Photo: Clown Shoes Beer
Thus, you'll understand my apprehension when word wound my way about new Massachusetts' Clown Shoes Beer. "It's kind of a long story," founder Gregg Berman says of the moniker. Well? Basically, Berman explains, several years ago website Beer Advocate ran a contest to name its collaborative brew crafted with Dogfish Head. For the brown ale, which was made with pecan wood–smoked malt, Berman and Co. suggested Clown Shoes. They lost. Wrath of Pecant won.
Berman would not be denied. "I started the brand as a joke," says Berman, the general manager of importer Arborway Imports and co-owner of family-run Berman's Wine and Spirits. Since starting a brewery from the ground-up can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Berman tapped state-mates Mercury Brewing to handle production. (Fortuitously, his family's distribution license would allow him to send beer far and wide.) Berman articulated his desire for cutting-edge, hop-forward craft beers. Brewer Dan Lipke delivered in spades.
Since the first batch was released during the last week of 2009, Clown Shoes has won an ardent, growing following with of-the-moment beers such as Hoppy Feet, a black IPA with a big ol' grapefruit nose. Eagle Claw Fist is a generously bittered amber ale. Brown Angel pairs its coffee and chocolate character with a refreshingly bitter current. Yet with spring here, I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend Clemetine, a 6 percent ABV stunner.
Constructed with clementines, coriander and orange peel, the Belgian-style witbier (you know, like Allagash White or Blue Moon) pours out hazy and honey-hued. A citric-orange scent hijacks your nose, but there's also a spiciness supplied by Belgian yeast. Taste-wise, semi-dry Clemetine slides down zesty and prickly, with a lick of bitterness bringing it home.
I think it's time rethink my stance on clowns.
Joshua M. Bernstein has written about brews, bars and booze for New York Magazine, Time Out New York, Imbibe Magazine and The New York Times. His beer book, Brewed Awakening, will be published by Sterling this fall. Follow him on Twitter @JoshMBernstein.