Relax

Group photo of spring beers

We picked out six of our favorite beers to pair with the delightful scents, sights and sounds of spring! Take a refreshing step out of the ordinary with these unique brews.

 

Saison Dupont

Saison Dupont botte and glass

THE quintessential Belgian farmhouse ale. Saison Dupont’s delicate balance of flavors makes this beer an ode to spring. A gorgeous bouquet of fresh earth, green grass and orange blossoms greets the nose. Take a moment to smell the cork. A faint, pleasant mustiness nods to a long winter of bottle conditioning, perhaps in an earthen cellar somewhere in the Belgian countryside.

Poured into a tulip glass, this rich, golden ale is a thing of beauty. Its faintly perfumed head is solid and rocky, like a meringue. The first sip is joy — crisp, dry and funky. Just like spring, as this ale warms up, bolder notes of fruit and earth unfold. A honeydew sweetness, notes of fresh hay and a gentle, yeasty bitterness add to the symphony. Perfect for that first warm afternoon, when the sun is strong but the breeze still serves up a chill.

Tourpes, Belgium, 6.5%

 

Monchshof Kellerbier

Half pint mug of Monchshof Kellerbier

A unique, unfiltered lager native to Franconia, Germany. Franconia is renowned for its sweet, mineral-rich water, perfect for brewing lagers like this one. A kellerbier (literally meaning “cellar beer”) is cask conditioned, or “cellared” for an especially long period. The dark amber brew is mellow, with low carbonation but a rich, full body for a lager. Most notable is its malt-forward flavor profile. A persistent, burnt-caramel sweetness is framed by notes of cocoa, toasted grain and even stewed orange. There’s definitely more going on here than your basic German lager.

Something about the flavor and mouthfeel recalls the pleasant coolness of a cave. This beer is chugable, a beautiful thirst-quencher after that first bike ride of the season, but it is perfectly suited for slow sipping too. Dig deep for those more nuanced flavors!

Kulmbach, Germany, 5.4%

 

Maine Beer Company Mo Pale Ale

Glass of Mo Pale Ale

We love Mo. This dazzling American Pale is clean, crisp and robust. It boasts a shining hop bouquet that rocks the tastebuds without overpowering them. It is floral, piney, citrusy and absolutely delicious. Each sip has a sparkling dryness akin to grapefruit pith. Couple those bursting hop aromas with a strong carbonation and you get a robust, almost spicy sipping experience. Try this one nice and cold!

Freeport, Maine, 6%

 

Peak Organic Fresh Cut Pilsner

Glass of Peak Organic Fresh Cut Pilsner with can

This dry-hopped American pilsner is tight. Crisp and light-bodied, it features a perfect balance of Citra, Chinook and Centennial hops on the front of the sip. The flavor alights briefly upon a honey-tangerine sweetness then finishes in a dry, herbal, almost perfumey bitterness, the way a pilsner should. It is a flirtatious taste of bigger hop flavors to come, as full-blown IPA weather approaches. A refreshing transition after a season of stouts, porters and spiced ales. Comes in cans, so you can pack some for that first hike.

Portland, Maine, 4.6%

 

Far from the Tree Nova Hopped Cider

Glass of Far From the Tree Nova Cider

Nova is a rewarding venture out of the ordinary. This clean, dry-hopped cider drinks almost like a sparkling white sangria. Massachusetts cider apples provide the juicy flavors of Granny Smiths, green grape and pineapple. Now add aromatic notes of Thai basil and sweetgrass from Mosaic, Galaxy and Simcoe hops. Hello springtime! A Prosecco-like dryness frames each sweet sip. Weighing in at a formidable 8% ABV, this extravagant cider is not to be taken lightly. Get out there and explore the new!

Salem, Massachusetts, 8%

 

Mystic Vinland #4

Glass of Mystic Vinland #4

The crew over at Mystic Brewing have this funky project called The Vinland Series. Instead of employing their house-developed yeast strains, they harvest wild yeasts from various New England crops and brew a special sour ale. First they used yeast collected from the skin of a Massachusetts plum. Then it was a Maine blueberry. Last year’s brew featured yeast borrowed from a Vermont raspberry. This year they’re keeping it weird with yeast from Massachusetts-grown barley.

The resulting brew is a tart, refreshing ale. The nose is dry and musky, with oddly pleasant traces of rotten stone fruit. The flavor starts off with a raspberry sourness that rings and fades. Feral yeast notes accompany traces of crab apple, purple grape and mandarin orange — the effect is a little bit like sipping a fruit and cheese plate! (On that note, let this one open up a bit in the glass before you sip.) The flavor mellows out towards the finish into a gentle, hay-like bitterness. A classy way to get weird, just in time for the onset of spring fever.

