The crafty brewers at Magic Hat Brewing Co. (in South Burlington, Vt.) have put together a sampler pack just in time for summer. City Paper got a hold of three new beers this week: a brand-new pale ale called Blind Faith Summer IPA, a zesty Wild Ginger Ale: Summer Odd Notion '10, and a new rendition of the beet-infused Wacko.
Magic Hat enjoys a well-earned reputation for producing unusual ales — some of which tamper with elements of classic beer styles, while others whimsically dart in new directions. The brewers push familiar brewing styles to the limits, often with remarkable results.
Magic Hat's new stuff offers an impressive variety of flavors and textures. The sampler 12-pack isn't simply a polite collection of mildly altered pale ales or wheat beers.
The pinkish-red Wacko is the oddball of the bunch. Last year's version was a little tart and fizzy compared to this new batch. The 2010 Wacko is more carefully balanced, with an earthy aroma, a light body, and a maltier, nuttier flavor. They achieve the shocking red color by adding a bit of beet extract. At a low strength of 4.5 percent a.b.v., it's light and drinkable, with a quick, crisp, dry finish. Try it with a twist of lime or an additional glug of ginger ale.
If Wacko aims for subtle malt and hop flavors, the Wild Ginger Ale: Summer Odd Notion '10 (5.5 percent a.b.v.) doesn't hold back at all. A pale ale brewed with cloves and fresh Jamaican ginger, it's got some spicy kick to it. It looks like a fruit-infused wheat beer: hazy, nicely conditioned with a healthy head on top, and golden-orange in color. The aroma is sweeter than expected, with hints of butterscotch and candy corn underneath the ginger and citrusy hop notes. The first few sips start a bit malty and sweet before the heat from the ginger and the spicy clove flavors arrive, finishing things with a pleasing, lingering dryness. Refreshing and tantalizing, this one's almost a hybrid of a Belgian blonde, American pale, and Bavarian wheat — great for pairing with grilled summer fare or spicy Caribbean dishes.
Blind Faith Summer IPA (6.2 percent a.b.v.) stands out as the big daddy among the three new samples. Bold and malty, it's accented with loads of hop flavor and bitterness. The spiral craziness in the cosmic night illustration on the label might imply some typical Magic Hat wackiness, but it falls in line with traditional India Pale Ale characteristics.
A basic schedule of pale and crystal malts keeps things straightforward with this medium-bodied ale. On the malt end, the big, toasty flavor leans toward the London originators (the first few sips might remind the drinker of a fresh pint of Fuller's E.S.B. or Whitbread Pale Ale). The citrusy/grassy essence of Apolla and Cascade hops comes through nicely in the finish, adding a familiarly American impression on the palate. This one's worth stocking for summer and beyond.