“Clowns are questionable but the shoes make me laugh”

-Gregg Berman, Founder of Clown Shoes

The founders of Clown Shoes originally submitted the name to a Beer Advocate contest to name a new brew in celebration of the 2010 Extreme Beer Fest.  After the submission didn’t crack the top 5 finalists, the wound festered until the founders realized that they could make their own Clown Shoes beer.  Thus inspired, they made one batch of beer, and when people liked it, they continued with their new brand, brewing from Ipswich, Massachusetts.  To Gregg Berman, Founder of Clown Shoes, the name reminds him “about humility and to find humor in life.”  He says that the brewery’s mission is to “produce beer without pretension while being free and a little crazy.”  In the cafe, we recently poured Tramp Stamp IPA, and coming this week are Clementine and Hoppy Feet.

The Clown Shoes website explains that like its namesake, Tramp Stamp IPA is “about not so subtle seduction.”  The beer pours a cloudy auburn color and smells of a wheat beer, with wafts of grassy hops and a little sweetness.  The taste follows with cloves, banana and yeast notes, along with hops, grass, and citrus bitters.  These characteristics put the beer firmly on the “Belgian” side of the Belgian-American spectrum of IPAs.

Clementine also follows the Belgian style, but as a white ale.  It pours a hazy yellowish color, and smells of ripe banana and orange zest, with a very faint hint of hops.  To the tongue, the malt taste comes through first, along with a good dose of wheat twang and just a hint of grain. Afterwards comes a flavour of coriander and strong orange peel.  The finish involves more orange and a hint of grapefruit from bitter American hops.

Hoppy Feet, of course, is all about the hops.  It combines Premium malt with Amarillo and Columbus hops.  The beer pours black, with a 2-finger brown head that leaves nice foamy lacing on the glass.  The smell is quite delicious, with roasted, chocolately malt and citrus American hops, with a strong grapefruit kick.  Hoppy Feet tastes of burnt coffee and bitter hops, with a hint of citrus, feeling very smooth to the mouth.

Now that you know about some of the beers, feel free to stop by the cafe to try them out… as long as you are feeling unpretentious, free and a little crazy.

What’s so crafty about craft beer?

At Venture Cafe, we take pride in serving local craft beers.  After repeating the phrase “local craft beers” many, many times, I realized that a lot of people had no idea what the phrase meant.  In our case, local may be in the eye of the beholder, but “Craft Beer” is actually a term of art and has a specific, though changing, meaning.

A craft brewery, according to the Brewers’ Association website, is small, independent, and traditional.

  • Small means that the brewery produces 6 million barrels or fewer (the website uses the term less, but that is incorrect).  This 6 million figure is new and triples the previous 2 million cap that was set in 1976.  While new resources and technology make it reasonable to increase the cap, this change happens to coincide with the Boston Beer Company’s approach to the 2 million barrel mark.  Boston Beer Company is the largest craft beer producer in the US, with Sierra Nevada trailing at just under 800,000 barrels.
  • Independent means that less than 25% of the brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
  • Traditional means that the brewer’s flagship beer is made from all malts, or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers, or in beers which use unmalted grains (adjuncts) to enhance rather than lighten the flavour of the beverage.

Craft brewers have distinctive characteristics.  While they use traditional ingredients like malted grains, they have a reputation for being innovative and for interpreting historical styles with a new twist.  Craft brewers also tend to be involved in their local communities through donations, philanthropy and volunteering.  Many of these small breweries have a loyal following and maintain distinctive strategies to attract and maintain customers.

American Craft Beer week is next month, May 16 – 22, and the American Craft Beer Fest will be in Boston in early June.  These and other events have raised awareness of these unique breweries and hopefully will go a long way to keep these small businesses producing the beer we’ve grown to love.