Beer Review 0408: Clown Shoes Muffin Top Belgian-Style Tripel IPA
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a beer from Clown Shoes — if you’ve been reading my reviews for any length of time, you’ll know that I shied away from Clown Shoes for the longest time because I didn’t particularly care for their bottle art, but after trying a couple of their brews, I was highly impressed. I don’t think I’ve had a mediocre beer from them yet.
Clown Shoes beers are contract brewed by Mercury Brewing Company, located in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Mercury produces beer for several different companies, and they even make craft sodas.
Muffin Top is a year-round offering from Clown Shoes, and will soon be available in 12 oz. bottles — it is a Belgian-style Tripel, brewed with a burst of American hops. The beer comes in at 10% ABV (alcohol by volume).
The pour tells the story of two beers: at first, this produces an average size, soapy and frothy head with a lasting quality. The beer is golden-orange in color, with a cloudy body, but no particles or sediment in suspension. Lacing is extremely good, leaving thin but solid sheets, like a heavy frost. At the bottom of the bottle, mixing all the yeast cake in with the beer, you get a larger head that is creamy and tends to last in significant quantity. The beer becomes highly clouded, and there is a noticeable sediment — so much so that the beer becomes opaque. Very nice!
On the nose, Muffin Top is quite complex, and very balanced for this style of beer. The hops are sweet, offering candied orange, lots of general citrus, especially lemon, and tropical notes of pineapple and even some bitter grapefruit. The malts add to the sweetness, with some biscuit and bread notes, and the yeast is contributing common Belgian qualities of clove and bubblegum. The 10% ABV is here, but it adds a nice sharpness to the aroma, not an overbearing booziness. As this warmed, and as I poured the remainder of the bottle in, the yeast components came more to the front, and the hops began to get a little catty.
Tasting, and right away, this is straight pineapple juice with a bit of fleshy grapefruit cut in. The Belgian yeast comes in to break up the initial fruitiness, giving a layer of funky clove and dry bubblegum. This is a strange but pleasant combination of flavors; in the middle, some dark pine hops come out, along with orange peel and a touch of caramel. The finish is moderately bitter, balancing notes of the yeast with candied orange peel and a heavy alcohol presence. Not quite boozy, but it’s there. The yeast is actually more funky than it is typical Belgium — when the rest of the bottle is poured in, the mouthfeel becomes creamy. I found this to be medium-bodied, with a high alcohol warmth but not boozy in taste.
When I first looked at the style of this brew, I nearly rolled my eyes. Belgian IPAs can tend to be a mess, but this one is not only interesting, but exceptionally drinkable and combines the large amount of flavors really well. This bottle is worth it, and I was pleasantly surprised, although I shouldn’t have been: Clown Shoes know what they’re doing. Pick it up!
Clown Shoes Muffin Top Belgian-Style Tripel IPA, 94 points. Price: $7.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.