Spring Break Special: Natural Ice

This week my university is on spring break. So in the spirit of scantily clad women, tropical locations, and drunken frat boys nationwide, I will be reviewing Natural Ice. You can also catch this entry in Western Connecticut State University’s parody edition of the Echo, the Yekko.


Upon purchasing my selection of Natural’s “Ice” variety, I promptly placed it in my beer cellar to age. It may not be, perhaps, the most traditional of cellars, as it resides in the trunk of my car next to my rain poncho and spare tire. I hoped the cool, dark interior of a 2004 Hyundai Elantra trunk might add some notes of spice to this famous and distinguished brew.

Upon cracking the 12oz can, I immediately recognized its fruity, cornmeal scent from past summers of underage binge drinking. It’s appearance was that of carbonated vegetable oil with a very thin lacing head. Ah! The fruity splash upon my palate! The aftertaste of cornmeal and aluminum against tongue! A delight for the senses and at 5.9 percent ABV, a sharpener of the intellect and libido.

For pairing, I would recommend a sharp cheddar chex-mix, often found in bowls at the most prestigious drinking establishments. Theses delectables, often poured from large containers found at your local Costco, blend the salt of cheese-dust mixed with the residue of other bar-goer’s finger-grime.  The bar mix compliments the saccharine cornmeal and esters of our dear Natural.

I would find myself most at ease with this brew while hitting on underage, intoxicated women and whilst screaming obscenities at my local sporting arena.

Overall: Two flat-brimmed baseball caps up.

Availability: Wherever economic depression and testosterone strike.

Drinkability: Enough to do a keg-stand long enough for Cher to age.


The Cat on the Mount

Photo by Joshua L Durkin

I was in a texting argument with a friend the other day who is still in college. She was ghetto-hot for a young man with over-indulged muscles and a can-opener chin. It went something like this:

Her: “I need 4 ways to get this guys attention i want him to know me”.

Me: “What does he like to do? What does he look like? And what does he drink?”

Her: “i donno he likes 2 party… i mean really party”.

Me: “Apply warm beer. It’ll dilate your blood vessels and make your skin
hot and attractive to frat boys used to seeing girls pour beer on
their faces.”

Her: “thats good i needed to hear that from you”.

And so on.

The obvious, since they are both of age, would be to take the guy out drinking, and make him pay for it, thus instilling in his peanut brain the fact that he has staked some sort of pseudo-claim to her that resembles forced prostitution.

I’m waiting to hear back about the results.

Me? I haven’t had any ghetto-hot prospects, but I’ve been trying to get a heavy learning on the shitstorm that produced our Great Recession. One beacon of light towards a birth of understanding, a seeming master explainer, is Matt Taibbi. When listening to Kid Cudi’s Pursuit of Happiness isn’t enough to give a person the feeling that their tribulations and work are worthwhile experiences in life, it takes a wit-spotted humorist to help keep sanity within reach.

But when even that isn’t enough, good drink and above all whisky is necessary to knock loose the anger lining the veins.

Tonight it’s session number 35 of Harpoon’s 100 Barrel Series, the Catamount Maple Wheat, available on draft and in 22oz bombers.

According to the Harpoon Brewery website: “The Harpoon 100 Barrel Series is a return to our brewing roots. We call it the 100 Barrel Series because that’s exactly what it is— one-of-a-kind limited batch creations fashioned by a Harpoon brewer. Every couple of months a different Harpoon brewer will choose a style, develop a recipe, and brew the beer—from selecting the ingredients to the final filtration. You will find that brewer’s signature on each bottle of beer from their batch. So if you like the beer, you’ll know who to thank.”

This session is brewed by Brett Simmons.

The beer, opened… ah, angel drink. It warms and fellates the dark areas of the mind.

At 6.8% abv, it has a brown sugar smell on opening, which is likely the maple syrup aroma and flavor. At first the bottle looked outrageously carbonated, but it didn’t taste it at all, and the head subsided quickly. The beer exhibits a soft, almost buttery taste. And certainly doesn’t taste like it’s 6.8%, which is both good and bad for obvious reasons.

