• Steven Solito

The Inaugural BrewReview: Turtle Swamp Brewing

Updated: May 29, 2020

By: Steve Solito

The boys here at BeerSighted have set out to do one thing: connect craft beer lovers to all the wonderful, flavorful, intoxicating, and creative craft beers and breweries that the United States has to offer. Here in 2020, it’s well documented that the country is currently offering more options than ever. In fact, according to the Brewers’ Association, as of June 2019, there were over 7,000 small and independent breweries active in the U.S., with a few thousand more in planning.

How in the world are you supposed to prioritize which breweries to go to when you potentially have 10,000 to choose from?!?! While I am sure these numbers can be a bit unsettling for brewers hoping to get their time in the beer spotlight, we’re here on a mission to help them do so. And to help you get your priorities straight, one brewery at a time.

We’re Boston boys. And as such, we’ll be exploring the New England area most often here in our humble beginnings. Lucky for us, New England loves beer as much as anyone. So let’s start our journey right here in Boston...

Turtle Swamp Brewing - Boston, MA.

BeerSeekers on the Job: Steve Solito and Nick Nannicelli

BeerSighted’s journey begins in the neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston, Mass., at the one and only Turtle Swamp. Unbeknownst to us, we started our journey in a place with a rich brewing history. While the brewery boom is perhaps reaching its pinnacle these days, this Boston neighborhood combined with the abutting neighborhood of Roxbury is well over 100 years past its prime (from a beer perspective, that is).

There were once 24 breweries within a mile and a half of each other here. We can’t imagine that’s good for business, but it sounds like a dream come true to us. Imagine walking down one street (Columbus Ave. in this case) to get to seven breweries in an afternoon. They had that! Granted, breweries at the turn of the 20th century were more comparable to textile factories than bars and likely didn’t have a nice tap room to play oversized Jenga in, but I digress.

Prohibition likely combined with some other factors eventually knocked this brewery fantasy land down a peg (or 18). Post-prohibition, only five had reopened. And by 1964, they were all gone. Twenty years later came the Sam Adams era, which saw only the one brewery occupying that geographic area for over 30 years. Well in 2017, that era came to an end...

...with the emergence of Turtle Swamp Brewing! Something tells me Sam Adams isn’t sweating it, but let us dive into the Swamp and share our findings.

The Setup

Tucked in along a main road in JP, you could miss Turtle Swamp if you’re driving too fast along Washington St., but it’s worth keeping an eye out for. Nick and I were the BeerSeekers here at BeerSighted that were tasked with spending our Saturday afternoon crushing brews and we both came out impressed!

We’ll start with the brewery itself (you’ll notice that the environment and atmosphere of a brewery is a top priority of mine). Right off the bat, you see the big former-car-garage look to the building that just exudes hard work being put into the creation of beer. With the inside of the garage being the main tap room, and the garage itself being set back from the road, I immediately could envision a beautiful summer day here. Crank open those garage doors and you’ve got the taproom flowing right out onto a perfect patio setup!

Jumping back to our reality: it’s Winter in Boston, so you could choose from inside the garage, the upstairs or a couple tables right near the entrance. This isn’t a huge place and it was a full house on our visit, but still a very comfortable place to spend a Saturday. They had games for the kids and us childish adults to enjoy, and a local company of some sort was in to serve food later in the afternoon as well. Very solid setup for the establishment.

The Beer

Let’s get to business. Judging the taste of anything can be quite subjective. We all have our preferences. Of the seven beers Turtle Swamp had on tap, three of them had coffee listed in the tasting notes. This temporarily broke my heart because coffee beer ain’t for me, but a BeerSeeker tries all. When drinking anything potentially coffee flavored, I go all in. Give me that ABV! This leads me to the first beer I’d like to highlight:

Double-Take Pick

Skwashbuckle (Imperial Porter) 10.7% ABV

Turtle Swamp’s menu graciously included tasting notes on it, so here’s what we got:

  • Blackstrap molasses

  • Whole cinnamon stick

  • Dark brown sugar

  • Pumpkin pie

  • Coffee

Let me preface this section with a quick disclaimer: our Double-Take Pick is the beer we tried that surprised us in a good way; one we didn’t expect to like as much as we did. Hence the name, this beer caught us off guard to the point we felt it deserved a mention.

This one is hardly in my typical wheelhouse, but I came out of it pleasantly surprised! The hint of coffee is there for sure, but it’s just a hint. This was a thick, dark beer as everything in the description would imply, but there wasn’t one overpowering flavor to it. It went down smooth.

What hooked me was the obvious taste of pumpkin pie as it goes down and through to the aftertaste. This isn’t comparable to any sort of pumpkin beer by any means, but if you like pumpkin flavor, give this a try. Just don’t drink too many of these bad boys! Leave room for our picks:

Nick’s Pick

The Monument (Double IPA) 9% ABV

  • Dried fruit mix

  • Caramelized sweet plantains

  • Spruce tips

Nick gives a live review of The Monument on the podcast episode that we'll be debuting soon! Give that segment a listen when we release it, but the analysis here was clear: Nick loved this double IPA. He went so far as to say that it belongs on his list of top 10 double IPAs of all-time. While I put the pressure on Nick to reveal that list to the world, here’s what he had to say more specifically:

“The Monument had the hops of an IPA, but not overpowering like you might expect from a double. It had the hints of fruit as the notes mention, but it was never too sweet. Great balance, hell of an IPA.”

Steve’s Pick

All Ears (Golden Ale) 5% ABV

  • Fresh sweet corn

  • Corn tortillas

  • Earthy and grassy

I’d be lying if I said corn, tortillas and grass came through on this one for me, BUT this is absolutely my kind of beer. It has the drinkability of the common light beers you may default to when you are too lazy to look at a menu to find something new, but it certainly was more flavorful. It’s likely more comparable to a few of my favorite pilsners, such as Pilsner Urquel for example. I’d define this as a very crisp beer, and while I dismissed the grassiness of it previously, I could agree with the Earthiness. A refreshing brew!

Final Word

We don’t go to Jamaica Plain often, but we would happily go back to visit our friends at Turtle Swamp. In fact, I will absolutely be going back when the weather’s nice. I can’t truly finalize my review without taking in the Swamp in all its glory, garage doors open and all. Give me a few months and you’ll get the real final word then.

In the meantime, check out Turtle Swamp and everything they have to offer online, or make your way to 3377 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

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