Chelsea, Massachusetts, 6%

Valentine's at Burdicks

Spending Valentine’s Day in Boston is a chance to kindle real romance, the special kind of romance borne from the shared agony of a grim New England winter. The elements are at their cruelest. Temperatures are at their lowest. Lovers clutch each other extra tightly to face down Arctic blasts, jagged snow mounds and black ice on every corner. Alleys become treacherous, shrieking wind tunnels. Drift-choked crosswalks become Olympic triathlons, some sinister combination of hurdles, balance beam and figure skating. A trip down the street for a slice of pizza is suddenly a matter of survival, of endless bundling. There are masked pools of salty slush everywhere, and everyone is wearing nice shoes. It’s a special time for this old city, one that encourages teamwork, perseverance and intense cuddling.

For those lovers who do brave it though, there’s no substitute for the reward — a chance to walk down those silent, snow-blanketed, colonial backstreets. To be alone together among the rows of brownstones, to share an embrace under the glow of the wrought iron street lamps. It’s a glimpse of a bygone world, an old seaport in hibernation, a rare urban tranquility. Here, when the wind is in between breaths, you will find that romance, shivering against each other while you wait for an Uber.

In honor of the upcoming holiday, my lovely partner Simone and I trekked to some of Boston’s cold weather hideouts to share with you. We hope they furnish a spark of inspiration for your date night, Valentine’s Day or otherwise. So comb your hair, put your parka on and get out there! Get that blood flowing to all of your romantic regions and share some warmth, in true Bostonian style.

 

Jackmauh’s Quintessential Spots for a Winter Date in Boston

 

LA Burdick Boston

L.A. Burdick

Our first stop on a blustery Wednesday evening was L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates, on Clarendon and Newbury. Why save the candy for the end? Especially in this case — L.A. Burdick is one of a few elite chocolatiers in Boston, and a bit of a love story in itself. The company is run by Larry Burdick, who founded the brand with his wife, Paula, in 1987. They started with a single set of hand tools he collected on a culinary tour of Paris and Switzerland. Paula studied at The Fashion Institute of Technology and infused her passion for Parisian design into the brand. Thus the Burdick experience was born.

P&S_Burdicks_smiles

Sensitive attention to detail is apparent in every aspect, from the unique confections to the beautiful boxes they are packed in. Each of their three chocolate shops (in Boston, Cambridge and New York City) is also an elegant, French-inspired cafe, serving coffee, espresso, tea as well as all the handmade chocolates you could hope to eat. Every morsel is shaped by hand, without molds, including their signature chocolate ganache mice! That’s right. Adorable, delicious little mice with little sateen yarn tails.

LA Burdick Mouse chocolate

We sat by the window, sipping impossibly rich dark chocolate mochas and shared a small velvet box of bonbons. The cozy wooden benches, the brass lamps and scent of raw cocoa helped induce a heady chocolate buzz. Hopped up on the aphrodisiac, we eventually headed into the cold to find a cocktail.

Paul & Simone walking

 

Trinity Church

Outside the wind was getting fierce. A few stray raindrops came flying at us. We fought our way down Clarendon Street, huddling for a moment behind Trinity Church, the crown jewel of Copley Square. Up close, its presence is overwhelming. Trinity’s looming spires are captivating in the twilight. It looks like something out of Romeo and Juliet. In fact this is no coincidence; the Trinity Church is the singular archetype of the Richardsonian Romanesque movement, a building style based on late medieval architecture from Italy, France and Spain. The look is characterized by elaborate masonry using massive, roughly cut stone blocks, detailed arches and extravagant towers. How sexy. Among other noteworthy works of art, the church features gorgeous stained glass windows designed on commission by the American painter John La Farge. It is the only structure in Boston counted among the “Ten most significant buildings in the United States” by the American Institute of Architecture. If you have time on your way to dinner, take a moment to steal a kiss (and maybe snap a Valentine’s Day selfie) under one of its arches.

 

Trinity Church, Boston, Night time

 

OAK Long Bar + Kitchen at the Copley Plaza Hotel

Luckily for us, one of the most impressive bars in Boston is right across the square in the Copley Plaza Hotel. OAK Long Bar + Kitchen is the central achievement of a twenty-million dollar renovation that was completed to celebrate the hotel’s 100th anniversary a few years ago. Two large dining rooms were joined to make one enormous, opulent hall. Why? So they could fit an eighty-three foot long bar of course! Behind it, for your viewing pleasure, lies a bustling open kitchen with a stone-hearth oven. Revelers enjoy the comfort of wide, cushioned leather chairs instead of barstools. Servers scurry up and down the aisles of assorted low and high candle-lit tables. The room feels more like a lounge than a restaurant. The renovation sought to modernize the space, making it brighter and more casual-feeling. That’s not to say it’s any less fancy.

