Candia Road Brewing Company – Lotus Eater Double IPA

By Emily Brightman

Justin Surgent/Daily Collegian

Having been raised by wild hippies, I am inadvertently drawn to all things psychedelic. While this was all well and good in my formative years as I cultivated my love for 60s pop art and every weirdo classic rock band from Cream to Uriah Heep, sometimes my affinity for the psychedelic seriously affects my beer selection judgments. In other words, if my wandering eye happens upon a beer label swimming with swirling colors and trippy designs, my beer-loving heart is automatically stolen. I consciously realize how superficial this practice is, and sometimes I reconsider my frivolity when it comes to choosing beers based on labeling. But then I get a glimpse of all the lovely looking bottles I have tucked safely away in my craft beer stash and I don’t feel nearly as guilty for being shallow.

Disregarding my superficiality, I was drawn to the subject of this week’s column based entirely on its labeling. Lotus-Eater Double IPA from the Candia Road Brewing is wrapped in a relatively simple tan label with a circular mosaic of color at its center, giving the impression of a hallucinogenic eye peering out from the torso of the bottle. Immediately drawn to this eddy of color, my beer geek brain was also entranced by the name “Lotus Eater.” Like countless other American teenagers, I read Homer’s “The Odyssey” in high school and was more than familiar with the figure of the lotus eater. The quintessential burnouts of ancient Greek mythology, the lotus eaters were a secluded tribe of people who sustained themselves entirely off of the lotus plants that grew lush on their island. Though consuming the lotus made the people lethargic and apathetic, they continued to gorge themselves on the narcotic plant and thus lived a languid existence of indifference. From a literary perspective this is an apt metaphor for the prevalence of self-indulgence, but from a typical college student’s perspective this sounds like the ultimate laid-back lifestyle. Thankfully lotuses are in short supply in New England, otherwise the dynamic of the average college campus might be vastly different.

Once I got over my visual love affair with the bottle, I did some research. Lotus-Eater is part of a series of special releases from the Candia Road Brewing Company, based in Manchester, N.H., called “Nepenthe” ales. The Nepenthe Brewery is a supplement to the Candia Road Brewery, the mothership brewery of the company. The Nepenthe Ales series includes such scintillating names as Whimsical Wheat, the Shire Stout and Solo-Springer, all of which come equipped with their own visually seductive label.

Though it pained me a bit to have to break into this lovely looking beer, popping the top off revealed a wave of piney malts and freshly baked bread. Deeper in the nose are hints of spiciness and hops, but the aroma is primarily strong pine. Poured delicately to preserve the heavy foam, Lotus-Eater’s dark caramel coloring is entirely cloudy, even when held up to the light. The high amounts of sediments that settle to the bottom of the bottle are made evident when poured, adding to the murkiness of the beer. Most notable about Lotus-Eater at first sight is the thickness of the head – the inch-thick tan head settles sluggishly, leaving thick ropes of lacing around the edge of the glass. On first sip, the foamy head is still present, even in the face of high carbonation, which lends a lighter quality to what is otherwise a very heavy beer.

The first sip heralds a wash of malt blended with a hoppy spiciness, but sadly this beer is a little too watery to really get a full sample of the flavors. While there are some definite IPA elements like big hop taste and a definite bitterness, Lotus-Eater overall is not terribly impressive in terms of flavor. The most prominent feature of this beer is its consistency. Carbonation is a slippery slope when it comes to IPA styles and sometimes the amalgamating of the two is not always harmonious. At the risk of sacrificing flavor for fizziness, Lotus-Eater is considerably heavier on carbonation than it is on taste complexities. The presence of sweeter malts gradually gives way to earthy hop notes with an aftertaste reminiscent of woody pine and hints of grass. Though there was a miniscule layer of golden sediment sludge left in the bowels of my glass once I had taken the last sip, the lingering taste of yeast and citrus on the palate was worth any discomfort I might have felt at seeing the aftermath of this beautifully labeled but relatively unimpressive IPA.

The mythology of the lotus eater as part of the ancient Greek canon is an apt metaphor for the physical after-effects of a 22 oz bottle of this beer. At 8.2 percent alcohol, what Lotus-Eater lacks in flavor complexity it makes up for in ferocious alcohol content. Needless to say, after swilling the entirety of the bottle I had purchased, I felt like a somewhat lethargic lotus eater myself.

Though Candia Road Brewery’s availability is limited, selections of their Nepenthe Ales can be ordered through the company’s website. Though Lotus-Eater was not terribly impressive in the great scheme of beers I’ve come across, it is certainly worth mentioning in terms of its origin and the stark beauty of its labeling. While this may be an indication that I should reconsider my methods of choosing beer, I think I’ll stick to my system of going for any old IPA that looks pretty. If nothing else, my recycling bin stuffed full of craft beer bottles will look simply gorgeous, which is always a plus.

Emily A. Brightman can be reached at [email protected]