Friday, January 27, 2012

Demo (Magic Hat Brewing Company)

Magic Hat Brewing Company of Burlington, Vermont has been making enigmatically-named beers since 1994. By 2010 it had grown to be the 8th largest producer by volume of craft beer in the U.S., according to a list published by Magic Hat's flagship beer is an apricot-infused "not-quite pale ale" called #9, which I have never been crazy about. Nor do I get a kick out of the "mystery meat navigation" on their website, which reveals things only when you click around, instead of allowing you to see everything at once and make choices easily. While it's not as obscure as it was 10 years ago, it still annoys to me.

But lest you think I have nothing positive to say about Magic Hat, let me tell you about sampling their black IPA, Demo. The bottle's "whimsical" artwork depicts a vinyl record with a hand-drawn label. Is the "demo" theme supposed to indicate that their recipe for this beer is unfinished? Not sure.

Anyway, when poured into my pint tumbler, the beer is deep, dark brown -- pretty close to black. Up comes an abundance of sturdy, picture-perfect light brown foam that leaves clumpy lacing all the way down the glass. The aroma is roasty and sweet, with a touch of mint and mineral.

The flavor is dark, round chocolate and coffee with a balance of floral hops that makes it really tasty. There is nothing spiky or bitter, and the pleasant smoothness is reinforced by the mouthfeel, which is just short of creamy. The roasted grain flavor is more chocolatey than the maltier Yakima Glory, a formidable black IPA from Victory. Demo's malt profile is almost like an Irish stout, but of course there's the more IPA-like hops activity here. (Apollo and Goldings are the varieties used.)

I'll probably never finish chiding Magic Hat for their too-clever website that makes it hard for me to learn about their products, but they have earned my admiration with this highly drinkable black ale. I have never been knocked out by their lighter beers, but their rich winter seasonal Howl (a lager) and now Demo have raised my interest in the darker end of their product spectrum.

Featured beer:

Honorable mentions:
Yakima Glory

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