Yes folks, you read that correctly. Fuzzy Baby Ducks. An extremely rare double dry hopped IPA from the good people in Woodbridge, CT. They make the beer once in a very blue moon, and when it’s available, you typically have to drive to the brewery to growler this beer up. The same holds true to another rarity from NEB, Gold Stock (not pictured). I have never seen Gold Stock in a can or bottle, so it’s also one that you should be willing to head the brewery for. And when I say, “head to the brewery” I really mean “head to the shoebox.” I was surprised, but not shocked, when when I walked through the door of New England Brewery (to say doors would be inaccurate due to the fact that there was only one). I knew it was small scale, but didn’t realize it was that small scale. The brewery was such a hole in the wall that their main security system was a 12 year old, 400 pound black lab that waddled towards the door every time a patron came in (I say that in the most endearing way possible). Now that’s my kind of brewery.
When I was at the brewery, there were only about 25 people inside its walls, which probably made it about 23 people over capacity. You can tell that the release of Fuzzy Baby Ducks (FBD) drew in a motley crew. Well dressed business men mixed with flannel wearing hipsters mixed with Carhartt cloaked construction workers – all who waited in line to buy probably the only thing they had in common… good craft beer. From the conversations that were going on in the brewery, I was able to decipher that one of the aforementioned hipsters drove all the way from Boston to pick up a growler of FBD. That’s dedication. When the long line finally drabbled off, I opted for a growler of FBD and a growler of GS. I seemed like a giant newbie because I was the only jerk in the place who didn’t bring a pair of empty growlers with him… and I know why. Four bucks for a empty growler; if you go, be sure to bring your own. The beer itself was super reasonable; only 10 dollars for a fill. The million dollar question is, however, was it worth it? Time to run those numbers:
Appearance: Both Fuzzy Baby Ducks and Gold Stock had very similar appearances. I will say that FBD was a little more cloudy than Gold Stock, but both were hazy, had a beautiful golden-beer color and left a brief white head with nice lacing throughout.
Smell: Let’s go with the Fuzzy stuff first. Holy hops! As soon as I opened it, I felt as if the whole apartment reeked of them. To say that this beer was hoppy is to say that the Eiffel Tower is a radio antenna. The hop aroma punched your sniffer in the face and had no regard for human life. Beyond that, I got some pine, pollinated flowers, and lemon citrus. Hoppy as hell! Don’t let the name fool you, these ducks seemed angry. Fuzzy also smelled a little more roasty than your typical IPA. On the other hand, Gold Stock was a little more balanced. You certainly had a hop presence, however it was balanced with orange oil, coriander, and citrus notes. I was more turned on by Gold Stock than Fuzzy at first smell.
Taste: Fuzzy first. If you ever went on a brewery tour and crushed a couple of hops in your hand and smelled them, that’s what Fuzzy tasted like. Hop mania. Fuzzy was also very floral, much like New England’s Gandhi-Bot, but it had a rostedness that Gandhi definitely did not have. It’s amazing that this small scale brewery can kick out 3 different IPA’s (Sea Hag, Gandhi, and FBD), and they all taste very distinct. Fuzzy packed a 6.2% ABV, which matched the beer nicely. I can’t underestimate how hoppy this beer was – if you are a hop head, keep your eyes pealed for this. Fuzzy was so hoppy, that it takes some warming up to. Once you start drinking it though, it goes down pretty easy.
Now it’s time for Gold Stock. In one word: smooth. This beer was so well balanced between an IPA and a wheat beer it was unreal. Imagine a Lagunitas IPA mixed with a less yeasty Allagash White, and that’s what this beer was. If I ever see this during the summer, I will buy every keg… it’s a perfect summer brew. Gold Stock was easy to drink, perfectly carbonated, and a joy to pour out of the little brown jug. It finished with some spiciness and was very satisfying. I didn’t plan on doing a chatter about Gold Stock, but after having it I couldn’t not have written about it (sorry for the double negative English nerds).
Overall: I’d have to give Fuzzy a B+. I know it’s an IPA, but I doubt that any beer that had ever sailed from India to Great Britain had that many hops in it. I’m also not a die hard hophead, so keep that in mind with this rating. I will say that for as intense as this beer was, it was smooth and not a challenge to drink. I also admire NEB for their delicate handling of a double dry hopped brew.
As for the Gold Stock, it gets a rare A+. I was shocked as to how good this beer was. I know New England makes some great stuff, but after being a bit let down by FBD, Gold Stock was right their to make up for any emptiness. With the line of of beers that New England is producing, I’d have to say that it’s my favorite brewery in Connecticut and most likely one of the best in New England. If you live in CT, make it a point to visit them on a Friday or Saturday. As a tip, aim for the last Friday of the month dubbed, “Final Friday” and save a few bucks off a growler fill up. Also, from my knowledge, the original brewer/creator of Gold Stock is now the head brewer/owner of City Steam in Hartford, CT (don’t let Naughty Nurse make up your mind on this brewery either). Local beer is fresh beer. Cheers!