It may surprise you to discover that Trillium, known to you and on the street as a perennial plant genus distinguished by its tri-bract design (I know my kids won’t shut up about it), also happens to be an excellent up-and-coming brewer wetting the britches of beer nerds across the country. Mentioned in the same breath as other New England brew houses like Tree House, Bissell Brothers, and Night Shift, Trillium has made a name for it’s anti-clarity beers that thrive in the trade groups with anyone passing through their Boston Bay locations (Fort Point and the recently opened Canton facility) to post covetous pictures of their beer-bottled haul.
I can now count myself in this group, having traded for a stash of bottles in mid-2015 only to have another windfall thanks to my dad’s in-person stop on a vacation up the East Coast. I took up the herculean task of drinking a mass of Trillium’s finest, writing up detailed tasting notes on each for one great big info dump. While there are some notable absences, including several top Trillium street IPAs, I got to try a variety of Trillium’s offerings, some multiple times.
As most people will probably need to trade for these, I commented on the the trade-worthiness of each. This is biased to my palate obviously, so if silky wheat and fruity, citrus hop-bodied IPAs aren’t your thing, you can pass on my recommendation to give away that do-nothing toddler for a case of Melcher Street. You can always make more kids, but few can make good beer. (Note: DBR does not recommend you do this.)
Sooo, rather than prattle on like I already have, here are some quick shots on the six beers I’ve had in the order that I preferred them. Low beer first, working up to the beer worth cashing in the kiddos.
Style: Pale Wheat
Cost: $8.05 bomber (not entirely sure)
Appearance: If you couldn’t tell, I wasn’t able to locate my pic for this one, buuuut it’s copper color mixed with wheat haze (stock photo included). For this brewery, It’s actually pretty damn clear, which is to say not at all, but it has that glowing orange of so many other New England beers that I find quite fetching. Still, it’s a look I like. Those resistant to the hazy beer movement will not be pleased, but there is room for all types.
Aroma: Sweet peach and citrus dominate the nose with the standard hop hits. Some sweet, w honey like notes that tie to the wheat/malt. No real depth to the smells, but gets to the point.
Taste: Fluffy wheat body that comes across as a little soft, even for a pale. Flaked wheat adds some substance, but doesn’t betray the drinkability of the ABV. For the hop profile, Trillium is a master of utilizing Columbus (an inspiration to utilize it in my own homebrew recipes). Works well with the soft, subtle yeast and sweeter wheat body. Bready and lemon candy sweet with some seltzer on the fin. Galaxy adds some fruity pebbles notes, but doesn’t dank it up much.
Final Thought: This is a decent wheat beer that doesn’t really excite compared to other Trillium offerings, but worth trying for those trying to branch out from Hefeweizen or Wit. Pier is clearly more hopped than those traditional styles, but it isn’t a huge departure and could serve as a bridge.
Trade-Worthiness: Not worth pursuing on its own and probably on the bottom of the “extra” list of a shipper.
POT & KETTLE
Style: Oatmeal Porter
Cost: $8.05 bomber
Appearance: The pour is a creamy wash of tan bubbles. Retentive and thick as expected for an oatmeal porter. If this beer had a bouncer, it’s apparently that light is on the list because it shines right on through. The color is closer to mahogany than cola. The look of a porter comes through fine, but the oatmeal is left behind by the clarity.
Aroma: The smells keep it standard porter with peat, dark fruits, and mild roast. Along for the ride is an earthy, dusty oat nuttiness. Cocoa and vanilla loiters around in the back like vagrants at a 7-11 (that’s still a thing right?). Spot on, but keeps my expectations in check for a beer that most likely toes the style line (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Taste: Before I even think about taste, I note the balanced body with just enough weight to be unwatery, but not so chewy that you’re drinking a stout. Perfect porter mouth feel and Trillium should be commended. The flavor is definitely a standard raisin/plum as to be expected with a pleasant nutty cream on the finish. Subsequent sips finds hints of fluffy marshmallow/vanilla, cocoa, and an undercurrent of toasted coffee, not quite char, which keeps the sweet at bay.
Final Thought: With a few notable exceptions, when I’m drinking a porter I’m dreaming about a stout (imperial if possible). This is one of those exceptions. It may not add crazy adjuncts or go beyond the typical toasty plum/raisin favors of a standard Porter, but it rises above the everyday with a great mouth feel and doses of vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. Oat isn’t heavy handed and adds just the right amount of silk. An expertly crafted example of the style.
Trade-Worthiness: If you’re a porter fan, make sure to add it to a mixed shipper.
Double Dry-Hopped Fort Point (Galaxy)
Cost: $8.05 bomber
Appearance: Out pours a slurry of pureed straw and pear juice that’s been soaking in wheat. Slurry may be a harsh descriptor, but it looks like the leftover runoff from a New York dumpster. This ain’t no looking beer. I’m of the mindset that not every pale needs to be the clear enough to read a book through, but those that don’t’ like their beer muddy should look elsewhere. For me, I’m all in on cloudy glasses of grain assuming there is a softy bready hop burst that comes with it. Beyond the color, the head shows retention with some withering legs.
Aroma: What my eyes told me this beer would be, my nose backs up. Dank OJ, mango, creamy lemon that borders on lactose, toasty grain, hint of cannabis skunk, and pear. I’ve smelled elements of this beer before in the likes of Substance, Lost Galaxy, and Julius. Good company to be in and the dry-hopping gives this a huge, massively pleasing aroma.
