Beer Review: Magic Hat Winterland Sampler

It’s beer time again! This time around, I gave Magic Hat’s Winterland sampler pack a try. I’ve tried a lot of their beers, including last year’s winter pack which was called Feast of Fools, but I think this might have been my least favorite of the bunch. That doesn’t mean I hated this pack, in fact, I liked two out of the four beers, don’t have much to say about the third and completely hated the fourth. As always, I love Magic Hat’s #9 and won’t be reviewing it again (if you’re interested, check out the above link). In addition to the numerical wheat beer, this pack also included new installments in the IPA on Tour and Odd Notion series and I’m pretty sure there was a change to Howl.

Kicking things off, I actually found the IPA on Tour (dubbed Encore) to be one of the most interesting beers I’ve tried in a long time. Usually I’m not a fan of the bitterness that usually comes along with an IPA, but this one had something very different that distracted be: grapefruit. I thought I might have just been making that up in my head, but then I looked at the label which confirmed the use of the citrus fruit in the beverage. I’m not a huge grapefruit fan, but I thought it really worked well with all the other flavors at play. It’s a very prominent and specific flavor that might not be great for everyone, but I enjoyed it. I’d definitely try this one on tap just to see how it plays fresh. The Winter ’10 entry in the Odd Notion series was a pretty big disappointment because it had no discernible taste. I thought I might have gotten a bum beer because I swished it around my mouth and was left with just a tingle on my tongue and no actual flavor. It’s not bitter at all, maybe a little sweet? I know I’m drinking something because it’s wet, but it’s more of a feeling than a taste. Maybe I need to drink it from a glass? Maybe there’s some citrus to it? But if so, very very little. I poured the second one into a glass and got pretty much the same experience. Not bad, but fairly unremarkable. It’s too bad because the one in this summer’s sampler was one of my favorites and I even dug last year’s Winter version. Too bad this season’s just fell flat. Woof. Howl was a real dog for me. Pretty undrinkable actually. I drank the first one and had to throw the other two out because I don’t wish them on my enemies (plus, I don’t invite my enemies over to the house). I don’t know if my tastes are changing or if Magic Hat mixes things up from year to year. When I reviewed last year’s winter pack, I noted that the Howl was thick like a Guinness, but this time around, the Howl has a smokey flavor to it that I’m not a fan of. One time, my buddy Ben bought me a beer I can’t recall the name of that was noted as having a smokey taste. It was like drinking liquid smoke. Like last year’s version, I wouldn’t buy this out and about. It’s pretty bad, just not my kind of beer at all.

Beer Review: Magic Hat Summer Scene

I actually had these beers a few weeks back by now, but I took notes while drinking (always a fun endeavor), so here’s what I thought of the Magic Hat Summer Scene collection. I just went to the grocery store today and it looks like they might have moved on to their next sampler, but you might be able to find this one in stores still. First off, I still like the ubiquitous Magic Hat sampler pack inclusion of #9, check out that review here in my review of last year’s Feast of Fools pack. Overall, I really dug this collection of beers, especially the entry in the Odd Notion series, this time dubbed Summer ’10. It reminds me of a really good Hefeweizen, starting off sweet, then getting a little bitter, but finishing sweet. You get a bit of an aftertaste that some folks might not like, but I found it to be the most enjoyable of the bunch. The label says it’s got some ginger in it which I can definitely taste, but it’s not overwhelming like ginger can be. I could definitely see myself ordering one of these while out at a bar or even getting a 6 pack, though the season for them seems to be over unfortunately.

Next up we’ve got the Wacko Summer Seasonal which they called “A crisp summer ale.” It’s not bad, but also not too remarkable. I’m not sure if I’d call it crisp, but it is definitely smooth. Without much of a taste or aftertaste to speak about this beer is just kind of there. You can tell you’re drinking beer because it feels like beer, but it just doesn’t taste like much. I wouldn’t order this one by itself, but it actually acted as a kind of palette cleanser between the others, so it worked out for the purposes of this review.

Finally, I’m finishing up with the IPA on Tour entry Blind Faith. I used to really dislike IPAs for their intensely bitter taste, but much like the general taste of beer grew on me after moving out to New York where liquor is far too expensive for a lowly intern or research assistant, I’m really starting to enjoy them. I discovered that earlier this summer when I tasted Sam Adams’ Latitude 48 (which came in a pack I should definitely review) and found myself enjoying it. There’s something about the bitter bite that I’m growing to enjoy and that’s what I liked about Blind Faith. It has a hell of a bite because it’s an IPA, but doesn’t taste as caustic as some of its ilk do. There’s something about the bitter finish that makes me want to take another sip. I also like how it lingers on my tongue.

So, there you have it. Though the Wacko didn’t do much for me, I feel like I got my money’s worth with this sampler pack and I always like to try new things, so I’m excited to try out the fall’s new sampler and seeing how it compare’s to Summer’s! What summer beers have you guys been enjoying this season?

Beer Review: Magic Hat’s Feast Of Fools Seasonal Pack

While my dad was picking up a case of Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Christmas Ale I went out and got some beer for the holidays. It seems as though I was the only one interested in Magic Hat’s Feast Of Fools seasonal pack of beers. Inside it, there were four beers (three each): Howl Black As Night Winter Lager, #9 Not Quite Pale Ale, Off Notion Series Winter ’09 and Wicky Kat. There weren’t any beers in the pack that I really hated, though I didn’t enjoy all of them and probably won’t be picking up the Feast Of Fools pack until next year when there’s something different. Here’s a rundown of the beers from least favorite to most.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of bitter beers and this is an IPA, so you can probably assume it wasn’t the best of the bunch for me. It’s not a bad beer, just not the kind I enjoy. Usually, I’ll choke these bad boys down earlier in the rotation so I get to close the pack out with one of my favorites, but thanks to some lousy track-keeping on my part, it was the last of the bunch. I would imagine that if you are a fan of IPAs, this beer would be great for you, so give it a shot if you like that sort of thing.

Again, I’m not saying that the Howl here is a bad beer, it’s just not the kind of beer I tend to drink. It’s called a lager, but it reminded me more of Guinness. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what kind of beer Guinness actually is, but you get the idea (I’m no expert at this stuff). I liked it for the most part, but the thick bitterness isn’t my thing, but if you’re a fan, then check it out. I wouldn’t buy either Wiky Kat or Howl as a 6-pack or out at a bar, but I didn’t pour them down the drain either.

Now this one I liked, though it’s very weird. It’s got a very tangy flavor to it, almost like juice that’s close to turning into booze itself. I looked it up on the Magic Hat site and it said it’s actually an American sour ale, which explains a lot as it tastes very sour and left my tongue feeling tingly. I passed this one to my dad to take a sip of and he hated it, passing it back to me and wondering if it had gone bad. So, this one will definitely be different for each taster, but I liked it, so take that as you will. I probably wouldn’t by a 6-pack of this version of the Odd Notion Series, but I would definitely give it a shot on tap just to see how it tastes in a different setting.

Now this one I liked, a lot, which I was surprised by because it’s got those dreaded letters right there on the bottle “IPA.” Usually, that’s a bad sign for me and my beer drinking fun, but this tastes a lot more like a Hefeweizen, which is probably my favorite beer. I can’t quite nail down what the fruity aspect of the beer is. It reminds me of peaches, but I’m not sure if that’s it and the Magic Hat site plays coy with the whole thing, which is kind of annoying. I would absolutely buy a 6- or even 12-pack of #9 and probably will this summer, though I am almost always drawn to the multi-packs. What can I say? Variety really is the spice of life, even if it’s a spice you’re not too fond of. Builds character!