I was in New England last weekend and knew I would have the opportunity to enjoy a plethora of great beers. I wasn’t let down, and the next few posts will reflect most of what I tried. I’m prepared to review four beers, and all are pretty darn good. Two I’d had before and was waiting to try again, and two were new to me. All of them are very regional, so the posts will be of immediate assistance to those in the northeast, while most of you will have to make a point to find them when you’re in the region. Either way, once you get the opportunity to try them, I think you’ll be pleased.
This English pale ale from Smuttynose, New Hampshire’s most famous brewery, is absolutely delightful. A fantastic reddish color, cloudy appearance and creamy head mouthwateringly prepare you for this beer, and the high hopes are fulfilled. Shoals provides very full and balanced flavor from start to finish. Each sip begins with full-bodied mouthfeel that, while slightly heavy, is still very refreshing. The hops are very subtle yet produce tangy refreshment. The sip progresses to yield more-pronounced flavors of both malt and hops, but both are in perfect balance and work wonderfully together. The malt adds the right amount of creaminess while the hops provide the right amount of sweetness to lighten the mouthfeel and flavor. Each sip ends the way it progressed, leaving malt and hops on the back of your mouth, not too heavy, but enough to finish off the full-bodied beer nicely. Any less flavor at the finish would seem off-balance with the rest of the sip. Instead, Shoals keeps the same mouthfeel throughout and is incredibly consistent. In fact, aside from the slight change of flavor in the beginning of each sip, the flavor never really changes. For some beers this is a problem, but when it tastes as good as Shoals does, it’s an attribute.
Another attribute Shoals can boast is that it tastes just like it looks it should. Too often reddish beers look like they’ll produce certain elements, such as rich creaminess, but when it comes to flavor, they fall short. Coupled with great flavor, Shoals is just about the complete package. The only thing holding it back for me is that it’s just a touch too hoppy for an English pale ale. The malt is done so well I want a little more. Smuttynose has the widest circulation of the upcoming beers, and it’s in your best interest to give this one a try.