Monday, January 7, 2013

Milly’s Tavern - Manchester, NH

This past weekend I was in Manchester, New Hampshire - AKA Manch-vegas because, just like its namesake, whatever happens there stays there - for an annual meet-up with fellow bloggers and blog groupies. 

While in town, since it was nearby, I got the opportunity to swing by Milly’s Tavern to sample of their delectable beers.

The tavern is located below ground level of an old factory building.  The brewery is Manchester’s only micro brewery. 

As I hunkered down bright and early (11 AM) on a Sunday morning to start sampling beer I was greeted by Olivia, one of the beertenders serving the bar.

With beer menu in hand, I began perusing the rather impressive list of brews available on tap.   It is interesting to note that, despite being a full service bar and restaurant, the only beer available at Milly’s is the beer they make on-site.  You can’t order a Miller, or a Coors, or a Bud in this place.  I think that’s awesome!  I cannot tell you how absurd I think it is when someone walks into a brewpub that makes wonderful and unique beers only to order something they can pick up at just about any corner store and probably have stocked in their fridge at home.

I asked to order a sampler.  I made my selections - very difficult with so many appealing choices to be had - and was delivered a flight of sample glasses filled with a colorful array of brews.

Mt. Uncanoonuc Cream Ale (4.3% ABV) is a slightly hazy straw color.  The aroma is a bit wheaty with hints of lemon and the twang of hops.  As the name would suggest, this beer has a creamy, yet lightly bubbly, mouth feel.  Light and refreshing, Mt. Uncanoonuc is right in line with the aroma.  I was immediately stuck by a mellow wheat flavor accompanied by a little lemon.  It finishes with a mellow but lingering bitterness.  Overall . . . very good.

Hopilicious American Pale Ale (6.3% ABV) is a clear amber with a thin bubbly head.  I caught a mild hoppy aroma.  What I got in the flavor was a lot of citrus hops.  It wasn’t overly bitter, just a nice drinkable beer that would be good for anyone who enjoys the magic of hops.  The mouth feel is smooth and bubbly . . . very nice.  It finishes clean with the tang of hoppy bitterness. Overall . . . very good.

Burton Ale (4.1% ABV) is a deep, rich red and looks very pretty in the glass.  I got a whiff of bourbon in the aroma that also came through on the palate.  I’m not sure where that comes from considering the beer type but that’s what I tasted.  It starts out light and finishes mildly bitter.  Overall . . . extra good.  **One of my favorites.

Chocolate Porter (5.9% ABV) is all chocolate all the way around.  It looks, smells and tastes just as it is described . . . chocolate.  But that’s not all!  There is a definite smokiness that accompanies and adds character this terrific porter.  It’s bubbly on the tongue and has a crisp finish.  Overall . . . very good!

Coffee Espresso Stout (3.7% ABV) is surprising low in alcohol content but it’s not lacking in flavor.  It is black coffee in color with mahogany highlights.  The aroma is an eye-opening coffee, coffee, coffee.  It’s creamy yet bubbly and loaded with wonderful coffee flavor.  They did a really nice job with this one.  If you love coffee and beer this one is a must try.  Overall . . . very good!

Milly’s Oatmeal Stout (4.9% ABV) is dark and rich in appearance with an immensely thick, luxurious head.   The mouth feel is incredibly creamy and smooth.  The aroma . . . I got a good whiff because I accidentally inhaled some of the foam . . . is just like an oatmeal cookie.  The taste like drinking a beer-i-licious oatmeal cookie.  No kidding . . . it was SO good. Overall . . . excellent.  **One of my favorites.

After drinking all that - yes, I had some help - I wasn’t done.  I’d enjoyed every single beer and I wanted more.  So, what’s a girl to do?  Order another flight of samples!  What else!  Olivia was more than happy to oblige.  (I wanted a Café Razz, which they have as their cask beer, but it wasn’t available.  So, Olivia recommended Manchester Mild, so that I what I started with.)

Manchester Mild (3.7% ABV) is clear and the color of honey.  The aroma . . . berries?  The mouthfeel is very bubble and refreshing.  The taste is slightly sweet and reminiscent of sour cherries followed by malty caramel.  Very crisp, clean finish.  This is one of those beers you could drink all day long and enjoy every glass . . . and not get totally crocked.  Overall . . . very good.

