Ipswich, Massachusetts is widely believed to be the inspiration for John Updike’s notorious Tarbox wherein a group of affluent, promiscuous couples rebel against Protestant sexual mores and the stale vulgarity of the post-war era in the post-pill paradise of the early American 1960s.  And fuck.  Lots.  For childhood natives of the northern Boston suburbs circa the post-post war era, however, Ipswich meant fried clams, soccer moms, and salt marshes.  The dream had died.  For Piet Hanema, anyway.  For the rest of us there was Ipswich Ale.  Delicious, craft-brewed goodness.

The Mercury Brewing Company is a brewing outfit near and dear to our hearts.  Founded in 1999, Mercury rose, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the Ipswich Brewing Company and, with nary a hiccup, continued to produce the growlers of Ipswich ales that we came to know and love during our formative alehead years.  For years I have thought of Ipswich as an absolutely serviceable session brew, but of Mercury as a brewery that didn’t seem to have to have a whole lot of fun.  Solid, staid, sure.  The very definition of Yankee meets suds.  Until today.  Ah, Piet.  If only you could have partaken in a few sips of Clown Shoes Black, one of the finest offerings to come out of Ipswich since Angela Hanema.

Clown Shoes is a black American IPA, which is an unusual beast to begin with.  The brew poured a deep opaque crimson caramel with a smooth toasty head that followed the sauce to the bottom of the glass with moderate lacing.  The nose, by contrast, was IPA through and through.  Pine with a splash of bitter citrus peel, and subtle undertones of just blossoming Asiatic lilies, stamen peeking out from behind a crystal vase and a gallon of crisp, gorgeous spring water.  The flavor demonstrated unexpected complexities beyond what was apparent from the aroma – chocolate, smoke, grass, and sweet cream.  With a pleasing effervescence and agreeable mouthfeel, this is a brew worth bringing home to mom.  I give it three hops.

At 7% ABV, though, perhaps Clown Shoes is, indeed, more Tarbox than Ipswich: A beer like money; only too much is enough.  Enjoy with care.


  1. Ipswich, MA is certainly near and dear to my heart. There is nothing quite like a perfectly fried clam belly, buttery and briny, melt in your mouth plumpy goodness. Anyone that only knows fried clam as those crispy strips from HoJo’s needs to make a trip up to New England.

    Ipswich Ale was the first bottle conditioned beer I had ever come across (And definitely the first Growler I had ever seen). At first I was a little put off my all the flotsam and jetsam in my glass, but as soon as I was informed of what those little bits were I never looked back. Cheers to Ipswich, and their delicious brews.

  2. Clown Shoes is actually contract brewed through Mercury Brewing Company. They are their own separate brand, just no capacity to brew beer yet. Try their other offering, Brown Angel. It is a ‘sexy’ American Double Brown and I have to say it is delicious.

  3. Thanks for the tip, Beeeer! Where can a humble Bostonian find Brown Angel? I’ve only seen Clown Shoes at the outstanding Hungry Mother in Cambridge, but would love to give a sexy American Double Brown a sip!

    – The Baron

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