Bargain Beers: Boatswain H.L.V. Ale from Tader Joe's

Bargain Beers: Boatswain H.L.V. Ale from Tader Joe's
From Minhas by way of Trader Joe's

The economy still has not turned around for me, and I'll bet for more of you out there. So I'm going to try, for awhile popping the cap on some cheaper beers to see if they're worthwhile. Besides, Most of these beers will be coming from Trader Joe's, a place with its own fans that I wouldn't mind having read this. I becoming one myself.

Our first in this series is named Boatswain H.L.V. Ale. The label helpfully explains that the initials are for "Heavy Lift Vessel." The brewer of record is Rhinelander, one of the many old Wisconsin brands that has recently been revived. Like so many of these retro brands, the beer is contract brewed with an eye toward maybe building a new brewery in the beer's original home town. And the actual brewer for now is Minhas, the former Joseph Huber plant in Monroe, WI. I used to turn up my nose at that (and I will in an upcoming review), but if 5 Rabbit is brewing there temporarily, I'll give this a fair shot.

According to, you may also see this same beer labeled as Minhas Mystical Jack Traditional Ale. But what I saw is that TJ's has it, and another Rhinelander brand, at just $1.99 in 22 oz. bomber bottles. The label actually offers information on the beer's Original Gravity: 17.35, and IBU: 80 (pretty hoppy). And that's it's 7% alcohol by volume, increasing the bargain.

So it claims to be a brown beer in the tradition, I guess of a Newcastle, but at 7%, it's not sessionable like a brown. The beer pours blackish-brown in my glass, as pictured. It's pretty foamy, and should expect to be poured in one of those rounder dimpled glasses, but the straighter-sided St. Pauli Girl mug was what I had, thus the big head of tan foam. The smell tended more toward a chocolate malt porter, and if was too strong for a brown ale, it was still pretty appealing. After the first few sips I thought I could catch a little corn adjunct, but it didn't add that solventy malt liquor taste. Instead, my first impression was spicy, earthy English hops. The taste was dry at first, then warmed up from the alcohol, and began to offer a little sweetens. Toward the end, I found myself thinking of the milk sugar of a sweet stout. The background was slightly grainy, but lacked the sometimes harsh "roastiness" of a dark beer.

To give it a number, I'd say 3 out of 5, with extra credit for price. But I still say it's too strong to be calling itself a brown ale.

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    Mark McDermott

    Writer, trivia maven, fan of many things. I thought to learn all there is to know about beer as a way to stay interested in learning. It is my pleasure to bring Chicago's craft beer scene to you.

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