Well, here I am again traveling for work up in the northeast US. They happen to have a lot of beer that we cannot get in South Texas. So once again, my friend and I went to buy some brews to enjoy while on the road. We decided on 2 bottles of Rock Art Brewery's Vermonster Ale and a 6-pk of McSorley's Irish Pale Ale.
First, the McSorley's: Let me give you a little history and you can jump to your own conclusions.
The glasses were better in the Mariott
McSorley's Ale was originally brewed by Fidelio Brewery in Manhattan until Prohibition when they went out of business. McSorley's continued to be brewed illegally (do you blame them?) in the basement of the Alehouse until after Prohibition when Fidelio came back to life. During the 1940s they changed their name to the Greater New York Brewing Company and then promptly went into the hands of Rheingold Brewery who brewed McSorley's for 30 years. Then it was sold to Schmidt's Brewers of Philadelphia and then, in the 1990s, to Pabst Blue Ribbon. reference
Long history aside (150 years worth) the ownership of this beer by PBR was something I didn't look up until after I tasted it. It was bland and forgettable. I don't mean to be a snob but I expect my beers to taste like beer. Malt, hops, and any flavor at all would be nice. This is another example of the macrobrewers tricking us into buying something artificial.
Before I get into Vermonster, a little history:
Last year, Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville, VT released a 10 year anniversary brew called "Vermonster." It is a big 10% ABV, 100 IBU beer and was meant to tie them to their home state of Vermont. Well, Hansen Beverage Company who makes Monster Energy Drinks felt that consumers would be confused by the supposed "similarity" between the names. Considering Rock Art Brewery is one of the small guys (9 people to be exact) versus a huge mega-company, the consensus is that Hansen was going to force them to comply through expensive legal proceedings.
Anyway, I won't go into too much detail (beernews.org timeline and beernews.org Rock Art wins if you are interested). After overwhelming online support from people who had never even heard of Rock Art Brewery (including me), Hansen eventually dropped their C&D if Rock Art promised not to get into the energy drink market. Turns out, Monster drinks are distributed by Anheuser-Busch who sued another craft brewer, Dogfish Head, over stupid name conflicts (that time over the names "punkin" and "chicory" in Dogfish beers).
So, there's your history lesson for the day. Here's your beer.
In addition to the smug satisfaction I felt drinking this beer instead of a Bud Light, I also felt something else. It could be the feeling I get when I drink a big beer, or maybe the feeling I get when I try something new, or maybe what I'm feeling is enjoyment!
Vermonster pours heavy and reddish-brown into the glass with a thin head that quickly dissapates into sticky residue that coats as you drink. The aroma is surprisingly mild but I could detect some raisin notes, especially as it warmed. Rock Art recommends a brandy glass or wide mouth wine glass to enjoy this ale to it's fullest.
My first sip warmed my gullet in a pleasant way, a nice nightcap I would say. It started off with a balanced malt sweetness that I would describe as barlywine-like. As it got warmer and I emptied my glass I began to taste a few more things. First, hop bitterness from the 100 IBUs began to break through my palate and leave that wonderful hoppy aftertaste on my tongue. Later, I felt like I was drinking a spiced ale with allspice and/or cinnamon flavors coming through.
Luckily, I had a 22 oz. to drink all by myself!
The Bottom Line: If you happen to visit the Eastern US, The Vermonster is a beer to try and buy. If you make it to Vermont, they do regular tastings and fill growlers for visitors. I would recommend joining their Facebook page to support them and craft brewing in general. I'm looking forward to trying some of their other offerings in the future (Jasmine Pale Ale sounds interesting).
As for McSorley's, pass. Forgettable. Bland. Macro. Bleh.