Hoppy Boston classic beer week continues with a review of Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale. I grew up and then went to college in Maine, while Boston is now home I still love vacationland. Throughout high school and during breaks in college I worked at a local specialty grocery store that catered to many of the area tourists and summer residents along with locals. The most popular things amongst the tourist crowd were often local products, fresh Maine lobster, blueberries, maple syrup, and local beer. This was before the current Maine beer renaissance, there was no Maine Beer Company, Bissell Brothers or Rising Tide, but there were still a strong selection of local offerings. One of my immediate favorites was D. L. Geary Brewing Company in Portland. Many of the beers that facilitated my transition from macro lagers to craft beer were brewed by Geary’s. In the winter months Geary’s brewed HSA, or Hampshire Special Ale, an assertive English style strong ale (HSA is now available year round), and it would frequently find its way into my college beer fridge. Geary’s HSA is brewed with pale, crystal and chocolate malts along with Cascade, Mt. Hood and East Kent Golding hops. It is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale pours a clear deep copper with a moderate off-white head. The scent is a mixture of roasty malts and old world style hoppiness. The malts lead the flavor, notes of caramel and grainy bread with just a hint of coffee. This is complemented by a solid dose of hops, touches of cut grass, earth and pine. The hops also contribute significant bitterness, not IPA level but you feel a solid kick as you drink. The beer is medium bodied and goes down smooth. By today’s standards the 7% ABV isn’t that strong for a “strong ale”, but it isn’t a session beer by any means. The finish is clean with a little hoppy bite. To this day this is probably my favorite Geary’s beer, tons of flavor and well balanced. Every time I drink HSA it reminds me of Maine and good times in college. Definitely worth picking up if you haven’t tried it before. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Geary’s Reviews:
Geary’s is one of those breweries that gets lost in the shuffle. Their beers are unapologeticly British, and they don’t chase trends. HSA is one of the old classics I try to circle back to whenever I come across it.
Agreed, while some other older breweries have tried to switch to hop-bomb IPAs and barrel-aged imperial stouts Geary’s has stuck to their guns. Not sure if it’s the best business decision, but I respect the choice and still enjoy their beers.