Magic Rock Brewing might not have been around long, but they’re already making an impact with the beers they brew. Cask and keg offerings at the awesome new Craft Beer Co and Southampton Arms in London, a funky launch at North Bar in Leeds and a generally positive buzz around the beer world – they’re out the blocks well.
I’ve enjoyed their stuff on draught, but it’s bottles I want to talk to you about today. Bottles that have some of the best branding on them that I’ve ever seen. Bottles full of delicious beer?
First up is High Wire, a 5.5% beer that calls itself a West Coast Pale Ale. The aroma is dominated by high alpha acid American hops, floral and perfumed rather than heavy and dank, they bring notes of lychee, some sappy pine and some mango. This follows through into the flavour, where it’s met with a firm malt-driven backbone of caramel and toffee. It’s generously hopped for a beer in the American pale ale style and, whilst I do think you need a decent malt body to stand up to that, I’d go so far as to say that perhaps there is too much malt character here. The body feels slightly thin – something which could be down to filtering – but the bitterness is about spot on.
High Wire’s big brother is Cannonball, a full-fledged IPA in the American style with 7.4% of its 330ml handed over to alcohol. Its aroma is juicy, juicy like you just stamped on a bowlful of very ripe satsumas and tangerines, juicy with a slight hint of sticky pine sap in the background. Flavour honours aroma with the addition of more of that malt, that caramelly, toffee malt that’s in the High Wire. There might be a bit too much of it for my personal taste here too, there’s almost the slight suggestion of a weak golden barley wine going on - just because that malt character is quite big. Bitterness is bang on again, there’s a tiny bit of alcohol burn and then a slick, oily texture that definitely doesn’t come from a fault like diacetyl, but might come from hop oils. This is good beer, very good beer. The hop profile is a little on the muddy side and, I think, lacking the clarity of hop flavour that you get in the very best American IPA’s but, nonetheless, this is good beer.
And finally Rapture, which immediately makes me think of Brewdog 5am Saint, a “Red Hop Ale” at 4.6% alcohol. The aroma is more floral in this one, cut flowers, flower petals and then dank, leafy, well ... leaves. The flavour profile is dominated by those hops; they’re painted over a canvas of crystal malt that brings a load of burnt sugar, dark toffee and even feint coffee and bitter chocolate. There’s some sweetness there but it finishes dry and, with that dryness, the crystal malt is allowed to take over, leaving some astringency. I love 5am Saint because the hop and malt is in perfectly balance, Rapture almost gets there but the crystal just becomes a bit too much for me.
You know what; there aren’t many breweries out there that make three bottled beers of this quality. To have done so within the first few months of operation, well, that’s no mean feat.