 

Copley Plaza Hotel exterior

 

The original two-story windows lead your eyes up to the gorgeous Beaux-arts era tin coffered ceiling, dripping with chandeliers. A trip to the bathroom requires a stroll through the magnificent lobby hallway, known as Peacock Alley, punctuated by Italian marble columns. Bottles upon bottles overlook the bar from high shelves. This space is a treat for the eyes, if nothing else. We conspired at a low table by the window and watched the rain pound Huntington Avenue. Comfy in our nook, we took our time sipping three drinks from the menu: a Pomegranate Paloma, a generous Ketel One martini with incredible blue cheese stuffed olives, and the “How Do You Do,” a house spin on a martini with St. Germain, Aperol and grapefruit. For a moment we were Gatsbys. If not for our dinner reservations we might have stayed all night. It is, after all, the oldest, and one of the most prestigious hotels in Boston. We could have gotten a room, and joined the ranks of stars like Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor.

By the way, when you visit OAK Long Bar, ask your server to point out where the rotating merry-go-round bar used to be. Yes, seriously.

 

Oak Bar + Kitchen

South End Buttery

We waited under the Copley Plaza’s big red awning for a car to dinner. Our destination: The South End Buttery, a relatively recent addition to one of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods. It was opened in 2005 by two South End residents with a passion for fine dining and gourmet food made from healthy, simple ingredients. I was a little disappointed to learn that a “buttery” is not actually a place where vast quantities of fine butter are prepared and served. The original term refers to the wine cellar of a castle, but its modern use connotes something more like an all-purpose pantry and canteen.

The South End Buttery dons its designation coyly. It describes itself as a “quaint neighborhood cafe.” That’s not wrong, but that’s not the whole picture. The Buttery is a cafe, a bakery, a celebrated brunch spot and a boutique prepared foods market… and a bar and a restaurant. Somehow, it is still cozy and quaint, neatly laid out a over a few small rooms. The market, cafe and bar sit on the ground floor of a charming brownstone on the corner of Shawmut and Union Park. The cozy dining room lies hidden in the basement, built into the old stone foundation itself.

Winter Smash Cocktail

Dinner started at the intimate six or seven seat bar, which was pleasingly well-stocked with bourbon and a nice collection of digestifs including a couple of ports, amaros and assorted Luxardo liqueurs. We shared a Winter Smash, a bourbon cocktail with muddled cranberries and rosemary. The result is a tangy aromatic concoction that flirts with all the tastebuds at the party. We’ll be back in the spring to try their Mezcalrita — a concoction of silver tequila, mezcal, grilled pineapple, jalapeno and lemon. When it was time to eat, our server led us from the peaceful bar down a little stairway to the basement.

Paul & Simone at the Buttery

It really does feel like dining in a wine cellar. A live fireplace sets the tone just a few feet from the tables. Exposed brick and granite are carefully illuminated. The Buttery’s seasonal menu is pleasantly simple and well-rounded. It would be hard for any diner to go hungry with choices like hanger steak frites, shrimp fra diavolo, The Buttery meatloaf, or the chickpea falafel burger. Incredibly, the price points did not suggest we were nestled in the heart of one of Boston’s ritziest neighborhoods.

Buttery Pork Tenderloin

I settled on marinated grilled pork tenderloin with roasted Brussels sprouts and fries with truffle aioli. Simone chose insanely rich wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sage. This is comfort food at its best, designed to touch the heart as much as it fills the stomach. We took our time with each bite, enjoying the fire and a bottle of Cabernet. Later there would be a custody battle for the two leftover mushroom raviolis. A quick shot of Cardamaro Amaro for dessert and we were off again, into the night to catch some music.

Mushroom Ravioli

 

Wally’s Cafe

A few blocks away at the edge of the South End lies Wally’s Cafe, the only place of its kind in Boston. Wally’s is a venerated jazz bar. It is not a cocktail bar or a restaurant that occasionally features live music as a bonus. It is a hole-in-the-wall venue with live performances 365 days a year!

