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Beer Review #251 Encore IPA

The last beer in my winter sampler from Magic Hat Brewing Company is Encore IPA. The bottle says that this is an American Wheat IPA and that it comes in at 6.4%. I’ve seen other breweries refer to wheat IPAs as white IPAs and I am glad that Magic Hat has decided not to follow suit. There really is not a need to distinguish a typical IPA from one made with a higher percentage of wheat malt. I understand the different naming for a black IPA, but most wheat IPAs look like a cloudy version of their base style.

Encore IPA pours a cloudy orange color and has a fluffy white head. The head sinks away quickly in the center and sticks to the sides of the glass. The nose is full of bright citrus hops. I didn’t get any malt smells but I did get a bit of an orange tang, that I will attribute to the hops.

You get a nice malt feeling when first tasting this beer but the malt doesn’t have any stand out characteristics. A good hop bitterness comes in quickly and provides a lot of flavor. The citrus hops start as an orange-like flavor and then move into grapefruit before finishing cleanly. On subsequent sips, the citrus flavor carries though the whole beer and is not only relegated to the second half.

This is not super bitter IPA. I didn’t leave me with a punched in the face by hops feeling but it is full of flavor. I enjoy IPAs that don’t only focus on bitterness but instead focus on hop flavor. It’s a fine line, but Magic Hat did a very nice job on this one. As the last post about Magic Hat beers for this sampling, I want to reiterate how much I enjoyed this group of beers. Each beer was solid and provided some surprises. I would rate the beers in order of review for likeability in my book. All of the beers were good, but the Heart of Darkness stout was just killer. (more…)

Beer Review #250 Wooly ESB

I have reached the 250 beer review mark. I consider myself accomplished, my wife and parents think that I drink too much. Today’s beer review is the second of three beers that Magic Hat Brewing Company sent me. The bottle says that this beer is an ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, with spruce. I’m not generally a fan of spruce flavored things as it makes me think about tree sap a bit too much. Extra Special Bitter is a bit of a misnomer for many newcomers to craft beer. They are expecting something really hoppy, and an ESB just isn’t that. ESB is an English beer style that, while significantly more bitter than an English Mild, is not all that bitter in the grand scheme of things.

Wooley pours a wonderful clear orange color. It has a thin white head that clings to the side of the glass. The nose is nice and malty. It’s an interesting mike of sweet and dry that you often find in English style beers. There are also some dried fruit odors that are probably the result of the yeast strain used to make this beer. There is a slightly spicy hop smell that lingers in the background along with a slight hint of spruce. Since the spruce was so light in the nose, it gave me hope that it wasn’t going to overwhelm the beer/my taste buds.

There is a nice dose of malt and biscuit on the front end of this beer. It is followed with the fruity esters found in the nose, mainly small bits of plum and cherry. The hops come in on the second half and do a nice job of replacing the other flavors in a balanced way. The hops are slightly spicy and the spruce gives a nice resin taste that adds to the bitterness. Everything mixes nicely to give this beer an earthy quality that I always enjoy.

As I said at the beginning of this review, I’m usually not a fan of spruce flavored anything,but this beer does a good job of keeping that flavor in check. I really enjoyed sipping on this one while getting caught up on episodes of American Horror Story. This beer comes in at 4.5% and I can imagine downing one of these after shoveling some snow when you don’t want something heavy but you also want something with some balls. It’s refreshing and crisp, while delivering plenty of flavor.  (more…)

Beer Review #249 Heart of Darkness

The good folks at Magic Hat Brewing Company just sent me a sampler of their Winter Variety pack. Before I get the reviews up I do want to mention that this is my favorite sampler set that they have sent me. Each beer is solid and worth getting. This isn’t me blowing smoke either, I really enjoyed this winter sampling and I’ll probably go out and pick up a case for my holiday parties.

When I saw the Heart of Darkness on the the label I immediately thought of an episode of The Wonder Years when Kevin, Paul, and a troubled friend go out on an illegal camping trip (they lied to their parents). Kevin smokes cigarettes, Paul gets drunk, and they both realize that those activities are not right for their lives. This Heart of Darkness is a bit different, but oddly enough, beer is part of both entities. This stout pours a dark black color has has a thin white head that fades away quickly. The nose is packed with chocolate and roasted flavors. I got a bit of coffee in there as well. There is a slight mention of hops in the background but the other odors really wash it out.

