I typically don’t write negative reviews on Hoppy Boston. Most of the beers I try range from solid to spectacular, for all of the bitching in certain segments of beer media the vast majority of breweries know what they are doing and make a quality product. Every so often I taste a beer with an obvious flaw (diacetyl, acetaldehyde, oxidation, etc.), and I dump the beer and send a quick note to the brewery to let them know. These notes have typically been very well received. Occasionally I taste something that is kind of a mess, a weird concept that didn’t come together, a poorly made beer, or a combination of the two, and I usually just dump it and move on. I’ve also visited a few breweries that clearly need to work on their craft, and I usually just don’t go back. I honestly hate writing negative reviews, I know that most brewers and brewery owners pour their hearts into their product and I don’t like to trash their work. I would rather that the majority of beer reviews on Hoppy Boston are recommendations, I love it when a reader says that they tried a beer after reading a review and loved it. I have caught some flak for this philosophy from certain people, saying that my grades are inflated and that I need to mix in poor reviews. In general I don’t care, it’s my site and I can write whatever I want, but I do understand the arguments for mixing in an occasional negative review.
I ran into this conundrum the other week when Cheeky Monkey Brewery sent me a sample 4-pack of The Devil’s Carnival, an IPA brewed for their Halloween party, which happened last weekend. I tried the beer and it was a mess, the aroma was immediately off-putting and I couldn’t get through more than a couple sips before I dumped it. I mused about the experience on Twitter (without mentioning what brewery/beer I had tasted) and asked my followers for their opinions on writing negative reviews. The overwhelming response was that I should write the review. So I opened another can this weekend and had the same experience. I know the beer is relatively fresh, it was sent to me a couple weeks ago and I immediately stored it in my beer fridge. I tried two different cans are they were the same. I also had my wife, I huge IPA fan, try it to make sure it wasn’t just me, she also found the beer to be undrinkable. This is my first beer from Cheeky Monkey, I had been hoping to check out their brewery near Fenway at some point soon, so I don’t know if this is a one-time issue or a common problem. I would be very happy to hear from others who have been and see what their experiences are.
Cheeky Monkey The Devil’s Carnival IPA pours clear light brown with a massive off-white head. The aroma is all caramel malts, zero hop aroma on the nose. The beer is also malt forward, flavors of malt extract, toffee and brown sugar along with a cloying sweetness. If you try really hard you can pick out a little hop flavor, the slightest hint of orange and grass with zero bitterness, you would never guess this is supposed to be an IPA. The Devil’s Carnival is medium-bodied and about average for the modern IPA style at 7.2% ABV. The finish is all malt extract and sweetness. I really hope this beer isn’t representative of what Cheeky Monkey does, or that something went wrong in the canning run. They clearly sent this out to a number of local beer writers/Instagram accounts to publicize the event, I saw some social posts but little commentary on the beer itself, so I am not sure what others thought of it. I am hoping this is just a bad day for the brewery and that the next Cheeky Monkey beer I try is much better, because this was a mess and the batch should have been dumped. Hoppy Boston score: 1.0/5.