With that spirit in mind, I almost want to crack open an old copy of Shakespeare and join the witches in their cant:
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
Instead, I got out my trusty beer glass and readied to pour my own brew this October's eve.
Diving into the Bottle
The aroma almost put a spell on me the second I opened the bottle. I was greeted with an alluring scent of pepper riding atop sweet malt with some caramel sashaying around for good measure. It was like there was a secret lingering beneath the bottle cap, waiting to be told with my tongue. I quickly poured the glass and it was obvious about halfway through that I was being too gentle -- the hazy light brown (almost a cross between dun and chestnut, if you know your horses) brew was not offering up much of a head. I quickly switched to a very aggressive pour, almost slamming it into the glass and not coming anywhere near the edges. This rough treatment got me the results I was looking for -- more than two fingers of biscuity brown head that looked firm and inviting.
Now that the beer was safely in the glass, I took a good look at the color. It's brownish-golden with a faint haze in it. Note the order of those colors. It's not like a golden-brown wood where the primary color is being warmed, as though by the sun. No, this is more like a dull gold that has been tainted with a duller brown. There's nothing wrong with the color, but it's just not remarkable or particularly enticing.
The taste, however, more than makes up for this in many ways. Pepper and spices were almost dancing on my tongue, carried by sweet roasted malt that had a depth and body that I usually only experience in much darker beers. I started it cold (about 45) and really enjoyed it there, but around 50 degrees the hops came out to dance beneath the harvest moon. They also brought some toffee notes along to join them in the bonfire's glow. At this temperature range, I really found the hops to provide a welcome bitterness to counter the very sweet start. Along with the hops I found a few more aromatic notes and a surprising hint of smoke. In fact, the smokey finish made me wonder if that wasn't the "pepper" smell I detected at the start of the beer.
From the Label:
A performance in every bottle
The Ancient Ritual of brewing a distinctly rich and flavorful beer is nothing short of magic. Our mysterious mix of time-honored ingredients, chaotic chemistry, humble patience, and blind faith age into the secret brew we share in the rousing company of good spirits.
Some closing thoughts
I bought this at World Market strictly because it fit my theme for the month: Halloween. They were selling it as singles for, I believe, $1.99. I just expected this to be a novelty brew, so the steep price tag (not outrageous, but still a trifle steep for a 12-ounce bottle) didn't phase me. Now that this is one of my new favorites, I'm hoping to find it in a six-pack so I can stock up before it goes out of production for the year.
According to Magic Hat's Website, this is only available from Aug. - October 15. I went to the Spec's Liquor store downtown earlier today and did not see it (it was before I drank this wonderful beer, so I didn't ask anyone if they had it). I'll check my local stores next week and see if I can't grab a few six-packs to get me through the cold winter months ahead.
I'll keep you posted!
Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Ale (Red Ale)
Color: Dullish golden brown
Aroma: Pepper, malt, caramel and a distant whiff of smoke
Hops: Mild and wonderfully balanced
Malt: Proudly in the forefront, bringing sweetness and smoke
Head: Hit or miss -- either non-existant (conservative pour) or bold and solid (aggressive pour)
Lace: Strong, well definied and lingered longer than expected
Mouthfeel: Really good -- a nice combination of sweet, hops and smoke
Temprature Sweet Spot: All temps were good, but over 50 was best
My Rating: 9 out of 10
Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
The guys at the Beer Advocate did not agree with me, but "The Bros" did. Whereas the Bros. gave it a 90 and an excellent rating, the hop-heads there didn't fall under its charms, giving it only an average rating. check them out (and scroll down to find my review -- I discuss this beer in slightly different terms there, but still rave about it). http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/96/60620
Another bit of interesting info about Magic Hat can be found over at this very cool blog by Lonnie Best: http://www.examiner.com/article/magic-hat-brewing-s-odd-business-notions
A few miles down the road, this fella in Louisiana wasn't as impressed as I was, but he still gave it a B+.