Taste: The mouth feel is smooth, creamy and on the lower end of carbonation. The body nears chewey wheat levels, but doesn’t tip over to unpleasantness. The taste follows the smell with orange juice (it turns to lemon as it warms), mango, pine and peach being most prevalent. Some sweet crystal malt plays at the edges of the base pale malt, revealing a creeping sweet-a-tude as it warms. The hopping is very borderline IPA, but some fruity yeast esters and pale malt body keeps it from tipping over. Finish is a dry, rising bitter that never grows too big to overwhelm the other flavors. Some toasted skunk lingers on the tongue as the beer fades. The subdued carbonation is a smart choice that gives the beer a pleasant softness that marries with a yeast strain that finishes bready.
Final Thought: I prefer the galaxy hopping over the mosaic, which is surprising to me given my love of single hop mosaic beers. The base pale is solid and reminds of something Maine brewing would do, but Fort Point has a sweeter, fruity element from an abundance of wheat. Cannabis is an element I’m never particularly fond of in a beer, but it mixes in well. It’s not the star and just another layer in the total experience. Not my favorite pale, but pretty high up there.
Bonus – Mosaic DRY-HOPPED FORT POINT
Overall: Very similar to the Double Dry-Hopped Fort Point with an obvious exception. This boasts a fruity pebble aroma courtesy of the mosaic, which allows a cereal grain element to peak out. Pale toasty grain body has the same slight skunkiness with a rippy bitterness on the finish, but I noted some dill on this one. That could be due to age or beer temperature, so I’m not sure if this is a common element. I prefer the galaxy hopping over the mosaic, which is surprising to me given my love of single hop mosaic beers.
Trade-Worthiness: Either Fort Point is just about worthy of being the sole reason to instigate a Trillium trade, but I’d wait for something “big” (i.e. a street IPA) to be available and include this in the deal.
Day and Night
Style: Blonde Barleywine
Cost: $10.05 bomber (not entirely sure)
Appearance: Amber gold, GOLD I say! This is by far the best looking Trillium I’ve had. A soapy foam head so white it looks bleached that leaves strands of bubbles arcing across the glass. A beauty of a beer that doesn’t quite look like a Barleywine (although this is a Blonde Barleywine) let alone a beer with coffee in it. Sadly, the aroma rich head is gone all too quickly.
Aroma: The beer itself isn’t particularly bubbly, but I recommend pouring with some vigor. Work up a frothy head and your nose will thank you. Just waiting to be inhaled are notes of honey, flowers, and a spicy roast coffee that avoids bitter green pepper. Underneath is graham cracker and toffee, indicating a truly unique, coffee-infused Barleywine that begs to get in your mouth.
Taste: I oblige and take a sip. Initially, I find the carb low and a touch thin. When considering in the flavor profile, this seems to be the right choice. A heavy body would trample all over the honey, slippery alcohol, mild toast, and coffee bean. The sweet creamy coffee is balanced with a mild bitterness and tangy acidity as it warms. As I tend to like with sweeter beers, the finish is dry, not letting the sugar coat the tongue and lead to a quick fatigue. I think the honey substitutes for stickier toffee flavors that are more accustom to a Barleywine, hence the Blonde par. Regardless, the net result is a very different and tasty beer as long as you don’t get too hung up on the Barleywine classification.
Final Thought: This is a head trip with the mouth needing to reconcile what the eyes are seeing, as the looks and taste do not match up, similar to Stone’s Master of Disguise. It works as a sweet coffee drinker with some IBUs on the finish. Citrus, honey tang gives this some life beyond the sweet, roasty coffee. If I have a significant complaint, the ABV is a touch high and intrudes on the initial flavors. For a beer that works as an evening drinker, it warms the cheeks. Trillium has a winner here, but now I need to get the night and day for a full experience.
Trade-Worthiness: Apparently, Day and Night is retired, however they occasionally release versions with regionally specific coffee (like Ethiopian or Honduran). Based on what I had, you should pounce on it should it be released into the wild again.
Cost: $10.05 bomber
Appearance: Similar to Day and Night, this pours a topper of white, craggy foam that doesn’t stick around. Thick amber (yes I’m describing a color as thick) and glowing orange with haze more on the chill side than a full on oat cloud. Typical New England style that isn’t going to win a beauty pageant, unless they start tasting the contestants. Clear beer lovers like Jason (filtered or die!) Alstrom of BeerAdvocate fame would probably find this on the borderline of acceptability. (Actually he’s had it and gave it a 3.5/5, commenting on how he wished Trillium would clean up their IPAs).
Aroma: Fantastic aroma. A touch of dank, not entirely objectionable, cannabis wafts underneath a citrus cream. Tropical fruits, papaya and mango mixes with pine and classic New England OJ. These are (mostly) the smells I love in my IPAs. Hugely satisfying.
Taste: The mouth feel and carb is New England soft, which is appropriate for this type of IPA. The body has some weight, which carries creamy orange juice, pear and indeed papaya. Melon and grapefruit makes up the rest of the flavor, providing a citrus that is on the sweeter side. Floating over the whole deal is a burnt, herbal skunk and saliva-drying bready quality that grows as it warms. A bit of dill hangs on the dry, lactosey finish. Overall, this beer has some green hop qualities I’d normally find objectionable. With Melcher, it’s works in harmony to produce a beautiful beer. On a side note, my dad, a craft beer enthusiast but someone relatively new to the New England style, initially thought the flavors were off. He came around to appreciate it, but it isn’t his first choice for an IPA. I can see that and recognize this isn’t an IPA for everyone.
Final Thoughts: This is very close to Julius from Tree House, but with skunky toast and less sweet. Great beer from a brewery that has yet to disappoint me. To think that Congress Street IPA is a better IPA warms my heart and gives me a mission (one I have yet to fulfill). This isn’t quite to the level of Maine’s Dinner for me, but a damn fantastic IPA for those that like a touch of cloudy creamy, toasty grain and weighty OJ.
Trade-Worthiness: Keep the price in mind, but worth offering something high profile to close the deal. Get it, drink it, and bask in it.