This is a beer of mystery. Why is it called #9? Perhaps
the first 8 recipes were failures, and success was achieved on the ninth?
Were 8 other fruits considered but the ninth, apricot finally chosen? Is the
#9 a reference to Red Sox star outfielder Carl Yasztremski, who wore that
number on his uniform? Or was the brewer paying homage to Beethoven's
greatest symphony? Magic Hat isn't saying. Hopefully they keep better track
of the answer than Latrobe did with the "33" on their Rolling Rock bottles
and cans. Even they don't know what the heck that stands for.
There's more mystery to this beer, or at least this bottle. Each Magic Hat bottle cap has a neat saying printed on the underside. Mine says: "Don't throw a Can at a good looking Man". What the heck does that mean? Is it ok to throw a Can at an ugly man (I'm ducking)? Or is it simply that a bottle is more effective? The more Magic Hat beers you drink, the more deep and profound these little bits of wisdom become.
On 10/25/1997 I wrote the following about this beer:
Magic Hat Brewing in Burlington, Vermont, has recently completed a new brewery in South Burlington. They now brew and bottle their own six-packs, which had previously been contracted out to Shipyard in Portland, Maine (though Magic Hat had brewed and packaged their own kegged product).
Magic Hat #9 Ale is described on the label as being a
"not quite pale ale." That is a fairly accurate description, as the beer is
brewed with apricot. It is dark golden in color with fair carbonation and
head retention, and a fruity apricot nose. The palate is dominated by a
delicate, crisp biscuit-like maltiness interlaced with a touch of apricot
and a signature Ringwood yeastiness. The hops balance the finish nicely but
aren't otherwise apparent. An interesting, refreshing fruited pale ale.
I'll never forget the first time I tried this beer on draft at a restaurant in Connecticut where a beer dinner hosted by Michael Jackson was held. The tap handle immediately attracted my attention, a bent metal nine in copper or brass. You couldn't miss it. This was indeed an interesting night, as I drank this and talked to Jackson and later that night ended up at the urinal next to him in the men's room. Not only had I drunk beer with the Beer Hunter, I had relieved myself of it with him too! Truly a once-in-a-lifetime evening.
Magic Hat #9 Ale pours to a golden color with a light head formation and a crisp malty nose. It hints at fruit but unlike Pyramid Apricot Ale does not overpower. Nor does it in the palate, where the fruit is not entirely noticeable upfront but becomes apparent in the finish. There's just a touch of it, and it accents the crisp, biscuity malt palate and slightly buttery Ringwood yeastiness nicely. A light kiss of hops punctuates the brew and makes it quite drinkable. Interestingly, the grain bill is the same here as it is for the Pyramid: pale, crystal, wheat. Proportions are obviously different, as is the yeast employed. My bottle is recommended as being best by December, so the age is likely comparable to the Pyramid I commented on earlier.
Conclusion?I give the #9 ale my personal preference over the Pyramid. It has much better balance in my opinion, the fruit dominating completely in the Pyramid. Your mileage may vary. I enjoyed the #9 with the same pork dish I had the Pyramid with, and in that category the Pyramid gets the nod, though this one worked well with the pork too.
Update: 9/14/2012: Here I am again with a glass of Magic Hat #9. To be sure, I've drunk it many times over and again since I opined on it, usually on draft. I've drunk it at the Sunset Tap & Grill in Boston, and at the Mews Tavern in Rhode Island. I've enjoyed it at Myrtle Beach South Carolina, and most recently at Taco Mac in Canton, GA watching a Patriots game on a Sunday afternoon. Today, though, I'm sipping a bottle from a summer 12-pack sampler, and enjoying the delightful and distinctive fruit apricot nose. Taking a sip, the fruit comes to the fore immediately, but the beer does not finish sweet and cloying. It's as balanced as it ever was, and to this reviewer a delicious and refreshing fruit beer.
Still a classic.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.