Wally's Cafe Jazz Club

It has been operating continuously since Joseph Walcott opened it in 1947, the first African-American-owned jazz club in New England. Wally’s longevity is probably due to Walcott’s tendency to pair renowned professional acts with aspiring local musicians from Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory. This cafe is still a proving ground for talented students, but it is not a college bar by any stretch. A large bouncer greeted us at an unassuming door with a barred window. He checked our IDs and let us inside. When the door opened we were blasted by a blazing saxophone solo and hot, steamy air. Suddenly we found ourselves in a Kerouac novel. We took the only empty seat by the foggy front window and peered through the crowd at the band at the back of the room.

Dancing at Wally's Cafe

The place was jamming! Actually that’s normal. Wally’s has an open jam session from 6 to 9 every night of the week, then rotating acts ranging from funk to blues to Latin salsa. A funky, energetic jazz quartet was on the stage tonight. We sipped cold Brooklyn Lagers, surprisingly refreshing in the crowded room, and let the notes carry us away. We were swimming — happy, full, warm and content. The crowd was friendly. Some were neighborhood regulars, some were clearly students, some were curious first-timers from other parts of the city. The ages ranged from freshman to senior citizen. Everyone seemed united in understanding that this is something special, a miraculously preserved piece of the past that is still very much alive. The band played on, taking turns soloing, swooping and soaring between low and high tempos. It was too loud to talk but that was ok. We leaned back in our chairs shoulder to shoulder, no need to speak.

After one more beer and a couple of rowdy Michael Jackson covers, it was time to fly through the rain and city lights one more time, arm in arm in the backseat, and then off to bed. We squeezed the night to its last drop, in spite of the cold, the wind and the rain. No matter that we didn’t get to romp in the snow. We’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope for a blizzard.

 

water droplets on car window

 

 

Filed Under: Boston, Culture, Relax, Travel
WP Homemade Gin Kit

Ever been curious about making your own spirits? Wood-firing a shiny copper still, pouring clear, almost pure alcohol into barrels, then later tapping those barrels to release caramel golden brown Oh Be Joyful. It’s so romantic! It is, but it’s also a ton of not-unskilled work, a significant investment, and potentially risky on several fronts. For those who aren’t looking to start a craft distillery but are still intrigued to try your hand at homemade booze, we’re here to help!

Homemade Gin Kit components

 

The Homemade Gin Kit is, of course, perfect for gin enthusiasts! It includes everything you need to turn vodka into “ridiculously delicious gin” right at home: two glass bottles and corks, stainless funnel and strainer, juniper berries, and an expertly balanced botanical blend. It’s super easy, too. Just add the juniper and botanicals to any vodka of your choosing, wait a bit, strain them out again, and you’re done! That’s a slight simplification, but you get the point. In the end you’re left with an unfiltered gin that holds up with the best of them.

The Barrel Aged Spirits Kit

 

The Barrel Aged Spirits Kit is even simpler than the Gin Kit and can be used with a wider variety of spirits. It consists of just two components: charred oak staves and some cheesecloth. The life of any spirit begins the same, as clear distillate. Be it rum, whiskey, brandy, or any other dark liquor, it’s the aging process that gives color, and more specifically, the barrel itself. Matter from a charred oak barrel slowly leaches into the liquid, changing a white liquor into a dark one. The concept with the Barrel Aged Spirits Kit is to replicate that leaching process, but instead of filling an entire barrel and waiting months or years, we’ll put the barrel in the bottle and wait a matter of days. That’s right! All you have to do with this kit is drop the aging staves into any bottle of light-colored alcohol – white rum, vodka, gin, etc. – wait until your desired amount of aging has occurred, strain through the cheesecloth, and enjoy. You’ll have created something entirely unique. Wowed dinner guests guaranteed.

Barrel Aged Spirits Kit Flavor Meter

The best part about these kits is the infinite possibility for creating unique concoctions. Add your own ingredients and see what happens. Play with starting materials, aging time, and cocktail recipes to discover what hits your palate just right. Heck, take the gin you make and barrel age it! Before long you may be rethinking that craft distillery afterall 😉

Check out these fantastic gifts right here at Craft & Caro: bit.ly/WPatCC

Filed Under: New Products, Relax
Cocktail Crate set at Craft & Caro

 

And now in the Relax collection, Cocktail Crate mixers!

These premium cocktail mixers are handcrafted in small batches in Queens, NYC, by a guy named Alex who quit his job in 2012 and raised funds on Kickstarter in order to bottle the recipes he’d been making for family and friends to great acclaim. The only difference between these and the one’s he was making at home is the booze; these don’t have any, so you just have to add your own and voila! first-rate craft cocktails without the bar.

