Magic Hat – # 9

Tasting: February 20, 2012
Style: Ale (fruit)

Magic Hat # 9

Where Sam Calagione owner of Dogfish Head was diplomatic in handling criticism, Alan Newman, founder of Magic Hat (now a subsidiary of Boston Beer/Sam Adams) wasn’t so kind:

“There are two groups out there: beer-lovers and beer geeks. Beer lovers love beer. I’ll put myself in that category. I love and appreciate good beer. Then there are beer geeks who ask questions like, “Have I never heard of it [a beer or brewer] before?” “Is it from a really small brewery?” “Does it have more than 75 I.B.U.’s? [International bittering units – a measure of bitterness related to hops in a beer; 75 is very high.] All they want is highly hopped, high-alcohol beers. They have disdain for the mainstream, but mainstream is what will bring more customers in, what will grow the category. They get very hung up on the size of a brewer and who owns them. Like Goose Island in Chicago is an old craft brewery, very respected. Anheuser-Busch bought something like 25-30 percent of them. So are they still a craft brewer? More importantly, to my mind, do they make craft beers? Does it matter who owns them?”

Magic Hat seems content to make beer that would be palatable for the masses – and that’s fine. But, if you are a car enthusiast – wouldn’t you admire high performance vehicles with features that blow past the ordinary? I’ll put Magic Hat’s offerings as a “tween beers”. I have friends that are hardcore Bud/Coors drinkers who would have one and chalk it up as trying something exotic and I also have friends who like craft beer who would have one instead of a Bud/Coors.

I’ll also disagree with AB’s involvement with craft beer. Anheuser Busch’s own brand of success calls for low costs, i.e. cheap ingredients and little/poor flavor. Every big company I know analyzes expenses and profitability. How long until AB starts telling Goose Island that if they use less of an ingredient or a cheaper ingredient that they could provide AB with a better margin? Only time will tell.

I’ve had this beer before – but haven’t had a chance for a fresh look and a chance to jot some notes. This one has apricot extract and checks in at 5.1%. Some biscuit malts and subtle fruit. Fizzy, thin and lacking any hop character or any malt. I’ll give it a plus for crisp finish – because you wouldn’t want the original flavor lingering on your palette for too long. So, I’m not sure what the owner of Magic Hat thinks about his own beer – but if he thinks this is good beer – I wouldn’t even waste my time asking him if he’s ever heard of “such and such brewery”. 70 points.

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