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A Tour of GrandTen Distilled

EDIT: Lonnie from GrandTen sent an email my way and let me know that he enjoyed my review. Also, I am now aware that his name is not Robbie. Correction made!

For whatever reason, most of my experiences around Boston have been centered around brewery tours. Or trying to find a decently priced  sushi restaurant with an atmosphere that we enjoy. But mostly brewery tours. If ever we’re at a loss for something to do on the weekend, there’s a pretty good chance will head on down  to the Harpoon Brewery and see how many free samples we can consume in fifteen minutes.

Yesterday, we decided to continue the trend, but in a slightly different direction. A couple of friends and I went to take a tour of the GrandTen Distillery, which just opened in South Boston last April. It’s about midway between Andrew Station and Broadway Station on the Red Line, although, if you have your druthers, get off at Broadway and walk down. There are a lot less…bones on the sidewalk in that direction.

We’re used to the strictly regimented and tightly coordinated tours of Sam Adams or Harpoon, come in twenty minutes ahead of time, get a ticket for next available tour, muddle around the conveniently located gift shop and then get herded through the brewery by excited youths. At GrandTen, we walked through the door and were immediately greeted by Lonnie.

He asked us if we wanted to go on a tour and then away we went. It was very relaxed, very informal and one of the most easy-going tours I’ve been on. He showed us around the stills and the fermentation tanks and the barrels where their Medford rum and gin were currently aging and I learned there’s more to aging liquors than just throwing it into a barrel and walking away.

Afterward, we went back to the tasting room. GrandTen currently has five different products available and all of which we were able to taste: Wire Works Gin, Fire Puncher Vodka, Amandine, Angelica and Craneberry. Most of the names and references in their products draw from local industries or legends and really help to cement GrandTen as a Boston institution in spite of its youth. For example, Fire Puncher is named for a local man who, in an act of incredible bravery, attempted to put out a fire in the building using only his fists.

All five spirits and liqueurs offer an incredible range of flavors and complexity. Fire Puncher is a vodka that was distilled with chipotle peppers and then aged, giving it a smokey flavor with a deep, slow burn. Wire Works gin is the gin you offer to your friend who does not like gin. It lacks the usual sharp, piney flavor of most gins, and goes for a more rounded, citrus flavor. The juniper berries act as a bind for all of the other flavors, giving the gin a mellow and more delicate taste, instead of being the one, overriding flavor.

And while normally I’m not a big fan of liqueurs because they’re usually saccharine sweet and a little too thick, GrandTen’s selection all hits the right notes without dumping a metric ton of sugar on your palate. While I’m not normally a big fan of amaretto, Amandine just hits in the right ways, while Angelica is a flowery fruity concoction. Craneberry is astonishing in its drinkability, but I don’t really want to talk about it so much, because they’re almost out.

The most exciting thing about all of their products, but their liqueurs in particular, is their potential in cocktails. As Lonnie pointed out, their strengths are their ability to enhance and brighten other drinks. They would all be powerful and useful tools for people who love to experiment with new cocktail creations.

All in all, if you’re in the Boston area, I recommend checking out the GrandTen Distillery tour. And, if you can’t take the tour, you can always track down their products here.

I would give them five out of five Hours of My Saturday Morning.

BONUS FACT: The tour is free!

-D-

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Beer Review: Harpoon’s Leviathan Imperial IPA

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There are two big breweries based in Boston proper; Samuel Adams and Harpoon. The Sam Adam brewery is only for small batches and experimental brews, while the Harpoon brewery is in full production.

I’ve taken tours of both facilities and while I was initially a bigger fan of the Sam Adams tour, I’ve started to lean more toward Harpoon. Their tasting portion is much more extensive; you have fifteen minutes to try any of the 7 or so beers they have on tap, as opposed to the three beers that Sam Adams gives you.

This is how I first came across the Leviathan Imperial IPA, in room surrounded by Harpoon merchandise and the Harpoon staff after imbibing six or seven tiny glasses of beer. I loved it.

But I decided to subject it to a more objective judgement. I bought a four-pack of them and poured them into my Harpoon-brand tulip glass. It smells intensely like an IPA; that hoppy, sweet smell that you either love or hate. The first sip and your taste buds are taking a brutal bitter beating. The Leviathan Imperial IPA is one of the more complex and well-rounded IPAs I’ve ever had. A lot of IPAs can leave you gagging on that signature bitterness long after you’ve finished the beer.

This one cuts it short, most likely through wizard magic, and the aftertaste is surprisingly minimal considering the hearty strength of the initial flavor. Out of the many IPA’s I’ve had over the last few years, this is one of the best, even though I still can’t claim to be an expert. It has a color that would put an amber ale to shame. Its flavor is complex and layered without being overpowering. And it packs a punch with the alcohol.

In short, if you can get it, you should.

I give it Two Bakers Chocolates and One Cup of My Coffee.

-D-

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