The MK Experiment

A Q&A with Rapscallion Head Brewer Jonas Noble about the evolving Mk IPA series.

What inspired the series?   JonasSo my first thought in developing a new IPA was to find a simple way to name/number them while in the development stage. Since we have decided here to keep our beer names short and to the point I went with a term used by manufacturers to number new models. “Mark” is defined as a particular model or type of a vehicle, machine, or device. In other words when something is redesigned, improved or changed, it can be the new mark or mark 2 and so on. The term was actually used in the recent Marvel “Iron Man” movies as well distinguishing the different, evolving suits. Ever since we started at the Sturbridge brewery location there never has been a flagship IPA. We have experimented with lots of types of IPAs but never an everyday IPA. When a new beer is developed I think it should be developed with the customers and we have such a diverse group that comes in all the time. They are the best test kitchen I could ask for.

Tell us about each beer and how the recipes for each informed the others.
The base beer on Mk1 – Mk4 was the same with some minor changes. The most significant variable was the hops. I tried different combinations and quantities, factoring in customer feedback. Mk5 has taken a different route with a different base beer utilizing the hop combination from Mk4. To be a great recipe I think it must evolve and change until its just right. BaMKLabelby steps, as they say.

What has been the feedback on each of the beers so far? Anything surprising, or has it aligned with your thoughts?

I think it has been very positive. They all sold out faster than we could imagine. I think ultimately it’s about what the customers want so I’m doing my best to really listen and apply the feedback.

How many will there be in total?
As many as it takes to choose one and continue the series to experiment.

So, will there eventually be one that will be added to our mainstays and stick around? And would you start a new series of “Marks” then?MK5
My idea is to eventually have our house IPA and continue the series as an experimental venue.

These are your first new beers as head brewer other than Winterfest. What ideas are bouncing around in your head after experimenting with these new recipes?
Well there are so many interesting ingredients out there to try and this series is an avenue to try them. Maybe a new hop, yeasts, different base beers. It will turn into an experimental IPA series that should be fun for me and more fun for the customers to try. As much as I like flavorful hoppy beers I’m fascinated lately by beers like Pilsners and Lagers.

Are there any plans to introduce a new pilsner or lager at any point?
 I hope to have a seasonal Lager program in place within the next year. Having Harvard Lager on all the time but paired with a Pilsner, Oktoberfest, Dark Lager, India Pale Lager and so on based on the season.

Beer is as much of an art as it is a science. There are definitely lots of neat things to come!

Meet Felipe!

A quick Q&A with Felipe, the Chef of our new food truck – Rapscallion Mobile Kitchen, which perches outside our File_000 (7)brewery in Sturbridge, serving food Thursday through Sunday (hours & menu here):

What is the first thing you ever cooked?
There’s a common Brazilian dish made of leftovers such as rice, beans, steak and chicken. It was the perfect thing to cook up when your parents weren’t home or as a late night meal after a night out, and was the first thing I learned to make.

Tell us about a learning experience you had as a chef.
When my fiancée Cheryl owned The Oregon Club in Ashland, MA, we made a flan one night that split and couldn’t be served. Our solution was to add blackberry sauce, top it with amaretto whipped cream and serve it with fresh fruit in a martini glass. It was a hit. I learned that improvising is very important as a chef.

How does your Brazilian upbringing influence your cooking?
Brazilian food is all about bold flavors and fresh ingredients, so I’m always looking to spice things up. I’ve pickedFile_000 (9) up other influences along the way, such as Caribbean influences from working with my fiancée who traveled there extensively, and Italian influences from my time working in Southern Florida.

What do you enjoy about operating the food truck?
I’ve worked in every facet of the restaurant industry except in a food truck, so it has been a fun new challenge.

Are there any signature “Felipe” items on the menu?
My favorite menu item so far is the BBQ bourbon marinated steak tips with truffle fries. The marinade is my own recipe, a unique mix of bourbon and spices, making for tender and flavorful bites. The hot sauce is also my recipe, made with six different kinds of Brazilian peppers. And the fruit punch is my recipe as well: a blend of guava, mango, pineapple, Concord grape, caju fruit and passionfruit juices (the rest of the ingredients are secret).

Do you enjoy working in Sturbridge?
It reminds me of growing up in Brazil. I grew up on a farm and was raised on homecooking. Game dinners were very common there as well.

What do you envision for the future of the food truck?
I hope to continue to cook from scratch, changing the menu seasonally and utilizing local farms and vendors to keep things as fresh as possible.

Pictured: The Brazilian Burger – topped with sausage, bacon, a fried egg and special sauce.

Meet Shaun & Erin of Green Light Disc Golf!

