It all started with a limited-edition stout ( ‘Porcine Unidragon’ by Clown Shoes out of Ipswich, Massachusetts) that we had picked up to have some craft beers on hand for an evening of gaming with friends. The brew piqued our interest in many ways. For one, the name was just plain interesting…Porcine Unidragon….by Clown Shoes?!! For another, the label was a cool bit of ‘geeky’ art. If any of you know the collectible card game called Magic, this label reminded me of some of the amazing artwork found on those Magic cards. And as if the name and the label weren’t enough, the distillation was an American Imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels.
This single bottle of high-quality stout started us on a stout-tasting kick that has been going on for years now. Over time we have tried quite a few stouts but those from Clown Shoes have been so consistently good that they have become our house standard for a good craft beer. As we try a new brew, the assessment usually goes something like this….
(Pour) “Check out that color. Beautifully dark and what a nice head.”
(Sniff) “Ah, nice aroma. I can pick up hints of (insert appropriate malt here).”
(Taste) ” Hmm. Pretty good. I like it… but it’s no Clown Shoes.”
There is a similar phrase thrown around the house, and with some friends, when it comes to music. There are a lot of albums or individual songs that we hear and enjoy but most fall into the category of “I like it…but it’s no Scissor Sisters.” [Although album three wasn’t a fav, the first, second and fourth Scissor Sisters albums all struck a good chord with us. ]
Standards can go in the negative direction as well. Back in 2007, we spent a couple of hours watching an Irish movie entitled “Garage”. By the time the movie came to an end, we looked at each other and agreed that we wanted our two hours back. Since then, we have watched quite a few movies. Some have been great, some have been mediocre but none have been as poor of an experience for us as “Garage” was, so the standard is “It wasn’t great…but it’s no ‘Garage’.”
This past weekend we went out with a few friends (one of whom was there on the fateful night when we discovered Clown Shoes) to the Original Gravity Public House in San Jose, California. They describe themselves as a ‘welcoming environment for beer geeks to the craft curious’ and, I would have to say, that is quite accurate. Great venue.
Original Gravity presents a rotating drink menu that is full of many brews that are only available by the keg so there is a good chance you will be trying things you have never had before. And their variety is such that you may have to look up some of the offerings on the menu.
I had never heard of a ‘gose’ before so I had to try Anderson Valley’s ‘Blood Orange Gose’. I enjoyed it but…you know the phrase. Clown Shoes’ position as our standard was still intact.
But then we tried Against the Grain’s ’70K’ – a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout:
(Pour) “Wow! Look how dark it is…and what a lovely head.”
(Sniff) “Ah, nice aroma. You can smell the bourbon. It’s so complex.” (Accompanied by a smile.)
(Taste) ” Now THAT’S good!” (Accompanied by four even bigger smiles.)
There was consensus. We all enjoyed the 70K immensely. It has since set me on the path to finding out more about this craft brewery out of Louisville, Kentucky called Against the Grain. For the first time in a very long time, perhaps Clown Shoes has met a contender. More research required. 😉