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The story here is that of Session Beer.

Session beer is born of workers beer, where refreshment and taste went hand in hand. It slaked the thirst of laborers while they plowed the fields, mined for coal, fired the blast furnace and forged steel. When water was tainted, session beer saved civilization. It’s 4.5% ABV and lower, difficult to brew and a pleasure to drink. But session beer is so much more than a number.

Launched in 2010 by Chris Lohring, Notch Brewing was the first brewing company in the U.S. to focus exclusively on Session Beer. At the time, we simply wanted to brew the beers we loved to drink, and finding them was a challenge. Being a professional brewer since 1993, Chris knew that session beer had been enjoyed in every great beer brewing nation for centuries, yet in the U.S. it was overlooked. So he set out to brew the world’s classic session styles from England, the Czech Republic, Germany and Belgium, as well as explore how session beer could fit with the U.S.’s hoppy beer infatuation. Six years later, you are sitting in a brewery that was built on the back of session beer. It’s proven one thing, that beer consumers like options, and session beer is a great one.   

Brewery and Tap Room now open

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Six years of brewing session beer, and we finally built a home. Our new brewery in Salem Massachusetts is open! Here's what you'll find:

Tap Room: Full pours for on-site consumption, quart cans to go, and 16oz cans to go of our Single Series beers (when available). We'll have 6 to 13 beers on tap at all times, highlighting session beers styles from all over. Communal tables, counter service, light snacks, no TVs. It's a place to socialize with friends, or meet new ones. 

Biergarten: Communal tables on the South River basin. Watch the tide come and go from our south facing beer garden. Catch a view our harbor seals, birds of all types and striped bass when they are running (no fishing from the biergarten!). Well behaved dogs are encouraged!

Brewery: We hope that our brewery will provide guests a way to see the unique brewing processes and equipment we will be using - a traditional decoction brew-house, open and closed fermentation, horizontal lagering tanks, German gravity dispense, true British cask-conditioning,and a draft system imported from the Czech Republic – tools, process and equipment that will allow a wide variety of session beer to be produced.

 

EMAIL
info@notchbrewing.com

Location
283 Rear Derby Street
Salem MA 01970

Hours
Mon, Tues Closed
Wed, Thur 5p–11p
Fri, Sat 12p–11p
Sun 12p–10p

BEER SNACKS

- German Soft Pretzels

-Maitland Mountain Farm Pickled vegetables

- German Landjäger 
- Sorry, no outside food allowed.

NON BEER

- Spindrift Sodas
- Atomic Cafe Nitro Cold Brew

OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF

- 21+ plus only
- kids 12 and under OK with parent
- Dogs welcome in biergarten!
- Poorly behaved dogs & children will be fed to the seagulls

 

 

Beers at the Tap Room

Session Pils - Czech Pale Lager - 4.0% ABV

Notch Session Pils salutes the session pale lagers of the Czech Republic: crisp, herbal, and hoppy. The Czech culture is a beer culture, and their beer of choice is this low gravity pale lager known as Světlé Výčepní. Enjoy it served fresh through our Czech tap system!

 

Left of the Dial - IPA - 4.3% ABV

Celebrating modest ABV of British IPAs, yet with the passion fruit aromas of US hop varieties, Left of the Dial uses British malt, hard water and a new wave hop profile. The base malt is Fawcett Golden Promise, along with a touch of Fawcett caramalt and oat malt. And that “IPA is strong” stuff? All myth. Just ask us.

 

Infinite Jest - Hoppy Pale Wheat - 4.3% ABV

An American Pale Wheat Beer brewed with malted wheat, pils malt, oats and Equinox hops. Although a wheat beer, it pours only slightly hazy and is packed with fruity hop aroma and a delicate but noticeable hop flavor. Don’t expect the banana, clove, orange or coriander flavors and aromas of Germany or Belgium, but do expect infinite fun.

 

Teenage Riot - Single Hop Pale Ale w/ Hallertau Blanc - 4.2% ABV

Our favorite British malt combined with a single hop, the new German varietal Hallertau Blanc. Aromas of tropical fruit paired with floral overtones sets this new German hop apart from the others. Our favorite British malt from Fawcett Maltings provides the malt base that sets up this hop nicely. 

