Back in college there was an unofficial tradition a few of us had. When it was going to be a party, there always seemed to be a 6-pack of Mendocino Brewing’s Eye of the Hawk in the back of the fridge. Like clockwork, when the party was winding down, we’d finally get into the 6-pack. This is where the stories would fizzle out, the night would become a blur and the party would end. In honor of this not-so-noble tradition, I decided the Hawk deserved the proper respect and sat down with a bottle over the weekend.
After years of drinking this brew straight out of the bottle and usually rather impaired, I realized I had no real idea of what this beer was about. My memory told me it was a strong beer, but I couldn’t nail down the style. Despite having drank this beer many times, it occurred to me I was essentially going into this blind.
The Hawk pours a cloudy honey color, very different than the barleywine amber I had anticipated. The aroma is full of yeasty esters, banana and clove, and a touch of sweet malt and alcohol. Tasting this beer again really opened my eyes. The style resembles more of a Belgian Tripel with an American twist than anything. The yeast carries the load in this beer with the hops finishing the job. When cold out of the fridge, the alcohol blends into the beer and the sweetness of the malt joins the flavors of the yeast on the main stage. Unfortunately, as this warms a bit, as a stronger beer is traditionally served, the alcohol becomes a little overpowering. Regardless, this is a very good beer.
What amazes me most when I drink this beer is the change in my own palate. I knew I liked good beer, and I knew I liked hops, but beyond that, I really didn’t know much about what I was drinking. We drank Eye of the Hawk because it tasted good and it carried quite the kick. To drink this beer again today, I can appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into the beer as well as identify it as a unique beer.
While I still consider myself quite novice when it comes to the subtlies of beer, it is reassuring to see some growth. Also, it is a bit inspirational. Think of all those beers on the shelves that I’ve ignored over the years, having grown tired of them in years past. Maybe it’s time to revisit some of these beers.