Waahhhh…ooo…wah…ooo…wah…chusett! Anyone that’s spent some time in New England during the winter months knows that annoying little jingle by heart (Sorry for implanting that song in your head so early in the season, my bad). Seriously Wachusett Mountain, you’re going with the slogan “Mountain skiing, minutes away” to lure people away from their vacation destinations in NH and VT? Wait, you have mountain skiing? I love mountain skiing! Sign me up! I think you’d be better off with something like, “Yeah, we know we’re not NH, but at least we don’t jack the prices when we know you’re coming to town” or even a simple statement like “Now New Yorker free!”. That last one would pull New Englanders off VT peaks in a heartbeat (Unless of course you like skiing in jeans, in which case stay right where you are). You may be wondering why I’m talking about skiing in August or even why I’m mentioning a mountain in central MA that most of the country knows nothing about. Call it a bad case of word association. To me, when I hear the word Wachusett, I think of that catchy commercial that plays non-stop for 4 months out of the year. When I see beers from Wachusett Brewery sitting on the shelves, a brewery that has nothing to do with the mountain of the same name, all I can think of is that song and can’t shake the bad imagery that’s associated with it. Today, I think I’ll go a foreign route and actually choose logic while shopping for beer. To hell with the song, it’s time to tear into some Wachusett Larry.
It’s been years since I’ve had anything from Wachusett Brewing, an Ale factory that’s located just 45 miles or so West of Boston. Their big seller, the Blueberry Ale, is not something that sits very well with me. I’m sure it’s a well-made beer and certainly fits in well with the New England vibe, but I think I’ll pass. Their IPA is quite drinkable and a good representation of the style, but it lacks in depth and character. That’s not really a knock on the beer, it’s simply my opinion and a reflection of the flavor profiles that I’m looking for in an IPA. In short, they have a lineup of very safe beers that are always good, just never great. When I was compiling my list of Top 10 Imperial IPA’s to go along with Brother Barley’s post, I came across a Wachusett beer that I had never heard of and certainly never seen on the shelves. Wachusett Larry, a Double IPA that gets an “A-” rating on Beer Advocate and has people gushing all over the place with the direction the brewery is heading. Color me intrigued.
With one call I was able to locate a bottle of this fine beverage, which apparently isn’t all that hard to come by. I guess I’ve walked by the bottle so many times due to that damn song floating through my head. From what I gathered on the label, this beer was brewed for the Hop Head Throwdown that was held at Publick House in Brookline, MA, one of the best beer bars in the Boston area. 85 IBU’s, 7.5% ABV, Wachusett makes use of 5 hop varieties in this brew including Simcoe, Cascade, Chinook, Magnum, and Amarillo. Let’s crack this baby open and see what we’ve got.
Poured from a 22oz bottle, the Larry shows a brilliant orange hue that’s topped with a massive, tight-knit head that fills a third of the glass. Floral on the nose, hints of lemon and grapefruit slip through to blend with every citrus combination you can imagine. Odd mixture of pine resin and oranges mingle with a swirl of the glass. Bitter pine hits you first on the tip of your tongue, which is then cooled by a grapefruit splash. Generally a high IBU beer is either balanced out by heavy use of sweet malts or a boozy push of alcohol. The Larry doesn’t seem to go either of these routes and instead lets the bitterness shine through. Picture licking the side of a cardboard box, then biting the rind of a lemon. It sounds bad, but that’s what I get from this brew. Crazy dryness punctuated by a citrus backbone. That’s exactly what I want in a Double IPA. Like I said, mouthfeel is dry but the beer goes down as smooth as you could imagine. As the beer warmed, it got more refreshing after every sip. Drinkability is surprisingly high for a Double, especially considering the relatively low ABV for the style.
I really struggled with a rating for this brew. On one hand, I loved it and wouldn’t hesitate to grab another bottle next time I’m out and about. On the other hand, I have to compare it to other examples of the style and I can’t see myself putting this in my Top 10. To be objective, I’m tossing out all the knowledge I have on Double IPA’s and just rating this beer as a stand alone. With that, the Larry gets a 3.5 Hop Rating. By far the best beer that Wachusett has ever produced and I look forward to seeing where this new path takes them. With any luck, Wachusett Mountain will finally start anew with their marketing department and come up with a new theme song for the Winter. Maybe then I’ll start to notice Wachusett Brewery on the shelves and not cringe every time I walk past.