Hooker Experimentals/Casks

Hooker Experimentals/Casks


UnknownThere’s sort of an unwritten (and often unfollowed) rule that says beer reviewers shouldn’t really review certain types of one-offs or experimental beers. It’s just not fair, really. That’s why they are experimental – and a bad idea in a cask for a one-night, one-time tasting shouldn’t really be used against a brewery.

And the irony is, the smaller the brewery, the more likely they’ll have these types of brews now and again. The definition of this section will be different from brewery to brewery, but I think you get the point. You can’t buy these things in stores* and they most likely won’t be on offer but extremely rarely, if at all ever again.

But that’s what makes them fun, right? Right.

*Although, one would figure that an experimental with huge positive buzz might very well turn into a production beer.


caskTo my knowledge, Hooker hasn’t really gone down the experimental route before. Maybe some casks here and there… But they are getting frisky in 2013. I don’t know if it’s the sudden rise of Connecticut competition or if it’s their own expansion of brewing capacity, but I don’t really care. I’m just happy the brewery, which happens to be the closest one to my house AND one of the biggest in the state, is stepping up their game.

As with all these one-offs, it’s impossible to try them all. Deal with it.

Cask Chipotle Chocolate Stout: Tapped at Eli Cannon’s in Middletown in January 2013 and word on the street was not positive. I did not have this.

Cask Raspberry Chocolate Stout: On offer at the brewery in Bloomfield for an Open House event in January 2013. Reports from two Hooker employees were that it did not have enough raspberries in it at all and was a bit of a bust.

Cask Vanilla-Coffee Chocolate Stout (Rating: A): Free tasting at Harvest Wine, 1/11/13. Lisa from Hooker tended the barrel herself which was cool. She’s honest and forthright and I find her really fun to talk shop with. I’m sure she probably upsets a bunch of people in the male-dominated brewing world because of her honesty or whatever, but tough.

This was excellent, excellent stuff. Not something you could drink 3 pints of in one sitting, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet or cloying at all. I was impressed – of course, their chocolate stout is really good, so simply adding a few flavors to the cask shouldn’t be that hard.

I know infusing stuff into stouts is the thing to do these days, and I’m fine with it – as long as it’s done well. It appears I was able to enjoy a bit (I had much more in my cup before I took this picture behind some boxes) of the best of the three experimental casks.

The whole point, I think, of Hooker doing these things is to get the word out there that they are going to be diving headfirst into the craftier craft beer market.


Spinster XPA dry hopped with Citra & Mosaic hops (Rating: A-) Ahh, yes. Hooker casks up their rather mediocre XPA, drops in a bunch of great hops, lets it sit and voila! A top notch beer results.

xpaMany of our locals are getting into the casking game these days – way too many for any one man to keep up with. I don’t really try anymore, but when there are annual events (NEBCO at Prime 16) or nearby efforts (Hooker, Back East, Relic) and special nights at places like Max Burger mere minutes from CTMQ HQ, I do what I can.

I made it over to Max Burger to see my friend Doug who manages the joint and to have a glass of this brew. Lisa and Kurt from Hooker were there, but I didn’t get a chance to chat (WHEN WILL WE GET THE BARLEYWINE!?) which is unfortunate, because I really, really liked this effort.

It was pretty much along the lines of a good DIPA, which makes sense of course. The cask was getting a little warm by the time I had the beer, and I imagine two hours later it became a problem – if there was any beer left.

And I assume there was, because Hooker hasn’t quite reached the heights of the NEBCO’s of the world where a special cask release brings 20 fans to it to imbibe. I imagine besides myself, there were maybe five people at Max Burger for the sole purpose of trying this beer. (Max Burger was packed, as usual, just not with Hooker cask fans.)

But keep casking the right beer with the right stuff, and more people will start seeking out these events.


rauchHelles Rauschbier (Rating: C) I really should know more about this special beer. After all, Doug from Max Burger spent a few minutes explaining – with excitement I might add – how the restaurant’s smoker was used to smoke the malts(?) or whatever (it’s usually the malt, but not sure how that would work in the smoker?) gets smoked for rauschbiers.

The problem for me is that I have never enjoyed a rauschbier (“smoked” beer) in my life. And I really didn’t like this beer at all, but I have to applaud Hooker for really going for it here. They didn’t use one of their base beers and they used a unique process at a great restaurant. For that, they get an A for effort.

The smoke wasn’t dominant at all, nor was the typical Helles taste. This beer was just sort of “there.” But they may have been a function of the temperature more than anything.

I’m all for room temperature beers – when it’s the proper beer. A problem at these cask events, to me, is temperature. The previous effort, a dry-hopped ale, was delicious but suffered in the summer heat. This beer, with almost no carbonation at all, was a little more suited for the warmth, but it still could have used about 10 degrees cooler temperature.

When I ordered from the cask, I saw Lisa and the new Hooker brewer guy sort of look at me in surprise. As if to say, “this is not a popular casking effort.” I was sure to sit as far away as possible so they didn’t ask me what I thought of it.

Because I just don’t like rauschbiers. In case you missed that part.

Thomas Hooker Brewing Company
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