Well kids, it’s about that time of the year again. That time where I pour myself a beer, reflect on the meaning of life, and describe a beer to you as best I can over the internet. That’s some real grown up shit right there. And why not? We did just turn 3 as a company. Everyone knows that 3 years old is about the time you move out of your parents place, join a band of misfits, maybe find yourself naked in a women’s bathroom in Logan Airport and think to yourself “how did I get here? Where did I go wron- hey that old guy looks tasty brb.”
All jokes aside, its pretty insane to think that 3 years have gone by so fast. I feel like I say this every time we get a year older, but its true. I wonder how long that feeling will last for. I think when you do something you love, it really never feels “old”. Anyway, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve bought our beer, and for that we’re so insanely grateful we/I can not even right now. It’s real, and from the bottom of my beer soaked heart, thank you.
Vandal is our 3rd anniversary celebration. We learned a lot in year 3 of our existence. Mostly that we don’t suck at making a big, badass IPAs. We also learned that you all are exceptionally non sucky at drinking them. So, here we are. Vandal is a Double IPA brewed with 3 different varieties of hops – Citra, Galaxy and Equinox (the newest proprietary hop to the market), 3 different grains (top secret, or maybe I just can’t remember – whatever sounds less douchey), and dry hopped 3 times. But you ask, what does it taste like. To that I answer “Jeeze! I’m getting there! Hold your horses. Also who has horses these days? That’s impressive.”
Appearance: Vandal pours a few shades ligther than our other Double IPAs. It’s a medium straw/gold color with just a touch of orange to it. A little haze is to be expected as this beer was unfiltered to preserve all its hoppy goodness.
Aroma: The aroma of this beer is super interesting. I’ve used Citra and Galaxy many times in the past, both together and in isolation, and it’s really amazing at how the inclusion of Equinox completely changes the way these hops express themselves. There’s still a peachy, tropical undertone to the aroma, but there’s also a more stiff, wet, aroma that can really only be described as dank (pot smokers rejoice). It’s a really interesting interplay of aroma and I don’t think I’ve smelled a beer that smells quite like this.
Taste: Oh the glorious taste. In a word, this beer is smooth-as-holy-shit. Up front you get a big smack of mango and papaya, but it doesnt stick around long. Right about mid pallete that dankness I described above creeps in and takes center stage. It holds tight through the finish where at the very end, it relinquishes your tongue and you’re left with a surprisingly non-bitter finish. Really dynamic experience that does not suck.
Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation with a light body. Just what you want in a hop forward Double IPA. Well, at least that’s what I want. So, there.
Overall: This beer is killer, and more important to me, its decidedly different from all the other doubles we’ve made. Go get this beer sooner than later, store it cold, and drink it soon.
Whoops – its been a while, and since Grit is starting to pop up on taps across the city, this is a great time to start back up again.
Since this beer is draft only, I had to take my notes at Refuge Cafe while knocking back a couple tall pours of this bad boy. Here’s my impression:
Appearance: The beer pours a hazy gold color with a big perfectly white, billowy head which pretty quickly recedes to a small ring sitting atop the beer, leaving some foam artifacts on the glass above it (like in the picture, dummy).
Smell: Grit has a prominent, albeit softer, Citra hop character. Don’t expect this beer to pummel you with hop aroma like any of our Uprising! Series beers. It’s not a Double IPA – hell its not even an IPA. We hopped it pretty generously, but there’s still room for some of the wheat sweetness to poke through. The two actually compliment each other very nicely.
Taste: Mmmmmm – that’s it..
Citra hops take the lead here with their tropical overtones of mango, melon and papaya. Nothing over the top though, just a nice mellow fruitiness which is once again complimented by the wheat/malt backbone of this beer. The beer isnt nearly as dry as some of our other hop-forward beers, but it’s not cloying in any way. It’s really well balanced and definitely makes for an easily crushable beer.
Mouthfeel: The wheat adds a nice smoothness to the mouthfeel of Grit. Remember, this is an American Wheat beer- so you won’t find the same mouthfeel as you might find in the German/Bavarian executions of this style. Still though, there is some substance to the body of this beer.
Overall: Summer in a glass. Drink it all.
As of right now I believe Refuge Cafe in Allston and Kinsale in Government Center are the only accounts pouring this beer. I will have an updated list for everyone in the coming days.
Peace Out Cub Scout,
Well, part of it is that we’ve been busy cranking out a few new beers, and part of it is also that we’ve been partying a lot. Whoops.
Anyway, that all changes right now, because we have an urgent and horrifying news story, and we need everyone to stop what they’re doing and listen.
Please click here to find out what our big announcement is
Ok now that we’ve got out of our systems, we really do have something cool to announce.
