Dan Paquette of Pretty Things brewery knows that crafting the perfect seasonal takes a lot of hops.
Last Wednesday, longtime fans and new friends gathered at The Precinct in Somerville’s Union Square to celebrate the relaunch of Magnifico, the happiest, hoppiest session beer in town. First brewed in 2011, this tawny amber rustic session pale ale is only 3.4 percent alcohol. In contrast, other Pretty Things concoctions tend to range from 5 to 7 percent.
Why so low, you ask? Paquette reveals that Magnifico is meant to be as refreshing and easy to drink on a long, hot summer day as a standard light beer. But unlike other mild ales, which often lack a distinct flavor (or any flavor at all), Magnifico combines simcoe, horizon, citra and bravo hop varieties with munich, crystal and maris otter malts to create a flavor that packs a bitter punch with no lingering sweetness or diluted consistency.
Its full-bodied bitterness is so sui generis that Paquette struggled to name a single competitor. “Magnifico-type brews are the future of hops, but there aren’t many others like it out there right now” says Paquette, who explains that experimenting with different hops allows for more versatility but also entails a greater risk. Balancing hops with malt, which gives beer its yeasty taste, is like wearing paisley shorts with a plaid top. “When you mix the two together, there’s an inherent, obvious dissonance that is easy to mess up. It usually results in a perfect storm of what nobody likes about beer.” However, when it’s done right, the result can be magical- or, in this case, Magnifico.
On the notion that hops are a trend: “Hops are to beer what barbecue is to America.” Classic, delicious and here to stay.
On recommended food pairings: Nothing. This beer is meant to stand alone, and doesn’t need to accompany a meal in order to be enjoyed. If he had to choose? “Maybe something simple, like a salad or some cheese. I always say eat your favorite food, as long as it doesn’t compete for flavor.”
On Magnifico’s label: The lime green hop cartoon with a bowtie and mustache framed by a curly-leaved vine was co-drawn by Paquette and his wife, Martha. The name itself, which appears underneath in handwritten cursive text, was inspired by the couple’s holiday in Munich. “Everywhere we went, there were advertisements for this dancing horse named Magnifico. It became a joke between the two of us, and it just kind of stuck!”
On hops for the future: If Magnifico is a success; the Pretty Things team may start production on a companion beer for winter named Fantastico.-Alessia Antonucci