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The Real BBC

July 22, 2010

The other day I tried BBC’s recently released Czech Pilsner, and something finally occurred to me; the Berkshire Brewing Company is undeniably my favorite brewery in Massachusetts. I’m always eager to try any new offerings of theirs, and whenever I need a reliable beer standby, I always look to BBC (which is based in South Deerfield, MA). Also, almost all of their 22 oz. bottles hover around $4.35, making them some of the cheapest bombers around, when they could clearly be charging more considering how consistently excellent their brews have been. BBC is the kind of brewery that you take for granted, because it’s reliable and readily available, so it’s easy to lose sight of just how exceptional they really are.

Proof of BBC’s supremacy lies in the fact that I often find myself judging other beers based on how they stack up against BBC’s various styles, as if they were the gold standard of beer. Case in point, BBC’s Imperial Stout is one of the best I’ve tried, and I’m a big fan of stouts. At 8.5% abv, it has a malt smoothness that nicely blends pronounced chocolaty notes with other subtle flavors like coffee and dark fruit. Their “Shabadoo” Black & Tan Ale is another one of my go-to beers, as it perfectly blends their Berkshire Ale and Drayman’s Porter to create a 6.3% abv brew with flavors of caramel, mocha, and chocolate. If that’s not enough reason to try it, 10% of the total sales of “Shabadoo” are donated to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. For those that haven’t already tried it (which I’m hoping is a very few), BBC’s Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale (their flagship beer) is not only an excellent pale ale, it also serves as a perfect starting point for anyone who is just beginning to discover micro-brews. At 5.3% abv, it is light-colored and medium-bodied,  with a mild, sweet taste that I can’t imagine anyone not liking.

Aside from their more traditional styles, BBC also has innovative and original brews that are available year-round, as opposed to experimental seasonal stuff. Their Coffeehouse Porter definitely gets my vote for the best use of coffee beans in a beer (and yes, I have tried Southern Tier’s coffee-infused offerings). The Coffeehouse Porter is a perfect blend of their Drayman’s Porter with organic coffee beans, provided by Dean’s Beans in New Salem, MA. At 6.2% abv, it begins with the smooth malt taste of the porter, but ends with a very strong flavor of good organic coffee, and the combination works surprisingly well. Were it socially acceptable to drink this every morning instead of coffee, I totally would. BBC’s River Ale is also one of my favorites, if only for the fact that I’ve never tasted anything else like it. At 7% abv, it’s a dark wheat ale that’s just got layers of subtle flavors, from peaty to slightly nutty and a little sweet. It’s hard to nail this one down in terms of taste, but all of the flavors blend together very well, and it’s very mild and easily drinkable.

Just to recap, the Berkshire Brewing Company is everything that a great brewery should be. They have a wide selection of exquisitely crafted beers (which are all relatively cheap), they support small, local businesses (like Dean’s Beans), they demonstrate exceptional care and consideration not only in how they craft their beers, but also in how they package them (their labels are awesome, and they have growlers), and they feed needy people (by donating to the Food Bank of Western MA). Seriously, what more could you ask for? The BBC offers many other styles than the ones I’ve listed, most of which we carry here at Andover Liquors, but I’ll leave it up to you to discover your favorites.

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