We’re launching a new beer – Grit – an American Wheat beer brewed with Citra hops late this week/early next week. Why is this so exciting? Well, its our lowest ABV beer to date, clocking in at a cool 5.0% ABV. That means for once you can throw back several Backlash brews without having to worry about:
But seriously, all jokes aside, this beer is awesome. It’s got a great mouthfeel and a really pleasant malt character from the flaked wheat we used. We went heavy on the flavor/aroma/dry hop additions to make this beer drink with an IPA-like hop profile, but with the crushability of a crisp American wheat beer.
And more to be excited about! This beer will be draft only to ensure ultimate freshness
of each and every pint. We really want to preserve that hoppy punch this beer provides and putting the beer into kegs only is the best way to do that. We apologize to all of our retail partners who have supported all our bottled beers – we’ll make it up to you, we promise.
And last but not least (not even close – this is actually the biggest part of the whole blog post, which begs the questions “Why wasn’t it the first thing we mentioned?”. Stop judging me, question begger.)
Grit is a completely non-profit beer.
That’s right, we’re not making a penny off of the sale of this beer.
Maggie is running her first marathon (get it? Grit? Because marathons are hard) in November, so all of the proceeds will be used to help meet (and hopefully exceed) her fundraising goals to benefit Team For Kids charity. The money they raise transforms the lives of thousands of children by promoting physical fitness to kids who don’t have access to regular physical activity. It’s a really amazing cause, and you can learn more about it here.
So in case you needed another reason to order a 2nd/3rd/14th pint, you can rest assured that not only is the beer lower in ABV, but that every pint is helping a really cool cause. Do it for the children!
Look for Grit to start popping up on taps in the next week. We’ll post a list of places where you can find it as soon as we get that information.
Sometime’s we think we’re kinda clever with our cute little themes and naming conventions.
Most of the time though, we just confuse people. Yea, we’re good at that. So I thought it might be a good idea to call out in plain english why we chose the names we do for our beers. Before I begin, I’d like to make a self deprecating observation that we’re about 2.5 years into this whole Backlash thing, and I am only now explaining our beer names. Oops – I guess this is a smidge overdue. Off we go.
We try to carry the attitude of the craft beer revolution in most of the things we do. When we first launched, we thought it would be cool to infuse the names of our beers with that same spirit. Our three year round beers are named after the chronology of a revolution. Observe:
- Groundswell – sort of an underground movement gaining momentum
- Convergence – people begin to come together, unified by a cause
- Declaration – finally someone stands up and makes a statement
So that covers our main stuff. But we’ve also done all these theme/series beers. Here’s the deal with that.
Back when the world was supposed to end in accordance with the Mayan calendar (lol, how’d that work out? dummies), we thought it would be cool to launch a beer every month leading up to the end of man kind (Sept/Oct/Nov/Dec). We took inspiration from each of the 4 horseman of the Apocalypse when designing our beers, naming each beer after its respective horseman. We also partnered with Sophy Tuttle, a local artist who did a killer job on the labels. Props also go out to Zach for helping conceive the entire series and writing all the copy on the labels. Here are the names of those, and why we picked the styles.
- Conquest – White IPA – Conquest rode a white horse, which biblically is supposed to be a bit confusing. White is a color often associated with good, and these horseman were here to signify the end of the world. One school of thought is that Satan had a hand in disguising the horseman as white. Conquest signifies the beginning of the
end: Man’s desire to conquer his fellow man.
- War - Rye Farmhouse Ale, fermented with 3 yeast strains and dry hopped with hibiscus leaves. War rode a red horse, and he came to fuck shit up. War is the mechanism by which man conquers man. We infused the beer with an element of conflict by letting 3 yeast strains go at it during fermentation and also made it sort of red with the hibiscus. A bit of a stretch, but whatever, stop judging.
- Famine - Single Hop, Single Malt Belgian Style Tripel(ish). So if you’re following along, we’ve got man’s desire to rule his fellow man put into execution via cutting off heads and shit. Also burning stuff, people loved to burn shit during times of war back in bible times. Kind of a dick move if you ask me, but what do I know? Famine, therefore, is the result of war. That’s what happens when you go burning everything. You should have thought of that ahead of time – now how are we going to make beer? With the bare essentials I guess, which is why we chose to make this beer with as few ingredients as possible.
- Death - Russian Imperial Stout. Death is the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse, the Omega, if you will. You done killed and burned everything, and now you’re dead. The original intent was to brew a high ABV, black as night beer infused with chipotle peppers that we could all toast together on our way off the planet. However, I suck and fucked the beer up when we first brewed it in 2012, so it never made it to market. Womp. Death died. Oh the irony. So it took us a full year before we re-released the beer, without the pepper this time, but it’s awesome now so we think it was worth the wait.