Amoskeag Harvest Ale (4.8% ABV) is the only beer I found disappointing.  That’s not to say it’s a bad beer because it wasn’t, it just wasn’t what I expected it to be.  It was a clear, lemony color.  The aroma was mildly spicy . . . maybe cinnamon or nutmeg.  It starts off light and clean with a bit of mellow spice in the middle.  It finishes lightly bitter.  The disappointment was in that I expect a harvest ale to be deeper in color, spicier, richer.  This was light and refreshing and good, just not what I had anticipated when I ordered it.  Overall . . . good.

Tasha’s Red Tail Ale (4.8%) was, by far, my favorite beer!  It is a lovely amber color.  The aroma . . . holy cow . . . butterscotch!  The taste . . . butterscotch!  Despite that, it is not sicky sweet.  It’s perfectly balanced with sweetness and bitterness and exceptionally drinkable.  This sample was hard to share and, I dare say, a fight nearly erupted over who would get more of the sample . . . my glasses even flew off my head as a greedily slammed back the last drop!  Overall . . . excellent.  **my absolute favorite.

New Hampshire Honey Brown (4.3% ABV) is a rich, caramel colored beer.  The aroma had hints of apple and cinnamon.  The flavor was a bit of spice and caramel.  The sweetness lingers on the tongue and it finishes smooth.  Overall . . . very good.

Sour Brown Ale (3.7% ABV) I’m not a huge fan of brown ales or sours but this one surprised me.  It was a cloudy brown with absolutely no head . . . whether it had diminished while I was drinking other samples, I can’t say.  The aroma was tea and sour cherries.  The taste was initially lemon iced tea followed by sour cherries.  It was tart with a little sweetness to back it up . . . or maybe other way around because it finished on a sour note.  Either way, this is a very interesting beer that I liked a lot.  Overall . . . excellent.  **One of my favorites.

John Stark Porter (5.4% ABV)  Olivia says this is her favorite and I can see why.  This porter is black with amber highlights and a thin head.  The aroma is a smoky coffee.  The taste was all the things I like in a porter all wrapped up in a tasty little package . . . coffee, smoke, dark chocolate and vanilla.  Really quite good and very drinkable.  Overall . . . very good.

Even after all that I wasn’t quite done.  There was one beer that was taunting me even though I’m not a huge enthusiast of the style.  According to Milly’s it’s their most famous and most popular beer and therefore was worth a go.

Pumpkin Ale (5% ABV) I don’t like much of anything pumpkinish but I was willing to take a risk.  And I’m so glad I did.  Olivia started out by rimming the glass with a cinnamon/sugar mixture . . . mmm, so far so good . . . before filling the glass.   This beer is a clear golden color with a thin head.  The aromas is pumpkin pie.  The flavor is also reminiscent of pumpkin pie but it’s mild and not overpowering.  This is a light, drinkable beer and I’m glad I tried it.  **One of my favorites.

So, to break down my favorites, I liked the following beers best in this order . . .
Tasha’s Red Tail Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Burton’s Ale, Pumpkin Ale and Sour Brown Ale. 

After drinking my share of 13 samples, I was really happy that I made the stop. Keep in mind, even after 13 samples of Milly’s beer I still hadn’t had a sample of every one of their brews.  I guess I’ll have to return another day.

Might I add that we also ordered garlic Buffalo wings and onion rings.  Both were really, really good!  If these appetizers are any indication, I’m willing to bet the rest of their menu rocks!

It is worth noting that despite the fact that Milly’s has 19 beers on tap none of them are really BIG beers.  I find this interesting because the trend seems to be going that way for craft brewers . . . who can make the biggest, most extreme beer.  Milly’s seems to have a beer for every palate and something for everyone despite their beer preference.  Again, they don’t serve watered-down macro brews here . . . only their own creations.

One final comment is on the bathroom.  Yes, I must.  The ladies room - and, according to Olivia, only the ladies room has theses particular features (I didn’t verify) - has fun beer related sayings all over the walls and stalls to keep the women distracted while doing what women do in the bathroom.  And what that is I’m not saying.

Disclaimer:  due to some congestion, my sniffer wasn’t working to full capacity so I’m sure I wasn’t catching all the wonderful smells the beers had to offer.  So, it is quite possible my olfactory assessments are off slightly.

Visit Milly’s Tavern at  500 Commercial Street in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Check out their website or  Facebook.

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