Clown Shoes Beer arrives in Northwest Arkansas

Clowns scare the hell out of me. There’s nothing more fear inducing than a grown man in white makeup and a big red nose.

You can probably blame my coulrophobia – the term used to describe an irrational fear of clowns – on Stephen King. His 1990 mini-series IT featured a terrifying character known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The kid in me still winces at the thought of Pennywise feeding on the children of Derry, Maine.

Fortunately some things associated with clowns are quite pleasant. One of those things happened to hit the shelves of Northwest Arkansas beer stores recently – Clown Shoes Beer.

Clown Shoes was the brainchild of Lexington, Massachusetts liquor store owner Gregg Berman. He took an interest in craft beer and in 2009 decided to build his own brand. But instead of brewing the beer himself he enlisted the help of Mercury Brewing Company in nearby Ipswich to brew it for him. If that seems strange to you, consider the fact Boston Beer Co. – better known as “Sam Adams” – got its start having someone else brew its beer too. It’s actually a fairly common practice in the brewing industry these days.

The brand took off quickly, due in large part to its focus on intense flavors and a flair for highly-detailed imagery on its packaging.

According to John Anthony from distributor Northwest Arkansas Craft Beer, Arkansas is Clown Shoes’ 21st state to enter.

“We’ve been after them for several years,” he said. “I went up there in July and finally got to talk to those guys. It went well, and more good beer coming to Arkansas is the rest of the story.”

Berman’s brand is not without its fair share of controversy, though. In 2011 Candice Alström – wife of one of the founders of Beer Advocate – took exception to what she saw as vulgar or misogynistic labeling on Clown Shoes beers. She wrote scathing posts on the Beer Advocate forum that drew attention to the labels for Brown Angel, Lubrication, and Tramp Stamp.

And in 2013 there was a dustup with another company over a Clown Shoes beer named Vampire Slayer. TI Beverage Group – which sells wine, vodka, beer and other drinks with a vampire theme – had a beer called Vampire Pale Ale on the market. And since TI’s trademark for its beer was already registered, a lawsuit was filed against Clown Shoes. Due to the exorbitant cost of litigation, the brewery decided to change the name of Vampire Slayer – an imperial stout – to something else. Thus, Undead Party Crasher was born. The beer’s label actually serves as a dream-like interpretation of the legal wrangling that took place, with a werewolf trademark attorney – in the process of serving papers – taking a stake to the chest while his fellow undead watch in horror. Like most Clown Shoes labels, it’s clever and beautifully illustrated.

The beer is available in limited quantities here in Northwest Arkansas, so don’t expect to see it at every liquor store in the area. Look for it at retailers who place extra emphasis on their craft beer selections.

In those stores you can now find four-packs of Clementine Witbier, Galactica IPA, Hoppy Feet Black IPA, and Tramp Stamp Belgian IPA.

There’s also a solid selection of imperial ales in 22oz bombers, including the racy Brown Angel Double Brown Ale.

Flight of the Angry Beast – an imperial stout and barleywine ale blend aged in barrels – and Coffee Pecan Pie Porter are seasonal releases currently in stores. And word has it a few kegs of Chocolate Sombrero – a Mexican-style chocolate stout – can be found at Puritan Brew Co. in Fayetteville and at the growler station inside Guess Who? in Bentonville.

Clowns are scary, but their shoes don’t have to be. I think I might finally overcome my coulrophobia thanks to Clown Shoes Beer.


Review: Undead Party Crasher

Halloween is tomorrow so here’s a review of an imperial stout befitting the undead.

I purchased a 22oz bottle at Liquor World for $7.95 – a pretty good deal for a beer this big and delicious.

It was extremely black – completely opaque, not letting any light whatsoever through its liquid mass. The head was light brown and a half-inch thick in the glass. It stuck around for quite a while as the beer warmed.

The smell was wonderful, with notes of chocolate, coffee, and dark stone fruit. With my nose in the glass I could tell it was going to be a tasty beer. A lot of imperial stouts run a bit hot or muddled in their aromas – almost too much going on. But this one was delicate and balanced.

Tasting the beer, I picked up some roast and smoke on top of the aforementioned chocolate, coffee, and fruit. The carbonation was mellow, providing a soft backdrop for the medley of flavors.

At 10% ABV I thought the beer was superbly drinkable, avoiding the “heat” that a lot of high alcohol beers possess. It wasn’t a chore to get through all 22 ounces – which is oft the case with imperial stouts. This beer was quite delicate and even-handed, relative to the style.

There are a lot of good imperial stouts in our market. But Undead Party Crasher is better than most – and at a price point that won’t break the wallet. I will definitely buy it again soon!