My friend, and fellow beer buddy, Larry Hallahan once called me “the Will Rogers of beer-drinkers”. He was of course, inferring that I had never met a beer I didn’t like. A good-natured jest, perhaps, yet somewhat fitting. I do like most of the beers I have met, but there are a few I wish had never crossed my path.
There are lots of detestable, mass-marketed beers taking up valuable space on our packie shelves. Corona Extra “Ooze from Satan’s Bowels!” comes immediately to mind. Mix inferior grains, cheap, low-quality hops, corn syrup and unthinkably nasty water, then combine that with a gazillion dollar marketing campaign and PRESTO! Success! Aimed at teenagers with under-developed taste buds and hipster wannabees who imagine all the bikini-clad beauties they’ll be swinging with after they drink themselves pretty are gulping that shite by the gallon! It’s not just bland and flavorless as some reviewers suggest. It smells like moldy old baby diapers that were trapped for months in a damp hamper. Everyone loves their own small children, and can accept such “aromas”, but it’s not something you should have to endure from your beer. To be fair; Corona only tastes like wet cardboard with a few rusty nails imbedded in it. No wonder everyone rushes to squeeze a lime into the bottle top. It keeps the stench down and prevents you from accidently ingesting any. It rivals Michelob Amber in its wretchedness!
But the purpose of this article isn’t to rip on Corona (too late?) it’s to rip a few of the beers that are pouring out of some of our own New England “craft” breweries. These are the beers gone bad, or”The Beer recipes best abandoned”
To be honest, I once brewed a beer that was so putrid my dog refused a hotdog boiled with it. In fact, she snarled at the free meal like it was her mortal enemy. The larger point being; I didn’t assault my family and friends with this brew once it was established it was best served to a toilet.
“Friends don’t let friends drink bad beer” – Larry Hallahan
Harpoon…you’re a very well-established brewery. You make some nice, flavorful styles of beers, worth ordering at the bar or taking home. Your ‘100 Barrel Series’ turn out some amazing representations of styles that capture the essence of its country of origination, and then some, but…,why,…WHY ever would you unleash your “Imperial Pumpkin Stout” against the masses?
It’s as if someone had a large vat of overly sulfured blackstrap molasses and accidently spilled a bitter stout in it. Then, in an attempt to mask the overwhelmingly pungent smell and taste of this odd concoction, they decided to add pumpkin rind, a fistful of spices and harsh booze into the mix. There you have it. This is a New England Beer gone BAD! Call NATO in to oversee its removal and destruction.
White Birch Barley Wine Ale…Never had much luck with White Birch beers in general. Their styles, the ones tried, have all missed the mark in one way or another. But this beer doesn’t seem to connect to anything remotely resembling an American-style Barley Wine. The color is reminiscent of sun-dried blood spilled in the dirt. No shine, no luster, no life. In fact, there is no head, even after a fairly aggressive pour. The aroma is fairly bland and lacks any outstanding, redeeming qualities. A bit of cellar must, fig, a touch of caramel malt, a faint citrusy hop smell, and a little white rum fuminess rises at first pour. The smell of wet paper comes into play, but then the whole thing just goes phhhit and quits. The flavors match the smells fairly evenly, so at least a little credit is due there. An odd astringent taste of green banana rind repulses the buds as the other flavors just sort of come undone, forming a muddled mess. Didn’t the brewer small batch test this recipe before making a shit-load of it? Perhaps having his dog test sample a hotdog steamed in this mistake would have served as a warning.
Shipyard Pumpkinhead…Not to be confused with Shipyard’s Imperial Pumpkin (GREAT STUFF!!)
This is a really wimpy Pumpkin Ale. It pours a pale orange-hued brassy color with a fast dissipating white head and nearly no lingering lace. The aroma is faintly of pumpkin and nutmeg with a whiff of bread dough. The body is thin and watery, lightly sweet and a bit doughy. The hops are mildly applied and offer a light lime-like sourness. The flavor of pumpkins is more of a subliminal suggestion. You may think you taste actual pumpkin, but really it's more the spices and mild aroma playing tricks on your olfactory senses. If you’re going to brew Pumpkin Ale, put some F#@%ing pumpkin in the process. This is an idea best abandoned by an otherwise good brewery.
Sorry Magic Hat #9 nice brewery, meh beer. What is #9? Maybe a reference to John Lennon’s repetitious refrains on the "White" Album? And what’s with the hippyish label design. Ah, I'm beginning to see the psychedelic connection here. A more significant question is; why add the essence of fruit flavoring (apricot) to a beer when it would be a far better achievement to brew the apricots into the beer like a Lambic? I don't know. While it’s not really an awful beer, it certainly could be much more. #9 is a little too thin and the added flavoring masks the hop flavor. Interesting nose though!
Well, there you are. As uncomfortable as it is for me to write bad things about any beer, brewery or brewer, I thought you, the consumer should at least be forewarned about the above beers. You are welcome!