This brief snippet of the Ipswich, Mass.-based Clown Shoes Beer comes directly from the Clown shoe website and provides a summary of the history:

It all started in 2009 when our Founder and CEO Gregg Berman brewed a small batch of “Hoppy Feet” Black IPA with Ipswich Ale Brewing. The offering was well received around Boston, prompting Berman to collaborate with our Head Brewer Dan Lipke to develop and trial additional beers, with innovative takes on existing styles.

We more than doubled our production from 700 barrels to 1,500 in our second year and have continued to grow each year. In 2011, we began distribution outside of Massachusetts, carefully selecting craft-oriented wholesalers.

In late 2017, we joined employee-owned Mass. Bay Brewing Company, brewers of Harpoon and UFO. With greater resources and capabilities, we have expanded our special release and barrel aging programs. We continue to grow and innovate, while keeping our own personality and style to bring you interesting and unique beers.

When I think of beers from Clown Shoes, the two biggest things that come to my mind are potent IPAs and tons and tons of fruit. Other styles and variants have been done by them, but I remember trying Clown Shoes for the first time as I indulged in a can of Space Cake, a double IPA overflowing with citrusy Mosaic hops and portraying a slightly rough around the edges malt backbone that gave the beer a West Coast feel. Today, I have the opportunity to go further and try a release from its barrel-aged series called Josh The Boss Hog, a beer I had never heard of until I received it in a “porch bomb” and I was instantly interested to see who Josh was, what a WhistlePig barrel was and who the mad scientists were that were mentioned on the can.

After some internet research, I learned the following information; WhistlePig is a highly-awarded distillery located in Shoreham, Vt. and is well known for its rye whiskey, including one sold under the Boss Hog name. The ‘Samurai Scientist’ Edition Boss Hog is the first-ever American whiskey finished in Japanese Umeshu barrels, which were used in aging Japanese plum wine previously.

Josh The Boss Hog was the name given by Clown Shoes as it took one of its barleywines, added plum puree and then proceeded to age it in Umeshu barrels.

Sounds like a lot going on and I am ready to try this beer that sounds both complex and uniquely different all at the same time.

Poured from a 19.2-ounce can, the head is lackluster but the color is a partly cloudy yellow-amber that intrigues me to move on to see what this beer is all about. The first aromas that reach me are caramel sweetness, overripe fruit and a nose hair tingling from the 11 percent ABV.

At first, the taste is a lot lighter than I was expecting, almost feeling slightly watered down with weaker than anticipated flavors but plenty of alcohol burn, some white pepper and plenty of malts that are lightly infused with whiskey in the background. I immediately decide to let this one warm up a bit before continuing as I believe the cold temperature is tamping down the potential that I hope will be present.

I let a good 15-20 minutes pass with the beer sitting in some indirect sunlight and try again. I am now getting a little more of the rye and malt but this one seems to still be struggling a bit to leave that watery feel and taste behind and the balance is weak. Mouthfeel starts to process the flavors better as I continue but the boldness that in my opinion should definitely be coming forth is muddled and lackluster.

Continuing on, the peppery feel, rye whiskey keep trying and I am now getting some sweet citrus starting to enter the game. As much as I try and try, the balance is hit and miss and the flavors remain subdued. Trying again after a few more minutes, I get more of the sweet plum and some dried fruit but overall, the balance, boldness, whiskey and barrel never quite completely emerge to be able to say I was impressed.


PRICE: $12.99

Although I am not a huge fan of barleywines, I appreciate the complexity and boldness of a nicely aged beer of this style. Unfortunately, Clown Shoes Josh The Boss Hog was way too weak and did not exhibit the amazing malt backbone, bold balance, or the barrel nuances that I think should have been present. I will continue to try new barleywines, especially barrel-aged offerings, but will be hesitant to try more and upcoming variations of this one.