Okay, so I’m going to say the Magic Hat Vamplifier Hoppy Red Ale is definitely a Halloween beer. Not too many vampire references in the autumn come about otherwise. Though nothing on the bottle says as much, probability leans heavily in that direction.
That being the case, do we have some seasonally flavored beer that is destined to taste like some sort of pumpkin spice latte in Uggs and yoga pants? Doubtful. This is still beer after all.
But what we do have is a hopped red ale from a rather larger yet still respected brewery, known best perhaps for their fruity, hard to categorize “Number 9.” Known as they are for complex flavor patterns, I do walk into this review with something of an expectation of the same, however as usual, we’ll see as we go along. So without further ado…
This beer pours, as we can see, with a legitimate red amber color. Darker and hazy enough to make it almost opaque, it presents as a solid red ale ought to with a respectable yet shorter lived head sitting on top. To the nose the twin scents of an amplified (…oh, I get it) hop profile along with the sweeter malts and roasted grains of a red both arrive in fair and even form with an otherwise clean aroma.
To the palate, this same nature shines through rather well, causing both bitterness and lower tone bitter sweetness to both clash and complement one another in the course of the sip. Contained all within a smooth, medium bodied ale, the hop profile is not one which tastes altogether complicated. Suspecting perhaps even a bit of dry hopping going on, this entire flavor component, as up front as it is, does little to diminish the coppery richness of the red ale beneath it all. In fact, between the two elements, a fine balance seems to have been struck.
In conversations about this beer with coworkers prior to trying it, being spoiled as we are by so many exotic craft and micro brews, we were almost unanimously skeptical as to how richly Magic Hat may have pulled off this new release. Sipping it now however, I am reminded once again both that many of the craftier breweries who operate on the big stage nationwide and who have done so for years largely began as smaller breweries that created beer largely for the simply love of brewing beer. Likewise it is also a reminder that as people (Americans in particular) come to develop a more broadly refined appreciation for good, well made beer, many a big time brewery maintains or in some cases has developed a desire to make new and impressive offerings.
All in all, at the end of the day, for those who like hoppy bitterness and full-bodied red ales, this is one which should not disappoint. Though coming from the mainstream, at which many a purist may turn their heads up, it remains a flavorful and enjoyable beer and one I’ll likely return to again. Not mind blowing or revolutionary, we have in the Vamplifier an easy drinking, flavor rich ale which I offer whatever seals of approval I have to offer.
So to Magic Hat, to a return to red ales and of course to you, I say as always…
While the brewery may have provided the product mentioned above for free, I was not required to write a positive review, I did not receive any monetary compensation, and the honest opinions I have expressed are my own.
Nicholas Goroff is an actor, writer and craft beer reviewer at EveryJoe.com. Certified as a Cicerone beer server, he is working towards obtaining certification as a beer judge while employed at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH. When not reviewing beer, wine and spirits, he is typically writing political essays, screenplays and short fiction. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
Read more beer reviews from Goroff by clicking through the gallery below.