And thus, the Apocalypse Series concluded.
- Redux – Fun fact: The first time we brewed Groundswell, we used a completely different recipe. The result was really good, and a lot of people liked it – but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I set out to make the beer. So, I totally scrapped the recipe and made the beer the Groundswell we know and love today. For our second anniversary we re-brewed the original recipe once as our birthday beer and called it Redux, which means to “bring back” or “revive”.
What about all them Double IPAs?
Salute – This beer was brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops that we got from Sam Adams’ hop sharing program. When we originally launched in 2011, we had every intention of brewing some badass west-coast style IPAs. This was before I fully understood the fuckery that is the hop market. All those awesome recipes I had worked on were basically useless because I couldn’t get my hands on any of the hop varieties they required. That all changed when we got a bunch of hops from Sam Adams, and we were finally able to flex the ol’ IPA muscle
a little. We named the beer Salute as a tribute to Sam Adams and their generosity.
The Uprising! Series:
Double IPAs each using the same exact grains, all featuring an individual hop variety.
Over the course of the past few years, our brand has taken on somewhat of a militaristic feel. Joining the “backlash” has become akin to enlisting in a war – and we’re cool with that. The Uprising! Series sort of played off that with the beer names and label art, which was designed to have a war propaganda poster feel to it. Props once again go out to Zach for all the work he did on these – I think they’re some of our best labels yet. Onto the names – which, like our core beers, also follow the general chronology of a war:
- Catalyst – The Catalyst is the spark – where it all begins. In this beer we featured Amarillo hops to the Nth degree. Crazy grapefruit bomb. The label featured our goddamn precious bulldog, Stout. What, you ask, does a bulldog have to do with war propaganda? Well the English Bulldog is a symbol of hard-nosed resolution. These dogs literally were bred to take down bulls 10x their size. That’s badass. Also, we really wanted to put him on a label. HE’S PAINFULLY CUTE OK??
- Outbreak – An Outbreak is a sort of mass violent start of something badass, so it makes sense that it would follow Catalyst. This beer featured Mosaic hops, which are relatively new to the hop market. This beer had a lot of grapefruit going on, but also had some other cool fruity things like blueberry going on. The label featured Zach pointing at you doing his best Uncle Sam (think the “We Want You”) poster.
- Riot- Uh oh, things are getting dicey – a disturbance caused by a group of angry people. The final beer in the series, featuring Galaxy hops from Australia. Tons of tropical fruity tones in this, with some slight earthy notes as well. The label featured Maggie getting her Rosie the Riveter on.
- Chaos – Shit is REALLY getting crazy. The true ending of the Uprising! Series, Chaos was sort of an encore. We brewed this Double IPA with all of the hops we used previously in the other beers. That means Citra/Simcoe/Amarillo/Mosaic/Galaxy hops, all packed into one beer. The label depicts all of the Backlash people being an angry mob essentially. It’s what we do.
Wow that was a lot longer than I was expecting*. Turns out we’ve made a pretty good amount of beers in the past 2.5 years – and now you know why we name them the way we do.
* That’s what she said. Boom.]]>
Aroma: Up front this beer has a big roast aroma akin to turkish coffee but is underpinned by a good deal of chocolate/vanilla sweetness. As the beer warms there is a slight booziness that peeks through the mix, reminding you that this one has its fair share of booze (actually it ended up between 9.0% and 9.5%)
Taste: The flavor begins with a quick burst of chocolate malt/dark fruit sweetness that soon gives way to
a roast flavor, which while mingling along with the chocolate through mid palette,
ultimately ends up dominating the finish. This beer is drier than most imperial stouts and as such finishes with a roasty minerality somewhat similar to black coffee – this isn’t a desert stout. While a beer of this magnitude probably deserves some thoughtful meditation between sips, the lighter body and semi-dry finish will probably have you finishing your glass faster than you intended.
Mouthfeel- Semi-dry is the operative term here. There isnt that oily slickness to this beer that many people (myself included at times) crave from an imperial stout. Death is lighter on the tongue with a slightly higher carbonation contributing to an overall lighter and more drinkable experience.
Wait…did he really just call himself a horse? Weird.
