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By Andy Crouch
Central Massachusetts often feels like a bit of a hidden vortex, a place you pass through on the way to Boston or to Western Mass and beyond. For beer lovers, however, the start of sloping landscapes obscures great breweries and bars. Locals have no inferiority complex, knowing they have stalwarts such as Berkshire Brewing, Wachusett Brewing, and many others. In the small town of Hudson, the beer punches far above its weight. The Horseshoe Pub and Restaurant has long served great beer from the area, offering 75 taps encompassing nearly every style imaginable. The building, which dates to 1832, retains a lot of architectural charm, with the pub showing off vaulted ceilings in the dining room, beer-related stained-glass skylights, and an additional lofted dining area.

The Horseshoe was a good beer oasis, a bit lonely in its environs, until other beer bars and breweries started to settle nearby. Today, Hudson is a great, low-key beer destination. At the heart is the Medusa Brewing Company, a brewery you don’t often hear much about but is quietly making some excellent beer. Opened in 2015 by three partners, Medusa’s lively taproom is located right on Main Street, a short walk from the Horseshoe. The folks behind Medusa recently opened the lovely Wild Hare Restaurant and Beer Cellar in downtown Hudson, where they focus on upscale cuisine and more experimental beer offerings. Let’s look at Medusa’s core beer offerings.

alcohol by volume 5.2%
Medusa brews an excellent example of the Czech of Bohemian pilsner style, called Duchovni. Named in honor of a certain well-known Sci-Fi actor, the can also plays tribute to its namesake reference with a UFO shining down on a southwestern desert scene. The beer won a gold medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup in the Bohemian style pilsner category, an impressive achievement especially for such a young brewery at the time. It pours with a bright golden hue and a sizable cap of white foam that laces throughout. The aroma starts with strong notes of biscuity malt followed by notes of grass and some floral hints. The flavor is clean, with an initial wash of lightly sweet malts that give way to rounds of light herbal bitterness. The noble hop levels from Saaz and Magnum are substantial but not overwhelming and remain in balance with the lightly biscuity German pilsner malt. With a low carbonation level, the beer remains crisp and not flabby, and invites another round.

alcohol by volume 6.O%
Continuing with the Sci-Fi theme, the cleverly branded Laser Kitten is an American IPA that is the slightly less palate-crushing sibling to the more potent Laser Cat, an eight percent alcohol by volume double India Pale Ale. Laser Kitten pours with a deep orange amber hue, a refreshing break from hazy IPAs so dominant in this region and matches with a well-sustained lightly off-white head. The aroma fills with an even mix of pine and evergreen hop notes from a blend of Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy, over a delicately sweet pale malt character and a dose of Crystal malt. The initial bounce of sweet and subtle caramel malts quickly gives way to a healthy dose of bitterness and some grassy hop character. Clean throughout, Laser Kitten is a solid, drinkable American IPA in a time where there are too few examples in Massachusetts.

alcohol by volume 8.O%
When Laser Kitten grows up, it becomes Laser Cat, a bigger, boozier Imperial IPA from Medusa. It pours with a much more familiar off-orange hazy hue with a cap of off-white foam that laces well. It’s not quite as deep hazy and luminous as many modern double IPAs. The aroma pools with a nice underlayment of caramel malt notes from Crystal malt, mixed with some German Wheat malt, along with a range of spicy, herbal hop notes from ample dosing of Citra and Nugget hops. Notes of pine and resin make themselves known as well as some milder citrus, grapefruit, and tropical fruit bits. The flavor booms with quick hits of sweeter malts then into a long bit of dank and herbal hops, mixed with some citrus but far from the tropical flavor explosions often found in the modern style. Much too easy to sip at this alcohol level, Laser Cat IPA is a balance of the modern and more traditional versions of this amped up American double IPA style.

alcohol by volume 6.5%
A more recent entry into Medusa’s core lineup of year-round beers, Soft Machine is, of course, a hazy IPA. It’s hard to run a brewery these days without one and Medusa delivers a love take on the popular style. Poured from a bright and colorful can covered in futuristic art, Soft Machine delivers a conventional off-orange and hazy hue with an off-white foam topper. The aroma aims big citrus and ripe tropical fruit notes right at you, with grapefruit, orange, and mango exploding throughout over a solid malt backbone. Medusa uses Galaxy, Vic Secret, and El Dorado hops in this one, along with flaked oats and wheat. The resulting body is smooth and silky, soft indeed while still maintaining a solid balance. The tropical flavors continue to crest in waves on your tongue, only to be cleaned up by that soft malt backbone.

Hudson, Massachusetts
Medusa Brewing Company beers are available from Atlantic Beverage Company