Mystic Brewery India Wharf Pale Ale
By: Benjamin Welton
For the sake of critical honesty, I want to inform you that the India Wharf Pale Ale is the first beer, nay the first drink, that I have had in quite some time. Of course this dry spell will be a factor in my ultimate judgement, but even without my recent struggles with teetotaling, this beer from the Wigglesworth traditional ale series, which is operated and distributed by the fine enablers at the Mystic Brewery in Chelsea, Massachusetts, would’ve gone down well with me even during an especially wet Tuesday.
Now, let’s not overlook the elephant in the room. “Wigglesworth” is just one of those names that’s too funny to say aloud in polite company. Like the closely-related surnames Bigglesworth (of Austin Powersfame) and Wigglestaff (most famously sported by Mr. Abner Wigglestaff on Most Extreme Elimination Challenge), Wigglesworth is halfway between blue blood snobbishness and euphemism. Sadly, according to the good lookin’ website for Mystic, the “Wigglesworth” in the Wigglesworth Real Ale Series comes from Michael Wigglesworth, a Puritan minister, poet, and quite possibly New England’s first bestselling author. By the way, Wigglesworth’s smash hit was a cheery ode to Calvinist theology called “The Day of Doom,” which proves that even the periwigged liked to fantasize about their enemies burning in Hell.
But despite Wigglesworth (an ancestor of Bryan Greenhagen, the brewery’s founder) and the well-known Puritan hatred of fun (recall Mencken’s definition of Puritanism as the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”), the folks at Mystic are quick to note that even old brimstone Wigglesworth enjoyed his pints. Beer is life, and for this bunch of Bay State brewers, the older and more traditional the beer the better it is. The India Wharf Pale Ale, which is a nod towards the Wigglesworth family’s involvement in the East Indian trade, is certainly a classic English style of beer made anew in the States. John Bull, eat your heart out.
First Impression: A big bottle of beer always means that there’s more life to the party, so weighing in at a handsome 16.9 fl. oz., the India Wharf Pale Ale is a party animal. Dressed formally in a black label and sealed with a small signet stamp like some count’s favorite bottle of Bordeaux, the India Wharf Pale Ale is all class and decorum.
Pour: Because it’s an IPA, the India Wharf Pale Ale is a fairly active pour that leaves behind one creamy head. If poured right, this beer’s head could be cut and reused in your morning coffee as creamer, but don’t tell anyone that I made that suggestion. I would here write something about watching the tiny bubbles move upwards, but frankly this beer’s body, which has the coloring of sweet apple cider, is so murky that it presents a stiff impediment for carbonation spectators.
Taste: The India Wharf Pale Ale’s fragrance miraculously combines a citrusy touch of tropical fruit with the beloved New England smell of grass (slightly wet grass, to be exact). Added to this smell is a sprinkling of honey, which offsets the often more snarl-inducing elements of IPAs. While other beers of its kind run somewhere between “too bitter” and “this tastes like chewing pine needles,” the India Wharf Pale Ale drinks like a real pub brew, with a muscular finish that doesn’t oversaturate the tongue. Eminently drinkable, this beer gets top marks for its full-bodied flavor.
ABV: 5.1% (according to the battle)/ 6.5% (according to the website)