Sunday, April 20, 2008

Beer O' The Moment - Magic Hat Lucky Kat

While I have always appreciated the fervor with which the folks at Magic Hat have tried to spread the notion of diversity in beer drinking, there have been precious few of their beers that I have found myself craving on a regular basis even though I find all of them competent and priced popularly.

Magic Hat has also been good at experimentation, forcing numerous styles on the American beer drinking public. Some of these styles (St. Gootz) were a success, others (Kerouac) interesting failures. They also have the best brewery website I can find.

Magic Hat has gone down the IPA road a few times before, with mixed results. Their most well-known offering is the now-retired Blind Faith, which was a good if not great English IPA. It lacked the hop character to which American IPA drinkers are accustomed, and therefore was probably ushered out to keep the hop-fantatics (such as yours truly) happy. Their Hi.P.A. is a decent brew, but in today's age where it seems every brewery is trying to come up with a signature, flagship IPA, the Magic Hat folks could probably see they needed something a little different; they needed something a little stronger.

Enter Lucky Kat. While I'm not sure I'm 100% in love with the name of this new concoction, I do have to say that I'm impressed with the beer itself. While I am not necessarily a proponent of more "extreme" beers, this one was a nice step up for a brewery that takes chances but doesn't necessarily take great leaps.

The beer is very nice to look at, and the most IPA-looking IPA they have come out with. It's dark orange and hazy, just the way it should be; it glows from within like a Christmas tree light. It pours a big fluffy head.

The aroma foreshadows a piney, woody IPA. There is some definite grassy pine action going on in the smell. It also takes the risk of putting in some oak. (Note: I've been told that I often sense oak where oak does not exist. I have sensed it in grape juice, caesar salad and my air conditioner so take that observation with a grain of salt.) The smell is nicely balanced, with some sweet and bready malt peeking its head out briefly.

The taste follows through on the promise of the smell, for the most part. The hops are definitely of the distinctly woody variety, and yes, that oaky flavor comes in too. It's altogether very grassy and outdoorsy, with the oily pine flavor dominating. It could use as much balance in the flavor as it does in the aroma, as the hops dominate the flavor completely, leaving only the very end of the swallow to make room for the malt to come in. This isn't a bad thing, as most imperial IPAs give the hops center stage, but a little more of the nicely toasted malt would have been a nice touch. The beer feels thick and oily, even a little milky, but smooth.

While I'm not going to say that this is an unadulterated home run for Magic Hat, I was surprised at how deep this beer is, and packed with flavor. Perhaps it's the silky, thick mouthfeel that surprised me the most. Either way, it's Magic Hat's best IPA to date, and if it sells well enough, it might be their last crack at the formula. I think they might be on to something.

1 comment:

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