With the first tournament on the horizon at the newly redesigned Rapscallion Disc Golf course, we asked our partners at Green Light Disc Golf – Shaun LaForce and Erin Tivnan – to tell us more about what brought them to this point, both as players and tournament organizers with a passion for this growing sport.

ShaunErinHow long have you played disc golf and how did you learn about the game?

Erin: I have been playing since 1997, making this my 18th year knowing about the sport. I learned about it from some friends that did some volunteer work when the course was being built at Buffumville Dam in Charlton, MA.  I didn’t play often the first 10 or so years I knew about the game (maybe a few times each year) but I started learning how amazing the local disc golf community was 8 years ago when I started playing leagues and meeting new people that shared my passion for this game. I have made some of the greatest friends in the disc golf community that have become like family. I also met Shaun playing disc golf; we met at a Sunday morning league at Buffumville and the rest is history!

Shaun: I first learned about disc golf while going to school at Cape Cod Community College in 2000. There was a 9-hole course on campus, and a classmate brought me out for my first time, and I can honestly say I didn’t like it much. It was more difficult than it seemed. I couldn’t get the disc to fly straight, and I was constantly looking for my disc in the bushes. I didn’t play again until 1 year later, when I went out with a good friend Zach Adams, and his cousin Jake Gould at the Buffumville course. Jake is a talented player and was adamant about getting my friends and I to fall in love with the game, and that he did. After getting the proper discs in our hands, along with some direction on technique, we were hooked!

GreenLight_finalHow and when did Green Light Disc Golf start?

Erin: We are both long-time tournament players, and always envisioned ourselves being a part of the disc golf scene throughout our lives. As we got older and obligations grew, traveling and playing events week in and week out, became less and less. At this point we felt we needed to seek a different way to continue being a part of it. With disc golf creating so many different friendships and avenues for us along the way (locally and across the country), we felt it was appropriate to give back what disc golf has given us. We had talked about making our dream a reality for a few years but never acted upon it until one day Shaun said he had a name for our dream- Green Light, which to us means “GO FOR IT”. We both immediately loved the name and began thinking of ways we could make it a reality. We decided we would give it a try and ran some tournaments in October of 2014. Since then we have run several dozen events throughout the area and have had tremendous support from the community.

How did you go about designing the new Rapscallion course layout?

Erin & Shaun: We first met with a group of people at Rapscallion Brewery in the fall of 2015 to discuss the possibilities of a potential redesign of the existing 9 hole course. For us, having the opportunity to design a course in this type of environment was a perfect fit. After months of planning, the train started rolling and we were underway. The course was redesigned with the idea of creating a disc golf atmosphere that was FUN for all, whether you are a new player, or a seasoned pro. We had feedback from A LOT of different disc golfers as we were figuring out the design so we feel that the holes reflect many different types of shots and styles of a player’s game (righty, lefty, backhand, forehand, tight, open, short, long, technical, etc.).

The fact that the property had an older course’s footprint made it tricky in deciding how to change it enough to become a true redesign. We also had half the land to work with to start, and wanted to fit 18 legitimate holes. We decided to try walking it backwards to see the land from a different perspective so we wouldn’t just see the “old course”.  The first few initial walk-throughs went well but we kept coming up short on 18 holes. We had to keep changing things as we explored new areas, and at the same time, trying to improve upon flow, as well as creating a variety of shots.

What excites you about this course and its history that made Green Light decide to partner with Rapscallion?

Erin & Shaun: First and foremost, the property, the people, and the environment are what excite us the most about this place. With different types of events throughout each week geared toward young kids and families to young adults/older adults, from familiar faces to new faces, it’s an awesome establishment enjoyed by so many people. Rapscallion is even pet-friendly. Knowing that such a variety of people visit Rapscallion, we felt it was an awesome chance to bring disc golf to lots of new people. It has proved itself so far as we have had so many new players out on the course since we opened. Combined with the simple fact that disc golf once lived here on the property, and knowing how much it had been missed, we were thrilled to have a chance to be a part of the new course.

We feel very fortunate to be involved with this project, as working with the staff and volunteers at Rapscallion has been nothing short of amazing! We have a phenomenal relationship with the staff and we have some mighty talented and hardworking individuals that have helped the course come together in such a short time. We had over 1200 volunteer man hours put into the course in a three month span which goes to show the type of team we are working with at Rapscallion Disc Golf!

What is the state of disc golf in the area and more so in Massachusetts?

