December 8, 2012

Burlington, VT: Magic Hat's Winterland Variety Pack

"A performance in every bottle."
Christmas came early for this beer writer. Arrived on my doorstep a week or so ago was a sampler of three beers from Magic Hat Brewing Company's Winterland Variety Pack. It may not be "local" for many readers (unless you live in Vermont), but the company widely known for their #9 "Not Quite Pale Ale" has some new seasonals out that might be worth a try. Plus, readers from Costa Rica may be interested in what the new Florida Ice and Farm/Cervecería Costa Rica subsidiary has to offer.

One of my favorite things about Magic Hat is their creative marketing, especially their bottle caps. Each cap has a phrase printed on the underside. The words of wisdom from these three bottles were...
  • Cats are lions in a jungle of small bushes.
  • If you can spare one, share one!
  • Keep friends close. Beer closer.
I couldn't agree more.

If you haven't yet, check out Alan Newman's book, High on Business, and read about the founding of Magic Hat and Newman's marketing influence that carries on to this day, even though he is no longer with the company. Newman also founded green cleaning brand Seventh Generation and is now behind Alchemy & Science, the Boston Beer Company-funded "craft beer incubator." (Like I said, get the book. I mean, look at the guy, how can you not?)

Without further ado, the Winterland Variety Pack:

Heart of Darkness

Dark as night, this "diabolically delicious" stout is opaque, with a tan head and aromas of espresso, chocolate, and a hint of hickory. The flavor profile is nearly identical, with some additional roasted notes that you don't pick up from the smell. It's medium/full-bodied, somewhat creamy, and well-carbonated, with the roasted bitterness taking precedence over the subtle hops flavors. It's a good stout! (5.7% ABV, 30 IBUs)

Wooly ESB

A "coniferous concoction," Wooly is an Extra Special Bitter brewed with spruce tips. Spruce tips? Yup, before the wide use of hops (we're talking way back when), spruce was one of many ingredients you might find in a gruit, a melange of herbs and spices used to flavor a beer of the same name. The spruce was a little odd at first, especially up against the mildness of the ESB, but it grew on me. I'd be curious to see how it works in a darker beer with some licorice root, heather, anise, and a big dose of earthy hops. (4.5% ABV, 40 IBUs)

Encore - an American Wheat IPA

Encore was a good bit darker than I expected -- this is not a White IPA. It came out more caramel-colored and hazy, with spicy hops aromas more so than citrus. Dry-hopped with Simcoe and Amarillo, you get a solid shot of hops combined with caramel in the flavor, with grainy wheat notes coming through in the finish. Probably my favorite of the bunch. (6.4% ABV, 45 IBUs)

Thank you to Magic Hat for the promo pack.

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