Top Shelf Marathon IPA
22 oz bottle, $7, 6% ABV
Purchased at the brewery, Manchester
Sorry, Damian. You actually consented to put yourself in one of my goofy pictures and it was for an abysmal beer. You even sort of smiled and waved. I owe you one, kid.
“Marathon.” 26.2 miles. Or, colloquially, “anything that seems like a slog, or never-ending.” Marathon.
I recently started a new thing via social media. In an effort to get me to not have to think about which unwritten reviews I’ll write, I ask the world to name a brewery or brewpub. The first response with at least 4 unwritten reviews gets their “week” on CTMQ.
This week, someone said “Top Shelf.” (That someone runs the Connecticut Beer Reddit page, so I’m guessing he was trolling me.)
But I couldn’t say no and frankly, I thought it would be nice to get the 5 unwritten Top Shelf reviews out of the way. Unfortunately, I have to be honest; it’s been a difficult “marathon” for me.
I do not revel in giving ‘F’ grades for terrible beer. It’s not “fun” to write a review of a middling below average ale with all sorts of problems. I don’t like potentially hurting good guys and small business in an industry I love. (Though, let’s be honest, I have little to no effect on any one business in particular, but still… It doesn’t feel good.)
I was going through this same lament the other day with a friend on the Direct Messaging on the Twitter:
See, he or she can say that… because he or she isn’t the one putting his name on these awful reviews. And I can screenshot it and put it right here on this page and act like, “hey, I didn’t write that so, I mean, it’s not like I’m saying that or anything,” right?
Top Shelf says:
Attention all hop heads and lupulin lovers. This highly sessionable IPA carefully crafts big hop flavor and aroma over a modest malt backbone. Huge late charges of American hops deliver pronounced citrus and pine notes for miles while the restrained base and crystal malt cheers it on. The finish should always taste this good!
No. The Marathon IPA does none of these things and contains none of the above attributes. My experience with it was so wholly negative, from beginning to (quite merciful) end, that I can’t even pretend.
“Hop heads and lupulin lovers” is an unnecessary redundancy. I do appreciate the clever running race symbolism though. However, no, this beer had no citrus and no pine and therefore no signature hop flavors.
In fact, it had everything a bad beer has. It was almost like someone tried to make a beer with as many bad signature notes all at once. Rather amazing that. I just scrolled through Untappd, that nearly useless fountain of uninformed buffoonery and found some gems.
And since nearly every single untapped user is terrified to rate a local brewery under a 3, for whatever reason – leaving it up to me, a guy with a full name and address and family on his website – to be honest about such things. Anway, this review was pretty great. Nicely done.
But this review was even better:
He missed the clear butyric vomit aroma I got with my infected bottle. I have no idea what this beer was supposed to be, but it wasn’t remotely an IPA, as yeast esters had gone to rot and fruitify this beer. Then there was the metal and chlorine on the end of each putrid swallow.
I honestly felt like the Marathon IPA was a gag beer; no pun intended. I figured, “ok, these guys are pulling my leg here. No way any brewery this side of some prison toilet brewer in, say, North Korea, would pass this bottle off as “drinkable.”
So here’s the deal. I’m going to wait a year. If Top Shelf still exists, and it looks like they will, I will revisit with as open a mind as I can muster. They have to be better (though the two reviews I linked/posted were from August 2014, just a few weeks ago). They have to have stopped goofing around with weird smoking techniques and they have to be sterilizing their equipment, like, every night by now.
One more chance, and then I’ll have to shut them out of any further reviews until they are sold and renamed. This madness can’t continue.
Overall Rating: F
Rating vs. Similar style: F-