Sunday, July 29, 2007

Quick Take: Magic Hat Kerouac

The folks at Magic Hat continue to frustrate us.

By all accounts, they are a class operation that really does a great job of not only marketing their product -- their Vermont-based beers are all over Central New York -- but also remaining interactive with their "fans," getting them to vote on beers, come up with names, and decide which batches should stay and which should go. They seem to be true advocates of the craft of brewing.

Additionally, they are constantly refining their product, turning over their product very efficiently for each season, and putting out new, sometimes experiemental beers. Some of them are fantastic (Roxy Rolles), and some of them didn't quite hit us the right way (Jinx).

But our main problem is that they don't always seem to make the most sound decisions when it comes to their beers. They market the hell out of their #9 (and rightfully so, given that it's probably the East Coast's number one "gateway beer" for non-beer drinkers), but it's impossible to find Roxy Rolles at this time of year.

Also, according to Wikipedia, they have discontinued brewing their decent Blind Faith IPA and pleasant Fat Angel pale ale. [Note: I won't mind this so much if they start pushing their Hi.P.A. a little harder and come out with a comparable pale ale.]

On a quick jaunt to Clark's Ale House recently, we noticed that Magic Hat was offering a brew of whose existence we had not been aware: Kerouac. (The beer is not mentioned on Magic Hat's website.) Since all the Magic Hat brews have a kind of hippie vibe, the name didn't really intrigue us as much as some of the other "tribute" beers we had tried in the past -- notably He'Brew's tribute to Lenny Bruce and Lagunitas's homage to Frank Zappa. (Besides, we read On the Road and it bored the shit out of us.)

We asked the barkeep what kind of brew this was, to which he replied "beet ale." Given the name of the beer, we had assumed that the bartender had meant "beat ale," as in the Beat Generation of Kerouac, Ginsburg, Burroughs, etc. Who would make a beer out of beets? But it soon became apparent that this brew was certainly not normal.

It pours a very bright red that looks more like some kind of juice that would come from an empty jar of cherries. It does not look like beer. It was at this point that we figured out that it truly was a "beet ale". The smell is almost non-existant; it is a very slight cherry (or we suppose beet) smell, but very slight. The rest of the smell is a bitter malt. The taste doesn't offer very much in the way of blowing our proverbial skirt up. There is that same bitter Bavarian malt taste that the smell foretold, but really not much else. It's almost like a winter ale, but without any of that tart sweetness whatsoever. And although the feel of the ale is a relatively welcome creamy viscosity, the drinking experience overall is simply dull. Ironically, because the beer is so bland and inoffensive, it's actually a pretty easy drinkin' brew. Still, Kerouac Beet Ale seems a long way to go for a pun.

We will always be rooting for Magic Hat, because we think it's got the right spirit for the beer-drinking public. Furthermore, we would rather have a brewery that takes risks and comes up with new and exciting batches, as opposed to those breweries that play it safe and dull. But this beet ale didn't quite get the job done.


Lew Bryson said...

(Besides, we read On the Road and it bored the shit out of us.)

I knew there was something I liked about you guys...

Bojangles said...

At least it's an interesting idea. It looks like that Wikipedia entry on Magic Hat could use a little fleshing out, you up for it?

Bill said...

The feeling is most certainly mutual, Mr. Bryson.

Boj: I have already created so many Wikipedia pages. The NFL team and individual records pages, the page for Party Fun Action Committee. What's one more? Does that mean we have to do research??? ULGH!