Cambridge House Beer Company Barrel Aged Big Hoppy DIPA
22 oz bottle, $?++, 9% ABV
Purchased at Liquor Depot, Simsbury
This beer is IT, man.
This is the beer that signaled to the world, “World: Bourbon Barrel-Aging is Played Out.” When a one-man contracting operation out of Naugatuck, who brewed at Paper City (MA) before moving the operation to Opa-Opa (MA) , who built his bottle business based on the name of a fairly successful brewpub in Granby that he no longer owns anything but the name gets his hands on a Knob Creek barrel with which to use to dump a bunch of his mediocre double IPA into, it’s all done. Killed. Dead.
No, seriously. This was (until I’m proven otherwise) the last beer from the contracting label imprint. It was released in October 2013 with great fanfare.
Ok, mild and slightly embarrassing fanfare, but fanfare nonetheless. By the way, that blue thing is an antfarm in the picture. It was with great fanfare in my house that the first ant built the first tunnel!
Here’s how it went down: The label announced it got a barrel. They announced it was from Knob Creek, which struck me as a little weird because for whatever reason, breweries always seem to hide the name of the distilleries they get their barrels from.
Anyway, a date was set for release. A big bourbon barrel beer from a Connecticut brewpub – errr – not really, but whatever. Still, this was way back in 2013 when Connecticut only had a few such barrel beers available, and never a DIPA. Excitement ensued.
The “VERY LIMITED” bottles would be sold “ONLY AT LIQUOR DEPOT STORES.” Okay. Slightly weird, but okay. A date was set. And hey, fancy that, I’d be right near a Liquor Depot on said date.
So I went on the date that was set. Because, of course this “VERY LIMITED” beer would sell out in mere hours.
“Oh, sorry. I think that beer isn’t ready yet. Something about label legalities not getting through.”
(This may have been during the sequestration nonsense which actually did affect the government arm responsible for alcohol labeling, so I guess it wasn’t the beer’s fault.)
A new date was set. I got my bottle and took it home. I should note that I saw this beer still available many, many months later at Liquor Depot, so I guess the fanfare wasn’t “fanny” or “farey” enough. But I shouldn’t front; nobody beats Two Roads for fake fanfare regarding distributed bottle releases. They build them up like no one short of Stone and their Enjoy By’s… and then their stuff is pretty much constantly available.
I digress. The Beer Company (the contract label) did have a release party at the brewpub in Granby, which is a cool bit of synergy.
Cambridge House Beer Company says:
Barrel Release Party – Big Hoppy Aged in a Knob Creek Single reserve 120 barrel. This will be the ONLY keg in CT – it will be available in bottles at Liquor Depot – but VERY LIMITED
See? I told you it was VERY LIMITED. And the bit about that party feauturing the “ONLY” keg in CT? They missed an opportunity to say another truism: It was the ONLY keg in the COUNTRY! Hell, the WORLD! THE FREAKING UNIVERSE!
There was also some excitement built around the label’s artwork. It was done by someone named Peter Noyes. My Googling only turned up some school named Peter Noyes Elementary in Sudbury, MA, so … who knows.
The beer itself was simply the same mediocre Big Hoppy DIPA with a bit of booze to it. A wholly unnecessary effort, during a time when every brewery with a couple hundred bucks lying around and a connection to a cooper or distillery was “aging” beer in bourbon barrels.
Look – some of that stuff is great. Transporting, even. But not this. This? This was just an overly malty DIPA with a boozy tinge to it. It did, however, improve upon the regular Big Hoppy, if only because the booze muted the caramel sweetness of the base DIPA I didn’t care for.
And so, with this beer released in October 2013 and the subsequent disappearance of the contractor’s facebook page – in addition to other clues – it appears the Cambridge House Beer Company imprint is finito. It was an interesting run, I’ll give it that. It prompted me to poke around the recesses of the Internet to sort out how this label could co-opt a brewpub’s name as well as the label owner’s family history of fun stuff like bank robbery and assault. And tax evasion. And pressing state legislation to allow brewpubs to sell their beer.
And may we never have to deal with confusion on Untappd like this again:
Because you’re wrong. And I hate the name you gave your stupid house where you fawn over stupid beer.
So yeah, a toast to Cambridge House Beer Company… and then pour some out in honor of their demise.
Overall Rating: C+
Rating vs. Similar style: D+