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Clown Shoes BeerBack in May, in their “State of the Shoenion,” Clown Shoes Beer announced that by June they would start trickling into states like Texas. I’m sure delays inevitably followed, but whatever the case, by August the Duff Beer Distributors had managed to deliver some to our friends at Petrol Station who, on three successive days, the last weekend in August, tapped three of the Clown Shoes offerings, all of which I dutifully tried out. You know, for science.

Clown ShoesThe names and labels in the Clown Shoes lineup are memorable whether you find them playfully irreverent or downright controversial. I fall into the former camp, and was eager to try their Tramp Stamp Belgian India Pale Ale.  As I mentioned when discussing Houblon Chouffe, while craft beer lovers tend to swoon over IPA’s, some brewers try to beat you over the head with the hop profile, so a modicum of restraint is often appreciated. For my money, a measured Belgian approach is just the ticket. As with the Houblon Chouffe, Tramp Stamp has that assertive punch of hops that lets you know you’re drinking a real beer and not some watery pilsner, yet has a softened profile from the same Chambly yeast they use in their Clementine Witbier and citrus notes from the orange peel familiar from Belgian brews. “Belgian IPA” – if you want to call that a style unto itself – is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and I’m glad to see Tramp Stamp reaching a wide array of beer menus in Houston.

Eagle Claw Fist is an Imperial Amber Ale, with a label recalling a clown-shoed Bruce Lee and suggesting a zen-like balance between bitter hops and flavor. At over 100 IBU’s though, I’m not sure the bitterness can ever really be balanced out. Amber ales vary wildly in interpretation, which renders the term weak as a descriptor, but they are generally a malt-focused beer brewed with more of a copper, darker hue than traditional ales. And while one might reasonably expect a caramel, malty ale, this being an American brewery, which are known for bold hoppiness, and the “Imperial” appellation, which has basically come to mean “extra hoppy,” you know that this one falls on the bitter end of the spectrum. Good, but I still prefer the more temperate Tramp Stamp.

Clown ShoesThe third Clown Shoes offering to come to taps across town is the brewery’s flagship Hoppy Feet, a Black IPA – that testament to American craft ingenuity. A dark pale ale? Sure, why not. This was a virtually opaque black ale, as if no light could escape its grasp. As the name implies, it was definitely aggressive on the hops, but the dark malts yield a roasted, slightly sweet, almost chocolate finish which calls to mind more of a stout than a pale ale. There’s really no wondering why this one is thought of so highly: the bitterness lingers on the palate just long enough to make you thirsty for another sip, while the sweet maltiness makes that an inviting prospect.

Clown Shoes have marched their way into Texas, and not only have the seasoned beer scouts at Petrol Station been conscripted into their army, but after only a month, harlequin sorties have made it onto lists at craft beer havens like the Boneyard, and menus at savvy restaurants like the Queen Vic and BRC. The three aforementioned beers are the most commonly found on draft, but the entire line of Clown Shoes beers can be found in 22 oz. bombers at Spec’s Downtown, and the Petrol gang recently announced that the 1st anniversary beer, Hoppy Feet 1.5 – a Double Black IPA –  was now on tap. At 11% ABV and double the hops, I’m eager to try it, but perhaps not on a school night.

Clown'll Eat MeThere’s no denying that clowns are creepy, but the folks from the brewery up in Massachusetts have taken a playful approach and released some truly remarkable beers that can win over even the most coulrophobic of beer drinkers. Either that, or they’ll simply beat those nightmarish jokesters over the head with a novelty hop hammer. Welcome to Texas, Clown Shoes. Maybe we’ll get you down on the dirt come Rodeo season.


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