Feast of Fools Variety Pak

It was time to see if I made a good purchase or not of the Feast of Fools from Magic Hat. Or were we a Ship of Fools? This is a Variety Pak that has 3 bottles of 4 different brews. Back in January we sampled by luck (or bad luck) their Odd Notion Winter ’09 first. This is a seasonal brew they make each year but using completely different recipes. The taste for this year’s brew was not what any of us were expecting. When I noticed the March 2009 expiration date on the box I thought I had bought out dated beer. The Voice, the all knowing, all seeing, social media beer observer at Magic Hat saw my Tweet and my post and sent me an email. He asked what the date on the bottles were. The expiration dates on the bottle said 2010. He said that the stamping of the expiration date is a manual job and someone goofed. And if there was “Howl” in the 12 pack then it was current because it wasn’t in last year’s pack. Finally, the yucky beer …. well it was yucky at the time because it wasn’t like any Winter Seasonal we’ve ever had. The Voice said “our Winter Odd Notion this year was an American Sour Ale. If it tasted a little sour, it’s okay. It’s brewed with acidulated malts, which makes it make you pucker up.”

The Tasters: Brett, Mark and Dan
The Tasters: Brett, Mark and Dan


Well we definitely puckered up including our sphincters. (I also realized later if the date on the box were properly set to March 3, 2010 it would still be off since all the bottles inside were marked “F 10” or February 10. Better work on that expiration date stuff Voice.) UPDATE: The Voice contacted me and said they were going to start dating the bottles instead of notching the labels. And a machine will start date-stamping the boxes.

After solving the yucky beer mystery I tried to get Mark back over to taste these but the Odd Notion left him with a bad impression.

The weather is starting to improve so we decided to take a bike ride on Sunday. Brett joined us and even Mr. Ben rode behind me in his trailer. Twice around Lake Olmstead, then a nasty short hill near my house Mark picked and Brett was ready to toss in the towel.

Perfect time for a backyard tasting. I’ve had the Magic Hat Feast of Fools chilling in the mini fridge since that cold January day. Tossed some logs in the chiminea and we were set. Mark also brought some ales he had been saving for a backyarder. Plus we had a few that Brett bought for the last tasting but had to back out at the last minute.

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Here’s what we thought:

Magic Hat Howl Winter Seasonal

What: The boys decided the smell wasn’t quite right. “Wet dog hair” is what Mark likened it to. All agreed the flavor is good. Smooth. Nice color deep red hue against sunlight.” Got a little crisp to it… a Winter crispness” said Brett. This brew kind of grows on you. Mark warned. ” Nice and smooth. Just don’t breath when you drink.” Nice to have once a year. Keep it a seasonal.

The bottle (and all the bottles except the Odd Notion) say this is a “Black and Night Winter Lager.” It also explains “The ancient ritual of brewing a distinctly rich and flavorful beer is a performance to behold. Our mysterious melange of time-honored ingredients, harmonize with chaotic chemistry, humble patience, and blind fait to create unique beers to share in the rousing company of kindred spirits. Cheers!” Seems kind of Halloween-looking to me but it says Winter Seasonal.
From: South Burlington, Vermont
Brewery: Magic Hat

Magic Hat Lucky Kat IPA

What: No wet dog smell this time according to Mark (he’s familiar with wet dog smells since his dog is a big as a VW Beetle). “I like the smell better but it ain’t great.” Honey color, nice head. You get a quick citrus flavor, leaning toward orange. Floral smell. Then Mark chimed in with “like you rubbed flowers on your wet dog.” Brett couldn’t smell the dog in there. All three of us agree that the first taste is very hopper, followed by the citrus taste that mellows out the hops but then comes a bitter aftertaste. A kind of a bitter acidic aftertaste that lasts for some time. Brett likes a bit of citrus so he gives it a thumbs up. Me and Mark… no so sure. Worth a try once a year.

The label, with a cat that looks like its read for Mardi Gras, says “Beer Kitty, Kitty.” I’ve tried that call on Moxie-the-Dumbass cat to no avail.
From: South Burlington, Vermont
Brewery: Magic Hat

Magic Hat #9

What: Mark smells flowers. Brett doesn’t. I won’t say what Mark said the color looks like. Man, he’s so critical. We agree that it looks like an IPA. Nice head. Fizzy. Better than the Lucky Kat but not as good as the Howl. Much sweeter. A lighter beer. More like a summer ale. “Mow the grass and drink it. It kinda hints at being fruity but then again its not quite fruity.” I’ve had this on tap at Mellow Mushroom and thought it was a good pizza beer. Not sure I would order it to drink by itself. The label says “Ale with natural flavor.” Not sure what that flavor might be. Sweet bite on the back of the tongue. Not heavy. No after taste. To me this is a keeper but like I said I would prefer it with some pizza.
From: South Burlington, Vermont
Brewery: Magic Hat


Odd Notion Winter 09

What: Last but not least. The Odd Notion. The beer that skunked us last time. Looks like a Bass or Killians.. Fairly nice aroma. Nice head pretty color. Lemon flavor. Beer flavored lemonade is how Brett described it. But nothing like the hard lemonades. He’s the shocker…. Brett likes it. He admits it doesn’t taste like it looks. “No. I like the citrus. A nice lemony hot afternoon brew. I wouldn’t drink a lot. I would prefer a weiss beer with lemon squeeze than that. Not having a weiss, this would suffice.” Mark added “You would expect a Killians by the look but the taste and visual don’t match.” Of the four brews Brett says this is No. 2. Mark gives it No. 4.

