Top Shelf Honey Smack
22 oz bottle, $5, 5% ABV
Purchased at the brewery, Manchester
“Can you come here and smack me?”
“I want you to come and smack me. Hard. In the face. Then you can kiss me. Call it a ‘honey smack’.”
“Oooh, I get it. You are drinking another Top Shelf beer. I’m going to smack you twice for good measure.”
I¹ll say one thing for Top Shelf. ¬ Despite some difficulties with quality control in their first few months (at least) of operations, they have kept releasing new and interesting sounding beers. Perhaps the thought was, “hey, our flagships may be a bit rough, but whatever. We¹re going to keep doing our thing and explore all sorts of styles.”
Points for gumption. I guess.
As you can tell from the picture, this beer was a one-off not deserving of a proper label. If you look closely, they did write an ‘H’ on the cap. I don’t mind the shabby chic – as long as the product inside the bottle was decent.
And I like honey. Honey is delicious. Honey also has some interesting chemical properties (the antimicrobial activity in most honeys is due to the enzymatic production of hydrogen peroxide, for one) that make bacterial infection of it very, very rare.
For a nascent brewery with some fairly serious infection issues (again, at least early on), dumping a bunch of honey is some beer was a genius move. And their description of that beer was intriguing…
Top Shelf says:
Low on hops, but big on honey. This cider-like beer has a 2-row malt backbone with a huge smack of honey.
They didn’t lie. In some ways, this was my favorite Top Shelf beer to date. For one, it tasted like it was “supposed” to taste – and not like vomit or nail polish or Band-Aids. So that was good. The base beer – a light, bubbly, crisp ale was a good vehicle for the honey.
But, the “smack of honey” was a bit too much. It wasn’t awful, like Dogfish Head’s Jihau was for me, where the honey coated my throat like a lozenge. No, the Honey Smack, being a “cider like” beer base, was crisper and brighter and the honey didn’t linger. (The Jihau was syrupy and gross.)
Should Top Shelf hang their hat on this beer? No. But it did show me that this brewery has some promise… after I was about to give up hope.
Overall Rating: C+
Rating vs. Similar style: n/a