Back in May, at the Craft Brewer’s Conference in San Diego, our good friends at Pintley proposed a cool little project to us. The idea was for 2 brewers to come together and challenge themselves to brew some cool experimental beer. The guys at Night Shift Brewing were already on board, and it seemed like a great collaboration opportunity. Two relatively new brewers, both local, both young, both making great beers. I quickly agreed to the project, and here are the reasons why:
- A smaller system: Night Shift double batches a 3.5 barrel system to get 7 barrel batches. This is nearly 1/3 the size of the brew house at Paper City where we brew all our beers. It just feels a little safer taking risks on a system where you
produce 200 gallons of beer versus 600. In reality, it’s
a shit load of beer either way – but if you have to flush the batch, it stings just a little bit less. Also, recipes scale more linearly from our pilot system to Night Shift’s system. Both systems are direct-fire, and going from 15 gallons to 200 translates better than 15 gallons to 600.
- A smaller system (Part 2): I’ve been itching to barrel age a beer of Backlash for a while now. The problem however, is that our batches are pretty big. Oh, and barrels are REALLY GODDAMN EXPENSIVE. We would need to buy roughly 11 barrels or so to age an entire 20 barrels of our beer. It’s a cost that we just can’t afford at this point. On Night Shift’s size system however, we only needed 4 barrels to age the entire batch. That’s a lot more reasonable at nearly 1/3 of the cost- add in the fact that Pintley was kind enough to absorb some of the barrel costs and it’s almost a no-brainer.
- Night Shift owns their tanks: What does this mean? We’re a contract brewer, meaning we essentially rent space at Paper City Brewing. This has a lot of implications, but one is
that you only get x number of weeks in a tank before your beer needs to be moved. This dynamic is slightly restrictive as to what you can brew, as some beer styles require long aging periods. However, Night Shift owns their tanks- so if a beer needs time to finish and hit perfection, that is an available option. Really opens up the possibilities of what styles you can brew.
- Night Shift owns their tanks (Part 2): Want a good laugh? Next time you’re talking to someone who owns a contract brewery, drop the word “Brettanomyces” on them. Proceed to watch them shit their pants. Seriously though, no contract brewers (that I know of) will allow brewers to use Brett on their systems. They see it as too risky that the Brett will infect the tanks and consequently infect each subsequent batch of beer. Whether or not you believe these concerns are legitimate (I tend to think they’re not, but whatever), the reality is that we could never use Brett in a beer with our current setup. Night Shift, however, owns their tanks and are ok with using Brett on a single batch. Being a huge fan of Brett beers, this is a huge plus and generally very awesome.
I know it’s kind of a weird list, as I’ve really only listed 2 over-arching reasons. However, when taken in aggregate this basically
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equates to a flexibility to be creative. Brewing is part science and part art. I see this as something like being a painter and having someone hand you a few new brushes and colors of paint.
I’ve been doing this professionally for about a year now- I’m as passionate as I ever have been about brewing awesome beer. I love this shit, and I still have fun every time I brew. This project represents an opportunity to do something different by challenging myself and having more fun than I’ve had in a while- and bonus: I’m able to do it alongside fellow passionate brewers who also happen to be awesome guys.
It’s as simple as that.
Either way, I find my birthday a pretty fitting time to look back at the previous year and reflect on/be thankful for the things that happened during that period of time.
28 was a good year. A couple different pieces of recognition were thrown my way, which never hurts- but more importantly I think I made some bigger strides where it counts. I feel like I’ve come into my own regarding Backlash. I’ll admit, the first several months of being full-time were both exhilarating and terrifying- but definitely more terrifying. But I think I’ve recently hit my stride and am now more confident/organized/less terrified.
Recently, I resolved to get a tattoo on my birthday, every year for the rest
of my life. Kind of goes hand in hand with the whole reflecting on the important things vibe I mentioned a moment ago. I not only want this ritual to serve as a look back, but also as a reminder going forward- something to bring with me on the rest of the journey.]]>
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It ends up looking pretty nice.
Not a bad looking package right?
Since I’m a egotistical fuck, I’ll go ahead and go first.
I’m 28 years old, born and raised in Taunton, MA (read: the ghetto). I’m the youngest of 2 children, my older sister Dina Holland is kind of a big deal on the internets. My parents are both Portuguese immigrants who came to this country like 30 years ago, not even being able to speak a lick of English. Before we go on, some fun facts:
My roots/family are just stupid important to me. As a matter of fact, if you’ve ever seen my right arm you’ve probably noticed my giant shoulder piece. Nearly everything in that tattoo is family inspired. I guess people have different ways of expressing gratitude. I happen to enjoy inking it into my body permanently.
Anyway – I got my start as a homebrewer 7 years ago. After a long while of making semi-shitty beer, I started to dial in my techniques
and refine some recipes.
Sharing them with friends and family and having them actually enjoy it got me thinking- could I do this on a larger scale and share my recipes with more people?
Turns out, yes.
A few years and a contract brewing agreement later, here we are.
Any other questions?]]>