Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
This blog is still in its early infancy and as much as I want to try and keep it varied and without bias I cannot shy away from the chance to review a beer that has been released within my one month tenure as a blogger. I have already gushed about two beers from Magic Rock Brewing in previous posts and like my blog, the brewery is still in its early stages of development but unlike my blog it is already producing some seriously heavyweight output.
The beer I’ll be sampling today will be the brewery’s new black IPA Magic 8 Ball, which has already received rave reviews from other beer writers and as I have been blown away by every black IPA I’ve tried so far I cannot wait to wrap my tongue around this one. I also really love a good oxymoron and ‘black IPA’ is simply wonderful, I’ve read articles that condemn the identity that this style of brew has claimed but I think it is a perfect way of describing to the drinker what to expect from the beer and I am really glad that most brewers have adopted this label.
Magic 8 Ball will be the seventh brew I’ve sampled from Magic Rock and at this point I’ll admit that I am a bit of a Magic Rock fanboy. I’ve followed them through Facebook and Twitter since they announced that they would be opening a brewery and it’s through the clever use of these two mediums that they have managed to gain a prolific and hardcore following. Magic Rock take the majority of their inspiration from the American brewing scene with many of their ales being inspired by beers that hail from the west coast of America. This of course means big, bold flavours and lots and lots of wonderful, aromatic hops.
I wasn't sure if I ordered enough...
Cracking open the Magic 8 Ball my first instinct is to take a big sniff from the top of the bottle, my nasal cavity is instantly awash with flavours of lemon peel and orange marmalade, the hops smell ultra fresh which is unsurprising considering it’s only recently been brewed. It pours as you would expect, thick and black leaving quite a thin off-white head that doesn’t linger but has enough consistency to leave a thin layer that leaves some nice lacing around the glass as you swill it around. I’ve chosen a large snifter for this beer so I can get a big whiff before I take a sip, I’m still getting the fresh yet bitter citrus notes but after a second smell I can just about get a hint of the roasted malts present in the brew.
Taking my first sip I was expecting this beer to taste like an IPA, the nose is all about fresh hops but the Magic 8 Ball holds many surprises and secrets. As it hits your palate the initial taste is one of orange and lemon rind with big chunks of bitter grapefruit but this lasts less than half a second and you barely have time to collect yourself before you are hit with a huge wash of roasted malt that would make even the most manly of stouts cower like mice in the corner. The finish is long, bitter and smoky and well worth lingering over, this beer is so complex that I’ve actually tried three bottles of the stuff at slightly different temperatures and in a range of glassware just so I can try and get the measure of it. I don’t think I have yet and this is great, It’s almost like when you buy a new record and it takes you several listens to get into it, each play revealing more of it’s musical secrets. Magic 8 Ball is like one of those records, each sip giving you something new and challenging you to define this beer, essentially it’s a craft beer geeks dream.
The best analogy I’ve come up with for this beer is that it’s a bit like a good breakfast, it starts with a slice of fresh grapefruit followed by a piece of well toasted granary bread topped with some bitter orange marmalade and then washed down with a swig of freshly filtered coffee. Being this complex it’s not an everyday beer, it’s something to savour and crack out on especially cold nights such as this one, although being so breakfast like the temptation to crack one open before I head to work in the morning is almost too much to bare.