 

Plenty for All - Single Hop Pale Ale w/ Mosaic - 4.5% ABV

An oat-based Pale Ale that celebrates juicy British malt and hopped with only Mosaic hops grown here in the US. The oats provide mouthfeel that balances a clean dry finish. Plenty for All - no waiting in lines, no scarcity, no trophies, no whales. Drink up, we’ll brew more.

 

Vincent - British Dark Mild - 4.2% ABV

A classic British dark mild brewed with crystal malt, a touch of black malt, and hopped with Fuggles. Brewed in the fading tradition of a balanced, flavorful pub draft with a depth of flavor so it can go a  few rounds.

 

Gates of the West - British Bitter - 3.9% ABV

A classic British Bitter brewed with Scottish malt, East Kent Goldings hops, and fermented with a classic London brewery ale yeast. An all but forgotten style, and the true expression of British Session beer. Sweetish malt flavor, toffee, fruity aroma, full bodied yet with modest strength. Joe Strummer approved.

 

Hootenanny - Berliner Weisse - 3.0% ABV

A regional specialty of Berlin, this sour wheat beer has a mild acidity, low alcohol content and high carbonation. The beer was fermented with four strains of Lactobacillus for a tart yet rounded sourness. All of the grain is locally grown and malted at Valley Malt in Hadley MA. Also served "mit schuss" (with raspberry or woodruff syrups). 

Beers out in the world

 

Session Pils - Czech Pale Lager - 4.0% ABV

Notch Session Pils salutes the session pale lagers of the Czech Republic: crisp, herbal, and hoppy. The Czech culture is a beer culture, and their beer of choice is this low gravity pale lager known as Světlé Výčepní. Enjoy it served fresh through our Czech tap system!

 

Left of the Dial - IPA - 4.3% ABV

Celebrating modest ABV of British IPAs, yet with the passion fruit aromas of US hop varieties, Left of the Dial uses British malt, hard water and a new wave hop profile. The base malt is Fawcett Golden Promise, along with a touch of Fawcett caramalt and oat malt. And that “IPA is strong” stuff? All myth. Just ask us.

 

Infinite Jest - Hoppy Pale Wheat - 4.3% ABV

An American Pale Wheat Beer brewed with malted wheat, Pils malt, oats and Equinox hops. Although a wheat beer, it pours only slightly hazy and is packed with fruity hop aroma and a delicate but noticeable hop flavor. Don’t expect the banana, clove, orange or coriander flavors and aromas of Germany or Belgium, but do expect infinite fun.

The Blog

The Mule Returns!

Our beloved American Corn Lager goes on tap and we celebrate with a release party at the brewery on August 28th! In anticipation of this glorious day, we dug out Chris's original blog post on the Mule (with some edits, because some people listened!). Here it is:

Corn, the most vilified grain in all of American brewing, also happens to be one of the more traditional and historically important. How did this grain get its reputation? It’s all a bit of myth making by the Brewers Association and its members, who feel corn delineates craft and non-craft breweries. And it’s all bunk. Mass marketed lager is bland because that is the intent of the brewer and the desire of the consumer. Corn is just along for the ride. 

So, corn is evil, or at least this was the drum that was beaten in the early days of small brewing (before “craft” was used) and continues today as a way to differentiate beers of flavor from light lagers. Adjuncts, as they are called, are usually any ingredient that is not a malted grain. This can include unmalted grains (corn, rice, wheat, barley, etc.), sugar of any type (from honey to dextrose), or other ingredients (kitchen sink, etc). But so many of these adjuncts are part of the creativity that we’ve come to expect from craft brewers, correct? So why single out corn and rice? The reality is that the “craft” beer definition is antiquated and based on outdated thinking. That size matters, or that ingredients are what determines craft, are statements that need to be retired.

Back to corn, what is it good for, besides building myths?