As far as stouts go, you generally have the roasty ones that kill you or the roasty ones that are more subtle. This beer goes more towards the killing range, but in a really nice way. The roasted dark malts and chocolate are really strong at the beginning, but unlike a lot of stouts with similar characteristics, this one get balanced with some nice caramels that come in halfway through the taste and wash away to roast.

I wouldn’t call this stout creamy, but the mouthfeel is full and pleasant. This beer is really nice and roasty but the balance is really, really nice. I’m surprised that this one only came in at 5.7%. Generally the strong chocolates and roasted malts in a beer like this mean that it comes with a with a higher ABV. The last line of my notes say “two thumbs up,” and I think that says everything you need to say about getting this beer. (more…)

Beer Review #232 Hex Ourtoberfest

Disclaimer: This beer was sent to me by the brewery as a promotional sample

The other beer that Magic Hat Brewing Company sent to me in the sampler was an Oktoberfest, or as they call it an Ourtoberfest. I really dig Oktoberfest beers as they fit so perfectly in the fall chill that begins to take over the Northeast. I’ve reviewed a almost two dozen Oktoberfest beers since this site started and except for a few exceptions, I really dig these beers.

Hex Ourtoberfest pours a nice clear amber color with a slight off-white head protecting the liquid below. All in all, it looks like an American Oktoberfest. I have generally found traditional German Oktoberfest beers to be lighter in color and lighter in caramel flavor compared to their American counterparts. Hex is decidedly in the American range of Oktoberfest beers. The nose is exactly what I hoped it would be, bready, malty, and solid caramels. In addition to the malt there is a slight hop spiciness that trickles through the whole nose.

I was really excited to try Hex Ourtoberfest on my first sip and I wasn’t disappointed. Everything in the nose comes out right away in the beer. The caramels with hints of toffee flow through the beer as do the bread flavors. I often find a lot of Oktoberfest beers to be too far on the sweet side but this one is very balanced. The spicy hops that were in the nose are present in the flavor of the beer as well. The are solid in there with a slight pine component. They provide a nice counterpart to the vast array of malt flavors.

This beer comes in at 5.4% which I consider sessionable. I thought that this one was pretty good. The slight pine flavor on the hops wasn’t something that I was expecting, but it didn’t take away from the beer at all. If you are a fan of American Oktoberfests this one will float your boat. (more…)

Beer Review #231 Hocus Pocus

Disclaimer: This beer was sent to me by the brewery as a promotional sample

The good folks at Magic Hat Brewing Company hooked me up again with a sampler pack of their fall selection. Today’s beer is Hocus Pocus, a beer that hasn’t been brewed since 2008 but was brought back by popular demand. Along with out next review they sent a bottle of Hi.P.A which I reviewed over 200 beers ago. As a quick review, it is a solid IPA that mixes hops and malt very nicely. I enjoyed having it again after a few years of evolving taste buds.

Hocus Pocus is a wheat beer that comes in at a tiny 4.5% ABV. It’s meant to be sessionable and drinkable. I had this beer several years ago but I never had the chance to review it and to be honest, I don’t remember much about it other then its logo. Hocus Pocus pours a nice golden straw color with a thin white head. For a wheat beer, this one was super clear. The nose has some great floral hops that hit you at first and are quickly followed by some nice wheaty grain. A good dose of citrus comes in at the end of the breath which really rounded out the nose on this one.

Up front this beer has some honey-like sweetness that gives way to a slight citrus punch. A nice bready flavor also fades into compliment the rest of the malt flavors. There is a hop note that is present during most of the drink but it’s not a biting hop, just flavor. I found it very nice as a strong bittering component would have overpowered the malt.

I really liked this one. It’s perfect for those warm fall days that fade into brisk fall nights. This one might become my Sunday afternoon football beer as it doesn’t pack a lot of ABV’s but has some really nice flavors going on. I’m glad that Magic Hat brought this one back as I think it is one of their better seasonal beers. (more…)