my files.

Webb did not go as far as stating that he would have to kill me if he told me of Robinson's plans but stated that he could not share more information. Whether these plans include Market Square Mead remains to be seen.

Anyone with questions regarding NBC is better off contacting the brewery than emaling me.  Folks who are interested in seeing what I am up are invited to follow me on Twitter at @tvdvdguy. Lats' Watson.