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Perkuno's Hammer (plus FX)

May 24, 2000

By Kurt Epps

"A severe thunderstorm warning is in effect for all of Middlesex County (NJ) from 6 to 9 PM this evening," said the weatherman on my car radio. "High winds, heavy rain, hail and possible tornado conditions are likely," it concluded.

The sky looked a little cloudy but far from ominous as I headed out to the famous Old Bay restaurant in New Brunswick, NJ -- which is in Middlesex County. Besides, what's a little rain when you're headed to sample a new beer from Jersey's Heavyweight Brewing? Heavyweight's Tom Baker, brewer and general factotum, was offering a Baltic Porter concocted with the help of none other than Lew Bryson, beer writer par excellence, who somehow cajoled Baker into the experiment.

Baker made only two beers in his first year of operation. Lunacy, a Belgian-style golden ale that is just out of this world if you like big beers, and Baltus OVS, an amber with more testosterone than Stone Cold Steve Austin. Actually the analogy is apt, because Heavyweight's logo is a muscle-bound Polish wrestler named Wladislaw. Baker brews BIG beers--and only big beers.

Perkuno's Hammer seemed a sensible progression given that track record, because Baltic porters are pretty big beers, according to Bryson.

Made with lager yeasts, porters like Synebrychoff have carved their own niches in the craft beer world. They are decidedly not beers for the Budmillercoorsmen in your circle of friends.

So it was with a sense of excited anticipation mingled with rising apprehensions about the deteriorating weather conditions that I merged onto the NJ Turnpike and sped for Exit 9. Route 18, the road that leads into New Brunswick, was crossed by what looked to me like a small tornado as the sky darkened and the wind rose in intensity. Were those raindrops on my windshield?

I pulled alongside the Old Bay, hoping in vain for a vacant parking space. It would have to be the adjacent parking deck then. Fine. At least the car would be protected when the hail came, and I was sure that hail would come.

Three steps from the door, the skies opened and there began a reprise of the downpour that made Noah the smartest guy in the neighborhood.

As fate would have it, Heavyweight's tasting was in the beer garden, an outdoor facility with no windows, but with (thankfully) a protective roof. Baker greeted me warmly and offered me a glass of Perkuno's Hammer.

A bolt and flash of lightning cracked somewhere nearby as I accepted the brew. The thunder rumbled and the rain came down so hard, we had to raise our voices to be heard.

Wow, methought. What a dramatic presentation!

The beer was just as impressive as the special effects that accompanied it. Big in every category -- malty (Munich), roasty, almost stout-like in mouthfeel and finish, this was a solid piece of brewing, to be sure. An incredibly complex nose was the harbinger of things to come. Laden with rich chocolate and coffee notes, and delivered smoothly on the palate with a well balanced hop and malt effect, Perkuno's Hammer will pound its way onto your list of favorites. A finish that lingers long will have you seeking a refill before you know it, but be forewarned -- this is a Heavyweight and not to be treated lightly.

Bryson, whom I had never met and who complements Baker's quiet and reserved attitude, is big and hearty, very much like the beer he co-produced, with a laugh that resonates through a room like, well, a crack of thunder.

In all, Baker and Bryson couldn't have asked for a better backdrop than the Old Bay beergarden in a butt-kicking thunderstorm to unveil their Baltic Porter.

Perkuno's Hammer.

Synebrychoff beware.

I don't know what they're planning to use as a logo besides some sort of Thorian hammer, but if it were my brew, I'd have lightning, clouds and rain in the picture somewhere.

P.S. It didn't hail.

®Kurt E. Epps 2000 All Rights Reserved

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Kurt Epps