Beer of the Week: Holy Mackerel Panic Attack
I have to be honest: Despite wanting to give big props to local beer company Gordash, I've always had a hard time enjoying its Holy Mackerel line of beers. The Golden Ale, for example, is a sweet Belgian that loses its balance and veers into cloying territory. Mack in Black, a creatively constructed dark version of Holy Mackerel infused with pomegranate, is way too sour/funky for me to sit down with either.
It's too bad, because local homebrewer-turned-owner Bob Gordash has all the right intentions. His beers are big, high-alcohol bad boys that take Belgian formulas and turn them on their asses. And that's why I'm so glad he finally struck a balance between brew-punk ethos and drinkability with his new beer, Panic Attack. This Belgian-inspired bad boy is instantly the best beer in the Holy Mackerel line; a deep, rewarding brew you'll want to return to again and again.
Despite a few Panic Attack tastings in July and August, it wasn't until recently that Panic Attack became widely available in stores. I popped into the Crown near my house last Friday, and one of the clerks told me he had just received a case of the stuff. I grabbed a four-pack priced at $10 and scurried home to try it.
You'll want a nice, bulbous glass to enjoy Panic Attack at its fullest. The beer pours with a foamy head that sports great retention but little lace. As soon as you pour it, you'll notice the aroma -- sweet, strong, sour, and very spicy. A whiff of this beer and you know it's going to be a bold Belgian with lots of character.
That impression continues through the first few sips. Holy Mackerel is right! This beer has the kind of huge flavor that will make you think you're wrestling a sport fish with your mouth. On first sip, you get a wallop of candied sweetness with just a trace of sour/tart esters similar to a farmhouse or wild ale. When you return to it, though, you get much more in the background: There's a deeply pungent spiciness from the Belgian yeast and just the right amount of hop bitterness (Gordash uses Golding hops in this brew, a delicate hop strain that's widely used in English ales).
Take another sip. You'll taste licorice, pepper, orange, coriander, clove, and sweet dried fruit. The alcohol, a whopping 10 percent by volume, is deceptive thanks to the flavors that linger toward the front of your mouth. Despite a creamy, rich feel, Panic Attack finishes dry and clean on your palate, leaving behind no traces of sour or bitterness. It's a beer with surprising drinkability despite its extreme flavors.
Fans of the Holy Mackerel line would do well to pick up Panic Attack. And even if you've never been highly impressed by Gordash's output, its latest beer will make you a believer. It sure did for me. Find it at Crown Wine & Spirits and Total Wine.