“Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.” – H.P. Lovecraft
H.P. Lovecraft was many things: An underappreciated (in his day) pulp author with a huge imagination. A prolific writer of letters and personal correspondence. A huge influence on multiple generations of horror writers who drew upon both his mythos and genre-expanding fears of the unknown. A rather condemnable racist and misogynist. An often sickly and eccentric recluse. But never a drinker, that much at least is clear. Lovecraft never touched alcohol.
Still, does that mean one can’t or shouldn’t recognize the author’s legacy via beer? Rhode Island’s Narragannsett certainly think he’s a worthy (or marketable) subject, and have devoted a new series of beers in honor of Providence’s weirdest native son. The first is “Lovecraft Honey Ale,” which bears a rather awesome can illustration, essentially a stronger than average blonde ale at 7% ABV, laced with sweetness from both honey malt and honey itself.
On first inspection, it’s a bit of an odd choice, given the author’s typical subject matter and themes—a little too light, a little too “pure.” Lovecraft’s stories are wrought with mystery and existential dread, which simply doesn’t seem to conjure “honey ale” as a natural pairing. The can, however, helpfully lists its rationale, citing a passage in the Lovecraft story “The Festival” where the winged “Byakhee” consumed a honey wine drink of sorts as “protection from interstellar space travel.” So there you go: It’s still ‘Gansett saying “We decided we felt like selling a honey beer,” but at least they bothered to find some kind of tie-in, flimsy though it may be.
Funny enough, though, it almost does seem like the sort of beer that Lovecraft might have drank himself…you know, if he drank. Never much of a commercial success, he spent most of his adult life living in abject poverty, but entertained unusual tastes, especially for sugar, which he consumed whenever possible. In his correspondence, he liked to brag of his frugality and ability to eat on $2 to $3 a week, while simultaneously claiming that his diet “need not involve even a particle of malnutrition or unpalatability if one but knew what to get and where to get it.” Which sounds pretty slick until one reads on to find that his eventual fatal cancer of the small intestine was in no small part due to long-term malnutrition. But I digress, fascinated by the author as I’ve always been.
The Lovecraft Honey Ale pours a bit darker than one might expect, a definite amber rather than the gold of a typical American adjunct lager. There’s certainly honey in the aroma, along with a light graininess and malty, buttery quality that reminds one of a classic American cream ale. It’s chased by a bit of floral hops.
At first taste, it’s pretty sweet, with the requisite refined honey flavor along with significant caramel sweetness as well that provides a bit of richer complexity. That sweetness is unsubtly presented as the chief flavor theme, but it’s not enough to be cloying. Floral hops and light, toasted grain pop up just a little bit as well. In short, it tastes pretty close to how you would probably expect something labeled “honey ale” to taste. Does it live up to the awesomeness of the can? Few beers would, to be honest.
I look forward to trying the next beer in ‘Gansett’s reverential line, the promisingly named “Innsmouth Old Ale.” There’s still reason to believe that perhaps this offering will connect a little bit more solidly with the horror master’s enduring mythos.
Brewery: Narragansett Brewing Co.
City: Providence, Rhode Island (where Lovecraft is buried)
Style: American blonde ale with honey
Availability: 16 oz cans, limited