Some breweries prefer to make beer that is restrained and balanced, named after the traditional beer style that inspired the brew. Clown Shoes Brewing in Ipswich, MA prefers to smack you right in the face with big, bold flavors, occasionally crazy ingredients, and typically high ABV. They also have eye-catching labels and names that include “Vampire Slayer”, “Trampstamp”, “Lubrication” and “Muffin Top”. The beers are contract brewed, and can be found on draft, in 22 oz. bottles, and just recently in 12 oz bottles too.
One trend in craft beer has been the development of hoppy lagers. This trend makes a lot of sense, you take the hop profile of the ubiquitous American IPA, with the bitter flavor and citrus, pine and tropical fruit aromas, and add them to a clean, crisp lager body. While many of these hoppy lagers take the traditional grain bills of German classics, Clown Shoes Swagger makes the equivalent of an American Red/Amber Ale with the hop profile of an IPA and the crisp body resulting from the cold temperatures used in fermenting with lager yeast. I was intrigued by the combination and felt the need to try a few bottles.
Clown Shoes Swagger pours a clear red/brown with a small white head. The initial smell is a mixture of American hops cut grass and citrus along with some malt. The bottle says it is dry hopped with Citra and Simcoe hops, two varieties that have become very popular with craft brewers due to their citrus/tropical fruit aromas. Despite that the aroma is a little weaker than I would like in a hop-forward beer. The taste is pretty balanced, some solid bitterness, lemon and earthy flavors from the hops balanced with a strong malt backbone with caramel and butter flavors. It is possible that the batch wasn’t as fresh as I would like for a hop-forward beer, the hop aroma dissipates over time even when the beer is stored properly. Despite this, it is a clever idea and a solid brew, and drinkable at 6.0% ABV. Hoppy Boston score: 3.5/5.