Nor’Easter (2012)

Thomas Hooker Nor’Easter
One 12 oz bottle, $1.79++, 5.7% ABV

Purchased at Crazy Bruce’s, West Hartford

Another polarizing brew from my friends up the road in Bloomfield. There are so many parallels between this seasonal and their summer seasonal, the watermelon ale.

I hate them both for starters.

But, and this is a very big and important but, it seems as though Hooker is responding to jerks like me and toning down the flavors they put into these two beers. Two beers which, I must add, sell very, very well.

I’m not sure how long the Nor’Easter has been around, but Hooker has changed it slightly each year. In the past, it has contained “artificial flavors” which were cloying and overpowering. Drinking one of these things was like drinking the air at a Yankee Candle shop.

No thanks.

But this year… this year the front of the label proudly proclaims, “Lager with Natural Flavors.” This is a huge change – a change that the watermelon ale went through as well. So hats off to Mike and Kurt and the guys at Hooker.

But this is still not a beer for me. Sorry.

I remember when they first put it in the rotation and I tried it at the brewery. I was told the “secret” spice they use is “apple pie spice.” I was told this with excitement. If you haven’t gleaned it by now, I don’t like apple pie spice mixed into my beer. I never will.

(Again, they tweak the recipe every year and having just had a bottle of the 2012 vintage, I can happily report they’ve toned down the spicing.

Hooker says:

Brewed to celebrate Winter in New England, Nor’Easter Lager possesses a Hearty Malt flavor delicately accented by mild winter spices.

So much so that they now refer to them as “mild winter spices.” Milder, yes. Mild? No.

So… back to the artificial vs. natural flavors. I’ve been a bit obsessed with food industry marketing and buzzwords. Organic, natural, farm-raised, local, etc. Most of them don’t really mean anything, but by far the most interesting is “natural flavors.” After all, everything is chemicals in the end – and the federal definitions for what is natural and what is artificial are not at all what you’d wish for them to be.

Just google the terms and you’ll find some cool stuff. Now, I have no idea in the world where the Nor’Easter lies on the spectrum. It’s not a terrible beer – but it used to be. (Don’t take my word for it, Beer Advocate “bro’s” rated it a 36 – one of the lowest scores I’ve ever seen there in my life.)

So if you like their watermelon, and most people do, give this one a shot. You’ll probably like it too.

Overall Rating: D
Rating vs. Similar style: D

Thomas Hooker Brewing Company
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