The label says “Magic Hat’s Odd Notions are a series of exceptional (and mostly odd), limited quantity, specialty craft releases. The Odd Notion program provides serious aficionados with deliciously different drinking experiences that push the boundaries of taste-laden possibility in unexplored directions… and give our brewers regular opportunities to set their creative impulses free. Enjoy a different selection every season, in every Magic Hat Variety Pak.

If I had known it was an American Sour Beer then maybe I would have enjoyed it the first time. Managing expectations is important. I would say that this was interesting to try. I doubt I will ever see another American Sour. Brett definitely would like to see one. But The Voice said that this recipe would not be repeated next year because they try something different each year. They haven’t repeated a recipe yet. There is a web address on the label asking for people to rate it at oddnotion.magichat.net. Hey, how else can you explore different beers. I want to give them a kick in the tush for mislabeling the expiration dates. That pretty much screwed up my expectations. But I give them a thumbs up for at least pushing the limits for me without having to endure some weird homebrew somebody made in the basement.
From: South Burlington, Vermont
Brewery: Magic Hat

Magic Hat Bottlecaps

After finishing the Feast we switched to Mark and Brett’s brews.

Ommegang Abbey Ale

What: Okay, Mark is getting set in his ways (or getting forgetful). At the last backyard tasting he brought this beer. Since Brett didn’t make the last one you can read what we said here and then go back and see what we said back in January. 8.5% alcohol. All of us agreed it was good but most definitely a different kind of beer. Mark added a “very refined high end beer. It’s almost sexy pulling cork out of it.” This is a corked beer complete with wire tie-downs. “Not your dad’s Budweiser. More of a beer connoisseur’s beer. Not working man’s beer. You almost have to wear a smoking jacket.”
Hint of chocolate malt. Brown foamy head. After passing the tongue there’s a nice warm aura as it goes down. Little creamy. We served it around 40 degrees. The bottle recommends 50. We let it warm up (got time since this is such a big bottle. Can’t drink it too quick). Its nice malty flavor comes out as it warms up. Brett added it has a “much stronger alcohol taste. An acquired taste I think. I wouldn’t drink it and drive home. Both Mark and Brett said comparing to other abbey ales “Chimay is better than this.” But both think this is a good abbey ale. (Mark is now banned from bring this to another backyard tasting. We need to try something new).
From: Cooperstown, NY
Brewery: Ommegang
Size: 25.4 oz.


St. Peter’s Cream Stout

What: This stuff is opaque in the glass. Wow. After pouring some out we realized it was in a green bottle. You couldn’t tell with the beer inside. Not a lot of head like you see on a Guinness. Much dirtier, shallow, head. Smooth. Very chocolatly. Sweet but bitter finish. Creamy.

Mark said “this is like seeing someone at a party. Nice person. they are noticeable but they don’t talk a lot and despite being apparent to everyone, not enough to keep you there talking to them. That’s this beer. It’s not a bad beer. But it doesn’t overwhelm me or tell me to drink more. Like Left Hand Milk Stout or Duck Rabbit Milk Stout would.” Brett chimed in “this is an everyday stout. Price wise was okay. Didn’t break the bank. Don’t have a clue as to what he paid for it.” (He then scanned the barcode with his iPhone and found the retail price is usually $4.99 a bottle).

The bottle says “Fuggles and Challenger hops combine with a blend of four different barley malts to create an aromatic, robust, dark chocolate cream stout with a satisfying bittersweet aftertaste.”
From: Suffolk, England
Brewery: St. Peters Brewery
Size: 1 pint .9 oz


Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

What: Sweet. Not so dark. Light. Brett says it hints of being pancake syrup but Mark says pancake syrup looks darker. Both said “a good oatmeal stout. Expanding on his analogy ” This is someone I would talk to at a party. They would stand out and would have something to say and I would stick around. St. Peter’s in the shadow, friendly but not lively. Samuel Smith would be the person who had lots to say and you would listen.”

“Originally a drink for lactating mothers, oatmeal stout was described as nutritional on early labels. Oats are in the same family as barley, and a small addition yields great flavor. Popular in the late 1800’s, the last oatmeal stout was brewed before the First World War until Samuel Smith reintroduced this style in 1980. Almost opaque, with an unusually silky texture and complex, medium-dry velvet palate. Bittersweet finish. Serving Suggestions: Pizza and salad, Italian foods, steamed clams, grilled ahi tuna, lobster with drawn butter, steak, ploughman’s lunch, crumpets, shish kebabs, vegetable ragout and eggs Florentine, dark flavorful bread and aged Stilton. Serve at 55 degrees”–From their importer’s website
From: North Yorks, England
Brewery: Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery
Size: 1pt, 2.7 oz


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