Photo by Joshua L Durkin

I noticed hints of wheat, and subtly done vibrations of syrupy New England growth. Very well. I had a grapefruit around, and decided that since many beers go well with orange or grapefruit slices, I’d try a combination. I poured the beer into a smaller glass and experimented with a squeeze of ruby grapefruit juice and let the slice float in the beer. It was not good. No go on the Grapefruit and Catamount. But, I’ll assume that some might like it, since it wasn’t that bad….

I admire the big mountain cat adorning the limited edition small batch crest on the bottle. Catamount, after all, is another name for a large cat that roams mountain sides and yearns for large prey and fat-covered bones to gnaw on for sustenance and general good dental health.

According to Harpoon’s website, this isn’t the first go at the Catamount Maple Wheat. Between February and April of 2009, it was the brewery’s 26th session beer. At that point it had slightly less abv at 6.75% and IBU rating of 20 and original gravity of 15.9. The current Catamount Maple Wheat has an OG of 15.6 and an IBU rating of 21.

The beer is a nice drink, and worth the $5.99 cost.

Overall: a 7.2, for it’s maple flavor and smoothness.


Special Election Results: Old Speckled Hen wins by a landslide

As a door knocker, one of the benefits of my job is the ability to smoke and drink on the job.

Well, maybe not drinking on the job. But certainly after the election, and in the off time on the immediate days leading up to it.

So, as I stood outside of campaign HQ smoking my Newport with Puds on Main street, I see my boss head down the street with a rack of the Beast under his arm, and a small brown bottle in the other.

“Danny!” He shouts, as I go to reach open the door.

“No this is for you.”

The small brown bottle is now mine.

“Had it up in New Hampshire. Enjoy.”

He heads inside to make more phone calls.

Now, I might not make a lot of money as a door knocker. (I might also still be in college.) But when my job involves talking with people about issues I care about and wandering my great and illustrious state, and my boss buying me a pint of the Hen, well, shit.

I couldn’t be happier.

I cracked her open the night before the election, and she poured a deep red caramel into my pint glass. Little to no head.  Before I even poured I could smell the grassy noble hops. A little bit of spice, a little bit of lemon, and a little bit of caramel earth invite the nose into the polling booth.

English ales are something I’m new to, but the hoppy bitterness is something my taste buds favor. An IPA lover, I love bite and citrus. There’s not so much citrus here, but a fair amount of bite.

I bubble in the empty box on the Character line. She’s cross-endorsed by the Complexity party as well.

Now, I’m not a rubber stamp IPA drinker, there are some out there that just fail in composition and lack complexity and charecter, but my first experience with English Pale Ale is having me love the drinkability. It’s bitterness gives it body up front, but the caramel/butterscotch finish is balanced and not overly saccharine. The Hen’s got a heartiness to it that doesn’t fill me up, but invites another medium sip.

Carbonation isn’t felt until the latter half of the sip, as it allows the flavor to hit the palate first.

It’s balanced, sweet, and with a strong but not overpowering hop presence. Butterscotch is still on my throat as I hand my completed ballot to a blue-hair standing next to the staunch and official grey cube.

As I walk away from the polling place, I look down to the “I voted today!” sticker on my chest and I realize the Hen had an easy election. Most of her constituents in the bitter ward were already supporters, and she managed to reach out to the new sweetness voting bloc as well.


It’s ABV means it won’t be a session beer, but I can see myself couping up with the Hen till summer beers hit the shelves.


CT BEERS: Get Haggard with the Sea Hag


A much anticipated review that I’ve been chatting my friends up about, I finally got to New England Brewery’s Sea Hag. I first expirenced her in New Haven’s Owl Shop, located on College Street. The brewery, based in Woodbridge Connecticut, has recently put out a double IPA, Ghandi Bot. It’s first iteration of the IPA style leaves nothing to be desired in the areas of citrus, hops, and bite.

