10 April 2009

The Beer Chronicles: Coney Island Human Blockhead

In this episode I’ll delve into a beer that I just had to pick up. Why you ask? Because the bottle was wicked cool, and I’ve heard some decent talk about Shmaltz Brewing. Shmaltz put out a series of Coney beers. There’s Coney Island Lager, Albino Python. Sword Swallower, Freaktoberfest, and (the one I’ll review today) the Human Blockhead. (click that to pop bigger photo)

Shmaltz calls their Human Blockhead a “Tough as Nails Lager”, and on that note I would have to agree. But in this case I’m not sure that it’s a good thing. The beer pours a rusty red-brown color with a nice, relatively thin tan head that almost disappeared instantly. The smell on this was all alcohol. I suppose that since it’s a 10% ABV beer, this isn’t horribly shocking, but it too away from the pleasantness of malt or hops. This had me concerned from the word go.

I swirled it a bit and the head, once again, disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. The alcohol still shown through and than I took a big sip. The first note, right out of the gate, was the alcohol. There was no two ways about it, the taste and the warmth of the alcohol came on strong. Sadly, in my humble opinion, it reminded me of college. More specifically it reminded me of drinking Steel Reserve High Gravity in college. Honestly, I almost couldn’t get past just how much it reminded of Steel, and I think it tainted my opinion from there on out.

After holding it in my mouth for a bit swallowing it confused the hell out of me. It left a hot note from the alcohol, but then there was a distinct note that I can only describe as, and think it might be, molasses. Molasses… and bread? The malt peaked it’s head in a bit, but there was that haunting molasses note, and a bitter hoppy finishing note. This, again, isn’t surprising to me as they use Warrior, Horizon, Tettnang, Palisade, Crystal, and Hallertau Hops in the beer. It actually left me a bit depressed that so many Hops gave their all for mediocrity.

Bottom line on this bad boy, I was far less than impressed. I thought that the beer had a shock value, for lack of a better term, going for it. An overly big, all over the place taste, mess. It’s left me anxious to try a couple more, non Coney Island, Shmaltz beers just for comparison in hopes of being pleasantly surprised. This, however, I’d give a two on a five scale, that’s right a “D”. I’m not willing to say it’s a total failure, I’m sure someone could appreciate how big, hot, and all over it is. I’m just not that guy.


Jason McGlone said...

Sounds pleasant. I don't think that I can get this around my parts. Should keep an eye out. The beer does, however, have a great label.

Zak said...

Hey there. This is Zak from Shmaltz Brewing Company. Sorry the Human Blockhead didn't do it for you. It was inspired by European strong lagers, but is using a combination of European and Domestic malts and hops. Definitely check out some of our other stuff. Bittersweet Lenny's RIPA is quite delicious as well as the other lower alcohol content Coney Island Lagers. If you're into hops, the Sword Swallower is a really nice IPA-inspired lager. Anyhow, thanks for checking out our beers. Cheers!!

Cycling Phun said...

Jason: Again, not bad, just big. Real big! Admittedly I may have just been expecting something different. Bottom line is this is why I drink beers; I drink them for the taste, complexity, and makeup. This just caught me totally off guard on its strength.

Wow! Zak from Schmaltz, huh?! Hey Zak! I've, seriously, heard some really great things about your brews and can't wait to try some more. I don't know if you can say anything or not, but was I off thinking molasses? Also, in saying European Strong, I read somewhere Baltika #9 falls into that category, would that be fair? I think it kind of reminds me of Baltika a bit too, maybe a hair stronger.
Again, it was not bad, it was strong for my taste. I will definitely have to do my best to track down some of your other beers. I have to admit, I'm not a huge fruit-beer kind of guy, but the Origin has me intrigued. Also, the Bittersweet Lenny's RIPA does sound good as well. Rye IPA... hmmm.
OK, I'm going to have to go out on a hunt now. Hope to catch you around the next time! Thanks for popping in to comment!

Zak said...

You were definitely not off on picking up molasses. We use a lot of malts in our beers and so, for some of the heavier stuff, you might get molasses, brown sugar, caramel, etc. I've actually never tried Baltika 9, so I'm not sure if they're similar or not. The Human Blockhead tends to have a more pronounced hop bitterness than traditional strong lagers, but that malt backbone is still there.
As someone who generally shies away from fruit beers, I can confidently say that whether you love Origin Pomegranate or not, it will be different than you expect. It's an imperial amber ale foundation and we add pomegranate juice during fermentation, so it's more of a beer than a fruit beer. Check it out. What have you got to lose.
Thanks again for the support. L'Chaim!!