Thomas Hooker Watermelon Ale
One 12 oz bottle as part of mix-six pack, $9.90, 4.9% ABV
Purchased at Copaco Liquors, Bloomfield
Where do I begin with this one? How about with the good? Many people enjoy this “beer.” My wife can finish a bottle. And I love my wife. Several friends will defend its merits. Hell, I even know a beer blogger who makes no bones about his love of the watermelon ale.
What else? It sells well. It creates a good (marketing) buzz. Local teens probably drink it like the teens in the 80’s did with Bartles and James and the teens in the 90’s did with Zima. Wait, is that a good thing? Maybe in some quarters.
The infamous Hooker Watermelon Ale. About which one Beer Advocate reviewer wrote, “Overall it seems like a Smirnoff Ice poured into a Keystone and left in the sun.” Yet others seem to find its merits when hanging out with bikini clad women on a hot summer’s day. A beer which, depending on what year you drink it may either be impossibly sweet, impossibly cloying, impossibly awful or impossibly okay. Or all four.
I’ve had this now each summer since the evil aliens invaded Bloomfield’s brewery and injected the tanks with gallons of artificial watermelon flavor. That first summer, opening a bottle of this stuff would instantly make your baby-doody nursery smell like a jolly rancher factory. The flavoring was so powerful, that every beer run at the brewery afterwards tasted like watermelon. Hooker had to replace all the lines and scrub the tanks for days on end.
Back to the drawing board. (I can’t vouch for how factual a bunch of this is, by the way.) The next summer, Hooker toned down the artificiality and used some more subtle and I believe some natural flavors. The result was a much more enjoyable experience, but one that was incredibly fleeting in the taste department. Yes, it still smelled like Willy Wonka farts, but the fruit taste disappeared half a second after your tongue sent the taste profile to your brain.
Back to the drawing board. This summer (2012), Hooker has found more of a balance. The flavor is still fleeting, but that is infinitely better than coating your innards like a melted Blow-Pop Pepto Bismol abomination. But it’s still not for me.
I imagine brewing this is a double-edged sword for Hooker. Beer geeks hate it, but it sells pretty well and beer babes love it. So they probably have these strategy meetings wherein the head brewer is like, “Man, I can’t do this anymore. It’s a big, glaring watermelon stain on my resume,” and the head marketer is all, “Dude, we can’t keep up with demand,” and the president, head resting in his hands goes, “Damnit.”
You won’t see this stuff in too many bars either, because the word on the streets is that once you run a barrel of it, the tap lines are kissed with the pre-teen lipstick flavor of the watermelon ale for the next month or so. And that really stinks.
Look, Hooker makes some really good beer (Liberator Doppelbock, Old Marley Barleywine, Imperial Porter, their Munich Lager), and some really bad beer (this, their winter called Nor’Easter). But that’s what a growing brewery does – they expand their selection and appeal to a broader range of beer drinkers.
My only problem with the watermelon is that it’s really not for beer drinkers.
Overall Rating: F+
Rating vs. Similar style: F (I had a 21st Amendment watermelon beer that was actually not bad at all.)