Pouring it into my trusty mug, a cloudy sea of toasty burnt orange emerges. The Hag rears its thin head, one finger high, quickly lacing to a mere one centimeter thick.

On her nose, she has a spike of firmented citrus and hops, with a slightly metallic tinge. The Hag is entombed in a can prior to her release, which may or may not account for her aluminous scent.

As she winds her way into my mouth, I can feel the strong bite of bitter hops and vicious carbonation- She’s been wronged, according to her story, and her revenge punishes my tounge.

I like it. It’s not the pain of a lover lost at sea, or the sting a salty wave against the eyes. Her pain is complex, alluring, and inviting exploration.

As she rolls in my mouth, I can feel her sting spread to my gums and lower palate. Her fury is felt down to my eusophogus. Her citrus aroma beckons up for more. I give in.

With a 6.2% ABV, she’ll knock you on your ass and leave you sore and wanting. Bring me more punishment.

She’s available in cans all across New Haven and Fairfeild County for 8 dollars and change for a sixer.

Overall: 9/10 rusted hooks.

Naughty Nellie… The Black Keys… Clint Eastwood….

Photo by Joshua L Durkin

I tasted this about a week ago and took some notes on it.

I remember it was one of the days last week when the rain froze moments after it fell. Outside my apartment near freezing water dripped from the porch and snow above. So I placed my beer under a stream of falling water to let nature do its thing.

Pike’s Naughty Nellie, an American pale ale out of Washington State.

At first I wasn’t sure if listening to The Black Keys romp around in their world was making my impression on the beer better than it should have been. But the opening taste of the beer was good.

Attack & Release came on an NPR station out of Portland, Ore. And so it seemed a good fit to impulsively buy the album and review both the beer and part of the album at the same time.

Attack & Release opens with “All You Ever Wanted,” slow and mellow, like Nellie, or a vaquero.

Imagine Clint Eastwood with a rug slung over his shoulder, and a haze of flies swirling around his head.

He traipses through dubious red earthen terrain, with a bottle of golden yellow Pike brewed beer, which he pops as “I Got Mine” rocks some eardrums loose, and then swigs from the beer, muttering about the cucumber buttermilk aftertaste, and then turning awkwardly, with fixed anger at a man lying in his own blood at the foot of a horse previously unseen.

He growls something like: “Beers are like people—you have to recognize the differences between them,and accept them, in order to respect them.”

Photo c/o Amazon

The dying man grunts.

And then, because the film appears to be a proper western of sorts, “Strange Times” enters with the kinds of mercuric riffs that fit properly behind montaged scenes of, let’s say, an intense staring contest between the dying man and Eastwood with his Nellie beer and interloping flies.

Then the soundtrack cuts to silence and Eastwood spits, and then rams a cigarillo stub into his mouth, and the dying man—bleeding through his rug and dark tattered pants—pulls himself to a sitting position and Clint speaks.

“Even when I agitate this beer,” he snarls, “with my sloppy walk, the beer doesn’t produce more than half an inch of head. Amazing.”

The dying man nods, and searches Eastwood’s face for sympathy. Eastwood hands him the beer to swig. The dying man does. “Psychotic Girl” begins to play quietly and then louder in the background.

“This is a calm mother,” the dying man mutters, and drools some of it. Then he says, “The low alcohol by volume makes the beer pleasant to me. It must be 4.70%, almost a session beer, which is a beer you can drink many of without worry of quick intoxication,” he says.

Eastwood nods and takes the bottle back and then nearly drains it while the dying man gasps and reaches to the sky while letting out an utterly gut-wrenched groan of a wail, while the Black Keys’ “Lies” wistful, and nostalgic, plays.

Eastwood considers the bottle and says, “When I opened this bottle, there was no head, or barely a lick of it. A smooth, crisp, hop flavor—like listening to jazz flute while smoking pot in an underlit Mexican hellhole of a restaurant that doesn’t even have tables.”