The history of corn in US brewing is long and deep. I’d argue it’s one of the most traditional ingredients used in American brewing. Why? Necessity. When German brewers set up shop in the US in the 1800s, the only grain available to them (six row barley, as opposed to the two row they used at home) was not ideal in making the beers they loved. Six row is higher in protein (haze inducing compounds) and tannins (from the husk, good in wine, not so much in beer).  It is also rich in enzymes, which convert starches into sugars, and also can help convert unmalted grains during the brewing process (such as corn and rice). So these evil grains of corn and rice were a godsend to these early brewers, allowing them to produce a smoother, brighter beer, which also appealed to the American palate that preferred something less malty.

The other myth with corn is that it is cheap. This was not the case for these German brewers in the US, in fact it made their beer more expensive. It is also the case with Notch. The corn is almost 2X the price of my grain, and the additional steps during brew day only increase the overall labor cost (which was my labor, so my time was donated, and you are welcome!). You can read much more from Maureen Ogle on the history of adjuncts in brewing (thanks to Nate Heck for making me aware of her writing), as well as this well penned response to the Brewers Association’s “craft” definition by Schell Brewing.

Enough myths, let’s move to the reality. Many brewers use corn to dry out big malty beers, such as double IPAs and Belgian beers. So if corn is good for drying out bigger beers, can it really have a positive impact on pale lagers? You bet, and that is what the Mule is all about. I cut my teeth brewing a light ale in a brewpub where I apprenticed. Every brewpub in that era had a very light entry level beer for those unaccustomed to beer with flavor. This light ale used a high portion of flaked maize (aka corn) and its impact on the flavor was significant. It certainly dried the beer out in the finish, but had a bit of perceived sweetness up front. The problem was that the rest of the beer was uninspired, by design, to appeal to the masses. But the impact of the corn always stuck with me, and I finally had inspiration to use it again. Since Notch is about making traditional styles that just happen to be lower in ABV, it was time to attack the much maligned American Pale Lager (aka, American Adjunct Lager or American Corn Lager).

The corn for the Mule was grown at Four Star Farms in Northfield MA, and is a heritage variety known as Rhode Island Whitecap Flint (pretty evil sounding, yes?). It came in the form of grits, which required a fairly back breaking and pain in the ass process called cereal mashing. This is where the grits need to be boiled to make the starches in the grain available to the enzymes from the malted grains. Since the brewhouse at Mercury has no cereal cooker, we had to improvise. Let’s just say it was a long day that left some scars. The grain is all US, and included premium pils malt from Rahr, along with a touch of carapils and flaked barley.  The corn mash was then incorporated in with the main mash, we had full conversion, and the rest of the brew day was normal, sort of. Also a BIG shout out to Paul Gentile of Mercury Brewing who helped me plan out and execute an overly complicated brew day.

The corn was really used to set the platform for the hops. Anyone who knows me knows my love for pale hoppy lagers, and I was excited to use two hop varieties in this beer – Crystal and Sterling. Not much bittering hop in this beer, only 5 IBUs in the first wort charge (Mt Hood) with the remaining hops at the end of boil and whirlpool, as well as dry hopping. The Sterling provides a nice spicy flavor on the tongue as the beer dries out (thank you corn) and the Crystal really comes through in the aroma to add some lemony punch.

It’s a delicate beer, but one that I envisioned for those late summer days when the heat and humidity still linger, and even late into September as we try to squeeze out the last beach days of the year.  I grew up here, so I know all about the fleeting summertime weather, and I will not be participating in making the beer taps and shelves look like October with 7 weeks of summer still ahead of us. Demand a summer beer in August! It’s a big concept, we know.

And why call it the Mule? They have a reputation for being stubborn, but that is another myth. They just happen to be deliberate; making sure their next move is well thought out. The Brewers Association, stubborn in their ways, could learn a thing or two from our sweet old girl, the Mule.

EDITS (8/17/2016):

- The Mule is now brewed in our Salem brewery
- The Brewers Association finally backed down and allows corn and rice brewers to be called "craft". Whatever the Hell "craft" means.
- This year's Mule uses malted corn from Valley Malt in Hadley MA.
- The hops this year are Sterling and Santium

 

Coming Soon!