Thomas Hooker Spinster XPA
One 12 oz draught, $6.00, 4.4% ABV
Purchased at Max Burger, West Hartford
As I write this, there is a lot of exciting buzz surrounding Hooker. They are eyeing the old Hartford Times building in downtown Hartford for expansion. A Hooker brewpub in a historic stately building in downtown Hartford? Fanflippin’ tastic. (The other potential tenant is UCONN, so that’s cool too.)
Hooker just expanded their Bloomfield brewery, so I don’t think they will be leaving that building if they expand into Hartford – where, as you’ll remember, they began as Trout Brook brewing in the old Spaghetti Warehouse many moons ago.
So things are looking up for Connecticut’s second largest brewery (recently ousted from the top perch by the ginormous Two Roads in Stratford). They have always pumped out good to very good beer in classic styles. Note: Watermelon Ale is not a classic style, but some of us prefer to pretend Hooker doesn’t really make that – although knowing it’s their top seller bums me out a bit.
I’ve gone over the whole Hooker thing with their historic/cheeky name. No biggie. It’s good marketing. The folks behind the beer are unfailingly nice and hugely charitable. I think some of their beers hold up against the best of their styles.
Which brings me to the brand new Spinster XPA. It’s not bottled yet, but I had a glass of it during craft beer week at Max Burger. I had heard about it a couple months ago and was immediately turned off by the name. Look, I’m a dude. I’m 40. I’m not an Indigo Girls fan and I’ve never gone to a NOW event.
But really… can we move past the whole mocking women thing in the beer world please? Some day? Before I die? The following is from Boston.com:
Spinster (Noun): a woman who seems unlikely to marry. The guys over at Thomas Hooker found the name appropriate as like a spinster, this beer is made with a single hop: “Alone and bitter,” said company president Curt Cameron. This beer is a hoppy pale ale that is very citrusy, he said. .. the beer will [feature] a tap handle in the shape of an old lady.
“This is a great sit around and have a couple beers with folks sort of offering,” Cameron said.
Curt. I love you, man. But I know a lot of women of a certain age who have never married. Most are perfectly content and are not growing “alone and bitter.” Hell, many of them enjoy craft beer. And I’m willing to bet many of them won’t enjoy downing “alone and bitter” beer while being mocked for being “alone” and potentially “bitter.”
Now, I can admit it IS clever. Using Thomas Hooker’s name is clever. But there’s a fine line in my mind, and this one probably crosses it for a lot of people. I threw it out to Twitter and the response was clear: Single women hate the name and the imagery. Eh, they all drink the watermelon ale anyway, right Hooker?
See what I did there?
Anyway, how was the beer? It was alright. There was nothing special about it at all. Like, what’s the point of it beyond marketing the name? Sure, it’s a single hop ale – of an unknown variety at this moment. But having had single hop ales from Relic and New England (Galaxy, Mosaic, Nelson Sauvin, Citra), I don’t see where this one comes close. Now those 4 hops are expensive and hard to get usually, so bottling it would be a fool’s errand I think. I’m thinking Spinster is probably Simcoe or Cascade or some available American hop. Who knows. Definite citrus on the nose though.
You’d think this guy would know. This is a legit review from BeerAdvocate:
It was a fairly clear, thin golden color with a slight haze. It had a solid white coat on top and awesome lacing throughout like a blanket. The aroma was a solid citrus wheat with a rather astringent cabbage idea, likable for those that enjoy bitter brews. The flavor delivers a similar theme with some added flowery potatoe over the citrus bite. There’s a bright grassy edge with biscuit qualities as well. The carbonation is very polite and the feel is generally thin with a medium to light body. Generally a likeable pale ale that will appeal to your hop needs while keeping the taste a bit more interesting than most.
What the hell was all that? My homebrewing friend noted, “cabbage means they have Dimethyl Sulfide in the beer. its not desirable” But what’s a cabbage idea? I have no idea.
So yeah, I’m just confused by all this. I’m not on board with the marketing and I don’t get the taste of a classic single hop punch in the face that I’ve come to love and seek out.
Overall Rating: C
Rating vs. Similar style: D-