Remember Robert Frost? He was a pretty great poet with some pretty great poems, including one in particular that has been misinterpreted over and over. Say what you will about the sanctity of art, but this misinterpretation has become incredibly important in American culture. We, as a society, have chosen this poem to champion the ideas of individualism and subversion of the norm. With that in mind, Two Roads Brewing Co.'s name (and motto: "Take the road less traveled") makes perfect sense, encapsulating their image as a craft beer innovator. In our currently-vast beer market, the branding is powerful. Two Roads is easily one of the younger breweries we've investigated in our tastings - started in 2013, the small Stratford, Conn. brewery has quickly established itself with simple, elegant suds. They primarily focus on farmhouse-related ales, and for good reason: Phil Markowski, Two Roads brewmaster, wrote one of the seminal books on farmhouse ales, so that's very much their wheelhouse. With a strong focus on their brewery as a local Stratford attraction and a growing repertoire of purely quality beers, Two Roads is one to watch. Here's what we thought of a few of their brews:
The No Limits Hefeweizen is thematically linked to the Autobahn, that German highway system that ostensibly has no speed limit (not entirely true, but myth matters more than fact when it comes to evocative beer labeling). The idea is that this German hefeweizen surpasses the restrictions on the style as a whole, going just a bit beyond. It poured faintly hazy into our glasses, with a pure, sunflower yellow color and a tiny white head.Two Roads promised a powerful fruit aroma on this brew, and it delivered heartily, with a creamy scent that danced between apple and a hint of banana. The nose promised juicy sweetness - perhaps too much sweetness - but the brew turned on those notes, adding to them on the tongue. The flavor was more wet and buttery than sweet and fruity, starting with a tang that then lightened into the territory of effervescent lagers. The combination was pleasing, though elusive, neither side imposing itself upon the other. This beer requires a long, slow quaff and a deep inhale to unlock the full range of flavors it contains.
The Road 2 Ruin comes with an intimidating name and a dare of a description: "not-for-the-timid". With an 8% ABV, it's certainly a beer you need to take seriously, and straight out of the bottle, it established its presence. The R2R roared into the glass, bright, orange-y bronze in color and topped with a head that had egg-white coloring and sea-foam consistency. However, though it's packed with aroma and flavor, that was where the violent intensity ended - it was actually quite balanced.On the nose, though the R2R absolutely conveyed a hop presence, it lacked the traditional IPA pungency - this was not hop assault, but rather hop display. Some of the subtler notes were allowed to surface, including a creaminess and, surprisingly, whiskey aromas. On the tongue, the brew revealed itself to be notably heavy, with a weight that arose from both the nuanced hoppiness as well as the strong malt presence. Despite the ABV, the beer also avoided any boozy heat. If ruination is truly down the road of this beer, it's not from the ways you'd expect - there are many pleasant detours along the way.
The pumpkin ale is a staple of the fall seasonal beer market. True to their motto, though, Two Roads has crafted a decidedly unique spin on this classic style. The beer is aged in rum barrels to add another layer of nuance, and it works. This copper beer looked like late autumn cherrywood, and was topped with a rocky, maple-butter-colored head. True to its name, there was more to Roadsmary's Baby than met the eye.Pumpkin ales can go one of two ways - they can either utilize the subtle flavors of pumpkin to accentuate other aspects of the beer, or they can be like drinking a pie. There's nothing wrong with the latter approach, but Two Roads takes the former tactic, and it pays off, from scent to taste. In the nose, pumpkin isn't particularly apparent, leaving room for aromas of ginger beer, cinnamon, and allspice, creating that pumpkin pie aesthetic, sans-pumpkin. The rum note from the barrel-aging finally came through on the tongue, but wasn't overpowering, combining with the flavors of toasted pumpkin seeds (and perhaps a bit of a yam detail) to create a smooth, nuanced whole.