Magic Hat Brewing Co. (of South Burlington, Vermont) unloaded some schwag at our offices a while back, and we're just not wired to pass that sort of thing up.
The generously donated trio of brews (only one of which we sample for you today) is part of Magic Hat's "Odd Notions" series of "exceptional (and mostly odd), limited-quantity, specialty craft releases."
To be frank, we're not precisely sure what the title of this beer is. BeerAdvocate lists it as "Ginger Golden Ale (Summer '10)," though we don't recall seeing "golden" on the bottle. The brewer's Web site suggests "Odd Notions Summer '10." Apparently all the marketing energy went into packaging and shipping the schwag.
To the point, this is an ale brewed with ginger, and it weighs in at 5.5 percent alcohol. In color, feel and finish it was a very light beer. It certainly is a summer offering. And to be honest, normally that's where things start to go downhill for us.
But this beer was fun, interesting. The light, sweet notes in the aroma didn't melt into a boring, easy, malty beer (though some barkeeps might still serve it with an orange peel). Breathe in deep enough, and the ginger will waft right through the nose into the back of the throat, a welcome sensation. We couldn't help thinking this might have passed for a half-cocked healing elixir two centuries ago. When swallowed, the spice lingered at the front edges of the tongue in a very subtle, burning way. We found that engaging (though conceivably some might be annoyed by it).
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For all the lightness and spice, however, this brew had a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel. There was some body to it, a welcome departure from most light beers.
The hops were never evident, and the malt only occasionally showed up. That's one way of saying it's balanced. But truth be told, despite the surprising creaminess and the engaging ginger flavor, there wasn't much complexity in this beer.
Let's be clear: For being so light it was certainly good, and we'd probably get it again. Ultimately, we're happy recommending it. But we hesitate raving about it. It was a bit of a one-trick pony.
If the point of "Odd Notions" was to give the brewers full creative license, we would have liked to have seen perhaps a second "odd" ingredient in the experiment to complement the ginger.