Monday, August 27, 2012

Boatswain H.L.V. Ale

This was one of those impulse buys that I typically tend to avoid--there's only so much money to spend and beer to drink, so why not investigate before dropping some coin?  But the Boatswain H.L.V. Ale was at Trader Joe's, and of course it was cheap ($2.29 for a bomber).  This was my first trip to Albany's new TJ's store, only a few days after opening, so it was a zoo and this beer was an extra treat I grabbed at the end of the visit, only to store it for the past few weeks in my beer cave, a.k.a. bedroom closet.

The Boatswain line of beers seems to be exclusive to Trader Joe's, brewed by Minhas Craft Brewery (though on the bottle the brewery is listed as Rhinelander) out of Monroe, Wisconsin.  The name of the beer refers to a type of ship, even though Monroe is in the middle of the state, nowhere near Lake Michigan--which is almost as amusing as the fictional Westish College baseball team, of Chad Harbach's novel The Art of Fielding, being named the Harpooners despite also being located in Wisconsin.

I'm getting distracted here, probably because the beer doesn't lend itself to much analysis.  The H.L.V. Ale would be classified as an American Strong Ale, and it packs a little punch at 7% ABV and 80 IBUs.  K had a sip and was put off by the bitterness; I barely even noticed it, though that might speak to drinking more IPAs this summer than ever before.

It pours a pretty dark shade of brown; the head held out for a bit, left a little lacing along the glass walls.  The taste is a blend of malts and hops.  While neither is weak, there's something about how they come through here: they just don't meld all that well.  And so you're left with a decent beer, one that I found myself getting pretty bored with, particularly once I stopped crunching on some tortilla chips.

There's nothing offensive about the Boatswain H.L.V. Ale, and for the price it's probably worth trying.  But I don't see myself grabbing another bomber of it.  There are more interesting (and inexpensive) beers at Trader Joe's than this one.


  1. I'm pretty sure ALL the "Boatswain" beers at the Colonie TJ's arrived expired off the truck. I tried four of them and three of them were absolutely undrinkable including this, and the IPA and DIPA. The Chocolate Stout was drinkable but very weak.

    There's no easy to read freshness date on the bottles. I really should have emailed the brewery or TJs and asked them WTF. I felt really ripped off.

    I've also found all the other TJ brands, like "JsoephsBrau" and "Mission Street" to be weak, too. Slight sourness in all of them. This leads to believe that TJs sent all their old beer to the Albany store.

    I don't think I'll be shopping there anymore.

    P.S. you should join my meetup group:

    1. It's interesting: I've shopped at a lot of Trader Joe's over the years, and never seen these Boatswain beers until now. But they do seem exclusive to TJ's, so I don't know. Not really worth it.

      The good thing is that they've got some different stuff out there to grab as singles at good prices--and I just hope they have the excellent Trader Joe's Vintage Ale (brewed by Unibroue) later this year. Now THAT is a beer worth stocking up on.

      And thanks for the invite. Might have to check that out one of these days...