Following up on the gimmicks that different breweries to make themselves recognizable, the mix pack I’m reviewing here comes from Heavy Seas Brewing out of Baltimore. Their gimmick is a pirate (or “pyrate” as they spell it on their web site) theme to the naming and label art of their brews, along with a roguish attitude to their print materials. Heavy Seas started out as a brewpub (with a different name) in the late ’80s, expanded by taking over another existing brewery in Baltimore, and finally consolidated several different ventures under the increasingly popular Heavy Seas brand. The Sunken Sampler seems to be a mix of whatever the brewery wants to move, so it varies a bit depending on what the brewery is producing–you may not find all the same beers (though they always helpfully tell you what you’re getting through a set of check-boxes on the outside of the package), although all the beers in this pack were year-round rather than seasonal so you will probably get most of them.
My least favorite beer in this mix was Gold, which is billed as a “session” beer. Session beers seem to be a growing market segment (or at least I’m seeing the term more often); they tend to be lighter-bodied and, more importantly, tend to have a lower alcohol content since they are intended for a session where one would sit down and drink several beers rather than enjoying just one. Just to be clear, I’m not complaining about the alcohol content (I’m not sure I can really tell the difference between a beer like this with about 4.5% alcohol and the more typical 7% or so of a lot of craft beers). What put me off this beer primarily was the wheat finish–this isn’t a purely wheat beer but there was enough wheat in the mix for me to notice.
Powder Monkey is an English style pale ale (the web site notes that they add an American touch with Cascade hops in addition to the standard UK varieties of Fuggles and Golding) which was pleasant but without anything distinctive or memorable.
Loose Cannon is their flagship beer (and doesn’t count toward the tally since I already tried this during a dinner out a couple months ago). They bill this as a Hop3 IPA due to additions of hops at three points during the brewing process. This is probably one of the better IPAs I’ve tried, although maybe the experience was enhanced by the fact that the last bottle of Loose Cannon accompanied our first outside dinner of the season (burgers and potatoes done on the grill) on Memorial Day–food really does make a difference.
The most distinctive beer in this mix pack was Peg Leg, an imperial stout with a strong malt flavor that reminded me more than anything of blackstrap molasses. The beer was full-bodied but not necessarily “creamy” like some stouts; all in all an enjoyable experience.
I didn’t feel inspired by any of these to start talking like a “pyrate” or swashbuckling around the neighborhood with an eyepatch, but Heavy Seas is a consistently high quality brewery with a nice variety of styles that I will continue to enjoy, and the three new beers in this group bring the tally for the year up to 62 as I head out on the road for a week of chemistry teacher boot camp (and hopefully a couple of different regional beers). Cheers!