“That’s no restaurant then,” said the dying man, “all restaurants have tables. It can be no other way.”

“You are right,” said Eastwood.

“Remember When” side A and B begin to play, and then he sits next to the dying man and they pass a canteen back and forth as shadows start to stretch across the plains of the southwest. And when the sun is nearing crimson cadmium, “Same Old Thing” starts and Eastwood rises to finish his beer.

He walks over to a saguaro cactus and punches a hole into it with his bare fist. A thin liquid runs out and Eastwood tilts his bottle against the cactus, catching a few ounces of cactus juice in his beer. Darkness is falling.

He mutters something about the song “So He Won’t Break” and lets loose a barbaric yawp that echoes throughout the land. He slams the rest of the beer into his throat and shatters the bottle on the ground at his feet. He breathes heavily, and wild.

The dying man gasps, and starts, as if to make away but for his wounds, he cannot. A horse struts up slowly to Eastwood’s side. He searches the saddle and then removes another bottle. Secure between his teeth, he wrenches the bottle and cap loose and spits the cap at the feet of the dying man.

The dying man says something like, “‘Oceans & Streams’ is playing now. I will be dead soon.” Eastwood nods at this and goes over to him, crouches and hands him the beer while he puffs slowly at his cigarillo. The glow lights up his face for a moment.

“Overall, I would rate this beer a six shooter,” says Eastwood.

“Corny,” says the dying man. “It must not be very available. I do not often see Pike’s beer on shelves. If I weren’t dying, I would go to Washington, where this beer is from.”

“Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be,” says Eastwood. “The beer looks like the desert after rain, and when the light is low in the west.”

And then the guy dies, and the film ends with the same kind of random, spirited confidence that the opening of Attack & Release, Clint Eastwood, and Naughty Nellie all had.


Hops & Pop


Amanda Bloom, Editor-in-Chief of TheMercurial.com


It is definitely not spring. Though many people want it to be, which is understandable. We’ve gotten a few winters worth of snow this time around, and many of us are cold and seasonally affected. 


There’s not much we can do to bring March 21 around any quicker.  But there are some things that help to make the cold months more bearable.  For example, drinking and listening to pop music.   


I chose to review Magic Hat’s Spring Seasonal because seeing it in the store made me laugh – it’s barely even February, and it was especially freezing outside today due to a cutting wind.  But perhaps now is the time to launch those spring brews, because maybe beer buyers will equate drinking a spring seasonal with the feeling of melted snow and bobbing snowdrops.  And spring sells during the doldrums of winter.  This brew’s beautiful label is colored with bright greens, blues and deep reds – it ‘s catchy, just like Rihanna and Drake’s “What’s My Name”. 

I can’t say I’ve been seasonally affected this year, and that may be because I’ve recently been deeply affected by pop music.   The hyper-produced beats, epic bridges and silly lyrics have become the ultimate in winter gear.  Pop songs are good, really good.  They are “pop” because they are popular, because they make people dance and sing and smile.  Because they hint of 90 degree weather and wearing minimal clothing. 

Magic Hat’s Spring Seasonal is named the “Vinyl Lager”.  According to Magic Hat lore, Vinyl is the sprightly fairy adorning the beer’s label.  She is the “season-shifter, bursting from her cocoon to sing the ancient song of vernal yearning” – just like Miley Cyrus or Ke$ha.  And in terms of drinkability, cost and all that, Vinyl goes down just like “Party in the U.S.A.” or “We R Who We R”.  It’s light and slightly bitter, a more or less insubstantial brew that goes down easy again and again – and again.   

I’ll apply my Magic Hat “fortunes” to the beer scale: 

Overall: “Bask in the glory of Apple Pie” 

Cost: “It’s All About Me” 

Taste: “Who’s At Fault For the Asphalt Vault”  

REMIX!! – Sacrifice one of your sixers and cook a meal of “Mardi Gras Vinyl Rice”.  Magic Hat also offers recipes for a number of their other brews on their website. 