Cocktail Crate Lavender Bloom cocktail mixer

Like our other carefully chosen mixers, Cocktail Crate drinks are super easy to make. Just add spirit, shake vigorously with ice, and pour. Garnish if it tickles your fancy but it’s not absolutely necessary. And they really are mixologist-worthy concoctions, with real juices and natural sweeteners like New York wildflower honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar, and topshelf flavor components like organic lavender, jasmine, and handmade sriracha.

Cocktail Crate Sriracha Margarita cocktail mixer

Each one is an original recipe designed to showcase its short list of ingredients, pairing delicately with its corresponding distillate. Since they don’t use any extracts or concentrates, the resulting flavor profiles are strikingly well balanced, especially considering how easy a cocktail it is to make. You barely even need a cocktail shaker! (though it does help)

Cocktail Crate Ginger Bee cocktail mixer

Lean in to fall and relax in the comfort of your own home with a deliciously simple and ingeniously sophisticated craft cocktail. Peruse these straightforward mixers, and a shaker to boot, in Craft & Caro’s Relax collection right here: craftandcaro.com/collections/relax/brand-cocktail-crate

Cocktail Crate Spiced Old Fashioned cocktail mixer

White Whale lineup at Craft & Caro

Although we launched two new products over the weekend, being at American Field Boston all day Saturday and Sunday, we didn’t get the chance to write about them. So today we have a few coming at you! Starting with White Whale bold cocktail mixers.

Just added to our Relax collection are these delicious concoctions that make it easy to mix bar-quality cocktails in just a few easy steps. Take any of the five White Whale varieties, mix one part White Whale with one part spirit, add ice, stir, and garnish. You don’t even need a shaker, though they’re not bad at all when you do use one.

White Whale mix how-to infographic

Each of the recipes offers something unique and tasty. Blends of exotic juices (like youngberry) and garden-fresh herbs combine to create strong, spirit-forward cocktails that delight the palate and conjure prohibition-era speakeasies of the South. Made in Durham, North Carolina using all natural ingredients, White Whale mixers are a reliable staple behind the home bar. Their innovative, sophisticated whimsy is reflected as much in flavors as it is in their names and back-of-bottle descriptions:

White Whale The Mob Man

Whaddaya want, eh? Some kinda neon-green cocktail like yous is down on da Jersey Shore gettin’ wrecked with Pooki, Nooki or whatever-her-name is? This ain’t spring break and if ya know what’s good for ya you’ll hav’a Manhattan. Oh, your Manhattans have vermouth in ‘em? Fuhgeddaboudit, Mr. Fancy Face. Yours’ll have cherry, blackcurrant, and anise and you’ll like it or else we’ll find ya some concrete loafers and serve ya up a mouthful of the East River.

White Whale The Skinny Dipper

Aw, you’re blushing. You just remembered that spring day long ago, when your heart overflowed with the promise of youth. The cool of the wind on your skin, the fear of getting caught, and the shiver when you finally took the plunge. Ah, pure bliss. Then that little punk Timmy Tanner swiped your clothes from the shore when you weren’t looking. Relive the memory with a breezy blend of mango puree and lemon. Just keep an eye on your clothes this time, OK?

White Whale Your Older Brother

We know what you’re thinking right now: “Keep your damn pine tree out of my cocktail.” Hold your horses. It ain’t pine, it’s Siberian Fir, pine’s suave older brother. And when it does the Jitterbug with juicy orange, organic lemon, and your favorite vodka, it’s magic. No, not kid’s stuff like sawing scantily-clad assistants in half. More like an ancient wizard standing on a cliff conjuring wormholes to new worlds. Let’s see a pine tree do that.

White Whale Aunties Old Fashioned

The year is 1976. You stop by Aunt Mildred’s house at, say, four o’ clock in the afternoon. You dodge the tribe of feral cats that roam her halls and arrive at the kitchen, where Mildred blends exotic youngberries with an infusion of rosemary from her garden and adds something she refers to as “Auntie’s Little Helper.” Aunt Mildred claims that the secret ingredient is love. Technically, it’s bourbon. Mix one up just like Auntie used to! It’ll be our little secret.

White Whale The Filthy Liar

Have you ever tasted Lychee fruit? If you answered “Yes” you are either an exotic fruit importer or you’re lying. Probably you’re lying. Regardless, be prepared to be seduced! When this floral fruit encounters the herbal tag-team of rosemary and clove, your tongue experiences something like, well, remember the first time your eyes beheld the sun rising above an aqua sea, the perfect silence broken only by the distant cry of the humpback whale? Bingo.

 

Get your White Whale alongside a selection of curated, quality bar accessories in Craft & Caro’s Relax collection right here: bit.ly/RelaxWithCC