By Andy Phelps
Navigation Brewing has only been around a few months, but they're already doing exciting things, due in no small part to their utilization of the equipment that once belonged to Ben Howe, former inhabitant of the space at 45 Meadowcroft St., Lowell. That's right; PJ and his father-in-law Bob took over the space and equipment that Enlightenment Ales used before Ben moved to bigger and better things by throwing his chip in with Idle Hands Brewing, a nanobrewery out of Everett, and becoming their head brewer! Mr. Mercier and Mr. Johnson have a lot to live up to, of course, considering the amazing stuff Ben was making in my hometown, but now that they've been distributing a little of their product to Craft Beer Cellar in Westford, I'm able to give it a shot!
The first brew available outside their brew-space is a milk stout. The label is pretty fresh looking; as I recall, they did a competition to choose who created their logo; it's crisp, bold and engaging, with the compass rose motif embraced quite handily. The name of the beer on the label seems a bit cartoony, and the generic sans serif they use for the beer description cheapens the feel a bit, but not too bad overall.
The first brew available outside their brew-space is a milk stout. The label is pretty fresh looking; as I recall, they did a competition to choose who created their logo; it's crisp, bold and engaging, with the compass rose motif embraced quite handily. The name of the beer on the label seems a bit cartoony, and the generic sans serif they use for the beer description cheapens the feel a bit, but not too bad overall. I like that they put some notes about the beer on there; this beer uses eight different grains and a helping of lactose (milk sugar, hence the name/style) to get it to a rather-high 1.070 original gravity. Willammette and Northern Brewer hops are also used and, most likely, will highlight the roastiness and light acidity of the brew without getting in the way of the chocolate-y, silky-smooth flavor.
In fact, Navigation's system is only one and a half barrels of beer, which is about 45 gallons. For perspective, that's only 8 to 9 times that of most homebrewers' capacities, which explains the quick turnaround time for their beers! If you follow them on Facebook, Navigation has been doing tons of different styles; everything from the cult-classic German Kottbusser to a (surprisingly) non-extreme, well-balanced American IPA recipe... I'll be revisiting this stuff quite a bit, for sure; as a homebrewer myself and a huge beer nerd, having a pair of brewers right down the street seems indispensible... and it helps that the first beer they got into stores is a really good drink -- Cheers!
The official breakdown:
- Style: Milk Stout
- ABV: 7%
- Appearance: As expected, this is a perfectly dark stout pour with a slight but firm cap of mocha head that leaves no real lace; very cloudy body
- Scent: Mocha/coffee, milk chocolate, slight minerals, a bit low-tide-y but very firm in its delivery of roasty maltiness on the nose
- Taste: Huge milk chocolate, baker's chocolate and interesting roast character, all ending with a definitive hoppy and bitter finish; sweet and semi-acidic
- Mouthfeel: Smooth and delectable with a beautiful medium-low carbonation that highlights the sweeter and more complex aspects; roastiness is well-developed
- Drinkability: It's kind of a one-note beer, but it's really good at that note. Per ounce it's not as good a deal as others, but it comes from down the street!