-Amanda Bloom

Rage With A Skunky, Grapefruity Bitch

Flying Dog's Raging Bitch (photo by Josh Durkin)

Flying Dog’s 20th anniversary brew, which debuted last year, was the Raging Bitch Belgian IPA. The tagline? “If you’re lucky, your bitch will look this good after 20 years.”

Ain’t that something.

I left work with sore and a bit shaky in the knees after days of wandering around the store and where I live with bright colored hard plastic shovels and my dad’s old gray and red CB ski jacket and boots made of pads of leather hedon-harlots that soak up everything wet that slops by.

But now? Now I’m reclined on my bed typing this up, with a strange feeling in my knees that I hope means repaired damage, and this beer and a peanut butter and chocolate sandwich. And in the background, “Radio-Inactive” by Blueprint, after the Black Keys’ “Tighten Up” just played.

Well, the tone of the packaging and the quality of beer bring to mind buzzed recollections of Stone Brewery’s line of beers. Stone is the brewery that features a gargoyle on nearly everything they do, and they do fantastic beer. But, the style of the beer is worth noting above all else. Belgian IPAs are growing in popularity. Offhand, the only two I can think of are the Raging Bitch and Stone’s Cali-Belgique, and I’ve tried a third but can’t remember exactly what it was. It might have been from New England Brewery.

At 8.3% abv with this refreshing kind of crisp grapefruit sourness, the Bitch is comprised of El Diablo yeast—which yields the funk of the citrus—Warrior, Columbus, and Amarillo hops, and 60L Chrystal specialty malts, according to Flying Dog’s website. The Warrior hops, first bred by Yakima Chief Ranches, adds relatively smooth bitterness to the beer, while the Amarillo and Columbus hops offers pungent and hoppy-citrus flavors.

I’ve known about the beer for some time, have successfully passed it on to people who love IPAs. According to the Flying Dog website, along with the number of six packs that leave the store I work at, the popularity of the beer keeps rising as the style and the brewery get more fame and publicity.

I first picked up the beer because I immediately recognized that Ralph Steadman did the package art.

The bombastic drawings on the label done by Steadman would catch any eye, prudent or not, which is what Steadman is known from. Steadman, who was commissioned by Flying Dog to Draw the package art for their entire line of beers, is famous for his incredible caricatures, specifically in characterizing political figures. Anyone who has read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, or has seen the movie by Terry Gilliam would immediately recognize his artwork.

But I’m not convinced that the label illustration by Steadman expands upon qualities in the beer.

And I feel like the title “Raging Bitch” somehow doesn’t quite fit the beer. A good name, sure, but this liquid cur is smooth at times, and a bit androgynous. A different way to describe the beer is that it evokes tastes just like you might feel after hearing a couple of strange orators. Try defining the beer that way: George Carlin (the intelligence, the grapefruit, and the lingering flavor) or Lewis Black (the angry bitterness left after the swallow), as well as Amy Poehler (the smooth sweetness) and Betty White (the strange bite).

Probably an unwise move to compare a liquid to comedic and intelligent people, but then again, why not?

Well, if you don’t get a chance to try this beer, or just don’t like Belgian IPAs very much, the whole Flying Dog line is worth tasting.

Their American Pale Ale, the Doggie Style, was rated number 1 by The New York Times in June of last year, and received a beer award and page spread from Maxim in their February 2011 issue. Cute. But I like the wild animal a bit more than their dry-hopped pale ale.

Overall: 8.2 out of 10.

Availability: Released last year as Flying Dog’s 20th anniversary brew, it was just added the beginning of this year to the brewery’s year-round roster. So, find a place that sells beer, and you’ll probably be able to buy or order it.

Appearance: Cinnamon gold.

Taste: I want to say something cliché like “it tastes like a bitch you’d want to party with,” but that’d be crass, ugly and, well, wholly unrealistic.