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Keeping it Local with the CBC

March 8, 2012

What makes a great brewpub? Interesting and innovative beers are an obvious plus. But then there are those subtler aspects that are sometimes overlooked, but which contribute to the culture of craft beer. Community engagement, local and sustainable beer and food, an inviting and original atmosphere. These are the often intangible qualities that distinguish great brewpubs from the pack, and the Cambridge Brewing Company has them in spades.

Founded in 1989 in Kendall Square (where it is still inconspicuously located), the Cambridge Brewing Co. has since become internationally recognized as one of the foremost craft brewers in the U.S., and their reputation for exceptional brews speaks for itself. The CBC has long had a local-only focus, proudly sourcing their food and ingredients locally, and selling their beers exclusively from their Kendall Square location. While their local focus hasn’t changed, the CBC recently came out of its shell (with the help of the Craft Brewers Guild) and have begun distributing some of their “greatest hits” in 22 oz. bottles to stores throughout Massachusetts. Here are a few reasons why that’s a great thing.

The CBC is currently offering two year-round brews as part of their new bomber series: The Audacity of Hops, and Tripel Threat. The Audacity of Hops is a Belgian-style Double IPA at 8% abv, which pairs five hop varieties with spicy Belgian yeast to bridge the gap between old world Belgian beers and modern, hoppy American brews. The generous hops provide some tropical fruit and grapefruit bitterness, which is softened by a hint of Belgian yeast in the background. The CBC’s other year-round offering is their Tripel Threat, a Belgian-style Tripel at 10% abv, which has the distinction of being the first Belgian-style beer ever commercially produced in the U.S.. Like most Tripels, it’s soft, spicy, fruity, and strong, with layers of complexity that get better with every sip. Tripel Threat was initially brewed in 1990 by Head Brewer Darryl Goss, whose vintage motorcycle is immortalized on the label. Darryl has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Tripel Threat will promote research for a cure.

In addition to these exceptional year-round offerings, the CBC will also be regularly releasing some single-batch brews as well. Back in the fall, they released their Great Pumpkin ale, which is actually one of the first pumpkin beers ever commercially produced in this country (and in my opinion it’s still the best). Two of their currently-available single-batch brews are their Bannatyne’s Scotch Ale (a rich and warming Scotch ale at 9.2%, easily one of my favorite examples of the style) and Sgt. Pepper. I had the chance to try Sgt. Pepper on tap at the brewpub and loved it, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it on our shelves a few weeks later. Sgt. Pepper is a Farmhouse-style ale at 6% abv, brewed with four kinds of peppercorns (which really show up in the flavor), spicy hops, rye malt, and Belgian yeast.

For anyone who’s been to the CBC location in Kendall Square, I don’t really need to explain why it’s exciting that they are finally making their beers more widely available. They’re already a veritable institution in the world of craft brewing, and one of the few places around where you can get a beer tower full of peppercorn beer and a locally-sourced appetizer of poutine (which gets my vote as the best thing to ever come out of Canada). With their focus on local and sustainable beer and food, combined with their long track record for strange and innovative brews, the Cambridge Brewing Company is a hidden gem in Massachusetts, and it’s about time they get the recognition they deserve.

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