Magic Hat Brewing Company is, in many ways, everything you might want from a craft brewery.  Situated against the gorgeous backdrop of Southern Burlington, not far from the even more poignantly stunning Middlebury countryside, it enjoys easy access to fresh Vermont water, organic grain, and a progressive policy apparatus.  It also, notwithstanding Doc’s designation of its #9 as the most overrated brew in the Aleheads universe, produces a number of terrific prestige beers – Thumbsucker, Heart of Darkness, and Braggot in particular – alongside several serviceable session draughts.

Unfortunately, Vinyl – a spring seasonal American Amber – was not among them.  The brew poured a reddish amber with a thin white milk mustache of a head and very little apparent carbonation.  The nose demonstrated light hops with toasty/nutty back notes.  The taste was reminiscent of nothing so much as a particularly inspired grass clipper or an especially bad Boston lager.  Save for a hint or two of pecan and toasted malt and an occasional sour note, the flavor, while balanced, was nothing that was even especially distinctive.  Aftertaste was virtually nonexistent.  To borrow from Mrs. Brue’s apt assessment: it just tasted like beer; nothing more or less.

Vinyl wasn’t unpleasant and I’ll finish the six, but I also feel like I’m cheating my taste buds at least to some extent.  There are complex, flavorful behemoths out there to be conquered.  Malty mountains to summit.  Why settle for mediocre when the craft brew world begs for us to dip ourselves in hoppy goodness?

I give Vinyl two hops with regal pain in my heart.  Magic Hat can and has produced better.  Looking down their listings, I see that their finest and most celebrated of brews have vanished since I left the Green Mountain State.  In honor and admiration of the Magic Hat that once was I issue a challenge to its sixty-five able fellow-travelers: It’s time for a new prestige stout.  Brew it, bottle it, and charge an arm and a leg for it.  Make us drive to Burlington on the seventh day of June to pick it up.  Insist that we wait in line.  We’ll be there.

The Aleheads are hoping and waiting.

4 thoughts on “MAGIC HAT VINYL

  1. As Don Henley, that most noble of American troubadours, stated so eloquently, “don’t look back/you can never look back.”

    Breweries ebb and flow like other businesses. Sam Adams had a fallow period for a long time (I’m looking at you Sam Light), but the recent Imperial Series and Barrel Room collections have revealed a desire to return to their roots. I myself was a little disappointed with Otter Creek for a few years, but their World Tour and Imperial Series have brought me back to the fold.

    Speaking of which…have you tried their Quercus Vitis Humulus (it’s out now)? It sounds tailor-made for the Baron.

    “QVH is our brewers’ tribute to the mighty oak, luscious grape, and humble hop. The homage begins with a bold 27 degree plato barley-wine, warm-fermented with Bohemian lager yeast, then blended with Sauvignon Blanc grape juice and fermented a second time with a pure culture of Champagne yeast. When this intricate brew was complete, our brewers aged it on lightly toasted French Oak. The six week journey through our brewery results in a deeply complex ale which clocks in at 12% ABV, with 38 IBU.”

  2. An Otter unknown to the Baron? Do tell, and stay tuned for tasting notes on the recent Imperial Series.

  3. I had a similar experience with the Vinyl, and it saddened me to the point I actually had drafted a blog entry. If I had a few extra minutes in my day, I probably would have posted it.

    It was the perfect beer to dull the tastebuds, and it in no way reminded me of springtime. Not sure what the folks at MH were thinking on this one: “hey, let’s put out a spring seasonal that’s kinda flat and has little to offer in terms of flavor.”

    I gave it a 2 as well.

  4. Check out the latest issue of Beer Advocate Magazine ( for subscriptions) to see an equally disappointed group of souls discussing two recent Magic Hat offerings including this one. The point that the Bros. make echoes a mutual feeling among all Aleheads, we expect better beers from better breweries. Magic Hat seems to be getting a bit too cute lately, and honestly, they don’t need to go down that road. They’re too good at what they do to put out a beer like this. Trust me though, I completely understand if this is the type of beer that keeps the lights on in a low-margin industry, but I just don’t want it in my fridge. Whatever, maybe if they sell enough of this beer and the #9 it will keep them in business and they can get back to the types of beers that I know they can make.

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