Erin & Shaun: The sport has grown in popularity so much since we started playing in the late 90s/early 2000’s. Central Massachusetts has gained a ton of new courses since then and they continue to expand and pop up each year. This is also true for the whole region- there are currently 286 documented courses located in New England, 54 of them in Massachusetts! We are fortunate to have a great local organization with approximately 2000 members; the New England Flying Disc Association (NEFA) that has helped spread the awareness of disc golf, as well as fund many new courses throughout New England. On a larger scale, the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) currently has over 87,000 members which has more than doubled since we joined in the mid to late 2000s.  It is amazing that we have so many disc golf players and such a variety of courses now to choose from, and we are happy to have been a part of designing one of them and helping to #growthesport.

IMG_1559Where do you see Rapscallion Disc Golf in the future?

Erin & Shaun: We still have plenty of items to check off of our “to do” list to get the course to the point we envisioned it when we started the project but overall we are satisfied with our progress so far.

Short term we plan to continue to eradicate the poison ivy that has made an unwelcome presence on parts of the land, however we are making steady progress. We have plenty of clean-up and beautifying to accomplish in the future as well but we have a driven, dedicated, and passionate team who shares the same goals and vision.

We are looking towards getting a pro shop built on Hole 1 as soon as possible and also some functional hang-out areas for players and spectators to congregate before, during and after a round. We are also excited to announce that we will have 20 adjoining acres to explore in a few years, lending it to endless possibilities of what we could do to make this place even more special.

New Menu at Table & Tap!

A quick Q&A with Chef Ian on our new menu…

Tthirteenable & Tap recently launched a new menu. Can you highlight a few of the dishes for us?
The Harvest Salad will really capture the flavors of the season with fresh citrus complemented by smooth and rich avocado and our house-made black pepper croutons for a little crunch and spice. The Salmon Burger is a new dish off the smoker that will be topped with a house-made roasted red pepper aioli. Full of flavor. And the Steak Tip Frites combine local grass-fed beef tenderloin tips and parmesan truffle fries – definitely a hearty, satisfying plate.

How do you go about putting together a new menu? What shapes your decisions?
It starts with our clientele and the seasonal availability of ingredients. From there it’s all heart – I build menus from dishes I’m passionate about making.

Which dish is your favorite to prepare? To eat?
That’s tough, but I have to say from this menu it’s the Fish of the Moment; it varies from day to day and the recipe is driven by which ingredients are freshest, so I enjoy the variety and spontaneity. My favorite to eat is the pulled beef sandwich.

What do you anticipate being the most popular dish(es) with customers?
I think the most popular will be the Pulled Beef Sandwich, Salmon Burger, and the Steak Frites.

What do you like about cooking in the springtime?
I love spring because our bodies are lacking the nutrients from fresh local ingredients due to winter. It’s such fun to work with each new ingredient as they come in.

What is your interpretation of the “farm to table” movement and how is it in play at Table & Tap?
Food philosophy is like religion or politics; I try not to force my opinions down people’s throats so to speak… that being said, all of our meats for this menu come from New England. This has been a challenge in some ways as non-commodity meats are different in flavor, texture, size and shape. Our vegetables will be more local as the season produces them. We try to limit high carbon footprint items but make exceptions for some items like coffee and sugar whereas a strict farm-to-table approach would eliminate any ingredients that are not native. To me, “farm-to-table” represents the rebirth of food the way it should be: fresh, local and simple.

Hop Head Fest 2016

hopheadsquareWith our annual Hop Head Fest approaching on April 30th, we talked with our head brewer Shaun about this year’s event:

How many years has Hop Head Fest been put on? When/how/why did it start?
It was a tradition started several years ago in conjunction with an annual disc golf tournament on the orchard. The idea was Don Boutin’s and Pioneer Brewery hosted the first festivals. We picked up the tradition four years ago when we took over the brewing operation.

Who are some of the guest breweries participating this year? How many do you expect total?
This year we expect 13 breweries. So far we’ve confirmed Iron Duke, Wormtown, Flying Dreams, Willimantic, Pioneer, Paper City, a Kretschmann/Homefield collaboration, Bentley, and a Rapscallion/Charlton Beer Company collaboration.

Is there a particular beer you’re excited to try?
I’m excited to try Flying Dreams’ beer. It’s a newer brewery with a fantastic brewer which makes it exciting.

What makes a beer hoppy?
The hops that are added to the beer give the beer its hop profile: the bitterness in the beer is from the hops that are added to the start of the boil, and the aroma is from the later addition of hops.

How many kinds of hops are there?
There are hundreds of different types of hops out in the market with new varieties coming out every year.
sorachiDo you have a personal favorite?
My favorite hop right now would be Sorachi Ace. I like the coconut aroma and tropical flavor that it produces.

What do you like about this event?
The best part of the event is that it brings a bunch of local brewers together and gives us the opportunity to try some of the best beers in the area.