Magic Hat Brewing Company is, in many ways, everything you might want from a craft brewery. Situated against the gorgeous backdrop of Southern Burlington, not far from the even more poignantly stunning Middlebury countryside, it enjoys easy access to fresh Vermont water, organic grain, and a progressive policy apparatus. It also, notwithstanding Doc’s designation of its #9 as the most overrated brew in the Aleheads universe, produces a number of terrific prestige beers – Thumbsucker, Heart of Darkness, and Braggot in particular – alongside several serviceable session draughts.
Unfortunately, Vinyl – a spring seasonal American Amber – was not among them. The brew poured a reddish amber with a thin white milk mustache of a head and very little apparent carbonation. The nose demonstrated light hops with toasty/nutty back notes. The taste was reminiscent of nothing so much as a particularly inspired grass clipper or an especially bad Boston lager. Save for a hint or two of pecan and toasted malt and an occasional sour note, the flavor, while balanced, was nothing that was even especially distinctive. Aftertaste was virtually nonexistent. To borrow from Mrs. Brue’s apt assessment: it just tasted like beer; nothing more or less.
Vinyl wasn’t unpleasant and I’ll finish the six, but I also feel like I’m cheating my taste buds at least to some extent. There are complex, flavorful behemoths out there to be conquered. Malty mountains to summit. Why settle for mediocre when the craft brew world begs for us to dip ourselves in hoppy goodness?
I give Vinyl two hops with regal pain in my heart. Magic Hat can and has produced better. Looking down their listings, I see that their finest and most celebrated of brews have vanished since I left the Green Mountain State. In honor and admiration of the Magic Hat that once was I issue a challenge to its sixty-five able fellow-travelers: It’s time for a new prestige stout. Brew it, bottle it, and charge an arm and a leg for it. Make us drive to Burlington on the seventh day of June to pick it up. Insist that we wait in line. We’ll be there.
The Aleheads are hoping and waiting.