I try to keep this blog focused almost entirely on beer, occasionally I mix in some personal stories or something to do with Boston sports, but most of the posts are beer-centric. That doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions about other important topics, I have a number of very strong views about current events and politics. People who follow my personal Facebook page will occasionally see these opinions, mixed in with a heavy dose of pictures of my adorable 15 month old son. I just know that people can have irrationally strong opinions when it comes to politics, and the only debates I want to have on Hoppy Boston are about favorite breweries and beer styles. That being said, it’s a presidential election year and politics is seeping into everything, even the beer world. One example is Third Party Candidate, a beer re-issued by Clown Shoes Brewing Company with a new label and recipe. The new version of Third Party Candidate is an India Pale Lager that also acts as an official announcement of the presidential candidacy of their sales rep Phil “Filthy” Thomas. I’ll be interested to see how many write-in votes he gets, it might be quite a few considering the popularity (or lack thereof) of both major party candidates. Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate is available for a limited time on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.
Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate pours bright orange with a small white head. The scent is a scant mixture of floral and citrus hops. The hops lead the flavor, touches of lemon, cut grass, herbs and tangerine along with a little bitter bite. This is balanced by some light malt, notes of pale barley and white bread. Third Party Candidate is light bodied and very easy to drink, but packs a little punch at 7% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with a little lingering hop flavor. Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate is a solid beer, I personally could have used more hop aroma. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.
Previous Clown Shoes Reviews:
Clown Shoes Mango, Clown Shoes The Peace That Money Can’t Buy, Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher, Clown Shoes Swagger
I cannot believe today is the last day of August, this summer has flown by incredibly fast. I imagine that part of the issue was living in a fog for the last few months as I adapted to fatherhood (and a baby who is incredibly easy in most ways, except for a little problem with sleeping). Despite the fact that every single food and beverage item will be available in pumpkin flavor by tomorrow (if it wasn’t already) summer doesn’t immediately end on September 1st. Hell, we’re going to hit 90 in Boston this week. So while some people will finally give in and drink fall beers tomorrow, I am going to squeeze every drop out of summer that I can. One summery beer that I enjoyed recently is Mango, the new summer seasonal from Clown Shoes. Clown Shoes old summer seasonal was Crunkle Sam, an American Barleywine, because only a brewery like Clown Shoes would pair summer weather with a barleywine. Their new summer release is a little more weather-appropriate. Mango is a kolsch brewed with a healthy dose of hops and the addition of mango. Mango is available in 22 oz bombers while it lasts, grab some and celebrate some of the final weeks of warm weather!
Clown Shoes Mango pours a clear bright yellow with a moderate white head. The scent is a mixture of tropical fruit and floral hops. The mango is present in the flavor but subdued, it adds fruit flavor without overwhelming the beer. The hops also add a substantial punch, notes of orange, lemon, grass and earth. The malts round out the flavor, touches of pale grain and crackers. One minor quibble, some German yeast strains contribute a distinct clove or banana flavor that I don’t get here, without the label I’m not sure that I would have identified this beer as a kolsch instead of an American pale ale. Clown Shoes Mango is very light bodied and easy to drink, with a moderate 6.5% ABV. The finish is clean and dry, a refreshing beer for the last warm weeks of summer. Lots of Clown Shoes beers are in your face with every flavor taken to an 11, but I appreciated the lighter touches here. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Clown Shoes Reviews:
Clown Shoes The Peace That Money Can’t Buy, Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher, Clown Shoes Swagger
The website RateBeer.com put out their annual list of the best breweries in the world at the end of January (see the full list HERE). This list is compiled based on the scores given to individual beers by their website users and weighted by a whole bunch of factors that I don’t care to learn. I take all of these types of ratings with a gigantic grain of salt, I’ve written at length about how many of the users on these websites overrate hard to find beers and particular beer styles. Regardless, I couldn’t help scrolling through the list and checking out which local breweries were honored. Most of the breweries from New England were predictable, The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Allagash, Maine Beer Company, Smuttynose, Treehouse, Trillium and Jack’s Abby are all on many of these “best” or “favorites” lists locally and nationally. The one name that caught me a bit by surprise was Clown Shoes brewing company in Ipswich. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed a number of Clown Shoes beers, in particular they make some boozy and flavorful imperial stouts. I think part of my issue with Clown Shoes are some of their beer names, particularly early releases like Muffin Top, Tramp Stamp and Lubrication. I find that some breweries who resort to suggestive or borderline offensive names as a way to sell beer do it because the product alone is subpar (I know that isn’t always true). It is possible that I’ve underrated Clown Shoes a bit and need to try some more of their beers, so I’ll try to knock out a few reviews over the coming months. Clown Shoes 5th anniversary beer is a Belgian style quadruple aged in bourbon barrels named The Peace That Money Can’t Buy. A long name like this seems appropriate for a big beer. The Peace That Money Can’t Buy is available for a limited time in 22 oz. bombers.
Clown Shoes The Peace That Money Can’t Buy pours a deep amber with a solid off-white head. The scent is mild but complex, some dark malts, fruity esters from the yeast and a little bit of bourbon. The yeast comes through stronger in the flavor, notes of tart cherry, sour apple, pear and pepper. This is complemented by bold malty flavors, notes of fig, date, brown bread, toffee and plum. The barrel aging adds some subtle oak and whiskey notes but takes a back seat to the malt and yeast. The beer is very full bodied and clearly a slow sipper at 11.5% ABV, but the booze doesn’t come through too strongly in the flavor. This beer is nicely done, tons of flavor without being overkill. For a brewery that has built it’s reputation with bold to the point of brazen beers, it is nice to see a little restraint here. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Clown Shoes Reviews:
Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher, Clown Shoes Swagger
When I heard that Clown Shoes Brewing Company was in legal trouble due to the name of one of their beers I wasn’t too shocked. This is a brewery that is infamous for giving its brews names like Muffin Top and Tramp Stamp, so I assumed the PC police took offense. It was surprising that the issue was with Vampire Slayer, their highly regarded imperial stout. This was a trademark issue, apparently another beverage company feels they are the only ones who can use “vampire” in their beer titles. You can read the whole story here. So Vampire Slayer became Undead Party Crasher, with the same recipe just a new name and label (including a special shout-out to trademark attorneys). With the explosion of craft breweries, I believe this is going to become a major issue. It is hard to create clever and unique beer names without stepping on someone else’s toes. It will be interesting to see if these lawsuits become commonplace. Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher is an imperial stout brewed with dark malts, holy water (yes, holy water) and malt smoked locally with hickory and ash.
Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher pours ink black with a mild light brown head. The smell is all dark malt, lots of chocolate with a little coffee and brown sugar. There is a touch of smoke, but it is pretty muted. The taste is pretty complex. The dark malts come in strong with flavors of black coffee, dark chocolate, and dark fruits like plum and dates. There isn’t much hop flavor, but just the right amount of bitterness to balance the malt sweetness. The alcohol and smokiness are both present in the flavor, but neither is overwhelming. The mouthfeel is medium to full, and the beer finishes with some malt sugar and a pleasant alcoholic burn. At 11% ABV this beer is a slow sipper, finishing a 22 oz bottle takes a little time (fortunately it is now sold in 12 oz bottles too). Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher is very complex but drinkable, definitely one of the better beers I’ve tried from this brewery. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Other Clown Shoes reviews:
Swagger Hoppy Red Lager
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.