The Most Impressive Beer in New England

Discussion in 'New England' started by AlcahueteJ, Feb 11, 2020.

  1. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,182) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    "Allagash White might be the crowning achievement of New England breweries."

    I made this statement in the "Beer Bar and Beer Shop Finds" thread, and backed it up with this...

    "It's sessionable, loved by both beer geeks and non beer geeks (like Blue Moon), and in my opinion is arguably the best Belgian the world. Maybe tied with St. Bernardus Wit. Which is higher in alcohol content and not nearly as affordable or widely available (or fresh).

    Moreover, it's on tap in so many different places in New England and even on the West Coast.

    Not to mention it's the driving force behind financially supporting all that Allagash does, which is easily a top three New England brewery for me. It's the flagship for one of the most popular New England breweries...and it's NOT an IPA.

    It also goes better with seafood than an IPA, and if you're in Portland...well there's a lot of IPAs up there these days. :wink:

    If you can name another beer that checks all those boxes, I'm all ears. I mean, I did say it "might" be the crowning achievement."

    Do you agree, disagree? What's your "crowning achievement" beer in New England?
  2. Resuin

    Resuin Meyvn (1,285) Jun 18, 2012 Massachusetts

    Heady Topper. I still remember the first time I took a sip of that beer around 10 years ago. Definitely ahead of its time (first brewed in around 2003?) and such a masterpiece of a beer. And it’s been extremely consistent to this day.
  3. jhavs

    jhavs Poo-Bah (1,838) Apr 16, 2015 New Hampshire
    Society Trader

    I would say that the "checked off boxes" you mentioned are very impressive, but in my opinion they do not make Allagash White an "Impressive Beer". As an example, I would say Harpoon IPA checks all those boxes.

    I love Allagash and I think White is one of the best craft beers made but my answer for "The Most Impressive Beer in New England" would be the same as @Resuin , Heady Topper. It checks off different boxes.
  4. matthewp

    matthewp Aspirant (205) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    I think if you look at things objectively then Allagash White is the most impressive beer in New England. I don't think any other beer has stood the test of time as much as it has and stayed as respected. I don't think Harpoon IPA is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. If you had a list of the top 10 Belgian Witbier's in the world I'm fairly confident White would still be in that list. I don't think Harpoon IPA is on anyone's list of top 10 IPA's.

    I think Heady is more hyped than great. Its impressive in that it was ahead of its time and probably spawned both the "east coast" IPA as well as the NEIPA. Kate the Great is pretty impressive in its own right but even in its current form (Mott The Lesser) its just a great beer. If I were to give a nod to any other beer in NE it might be MBC Dinner. I think that's a beer that could still be considered an incredible beer 10 years from now. Though that's just an opinion since I like it better than Heady :wink: . I still don't think its as impressive as White. Arguments could be made for TH Julius since it spawned probably the most hyped brewery and style in our time but I don't think in 10 years it will still be considered one of the best.
  5. jhavs

    jhavs Poo-Bah (1,838) Apr 16, 2015 New Hampshire
    Society Trader

    I just mentioned Harpoon IPA because it reasonably checked the boxes listed by OP off.
    I don’t think it fits the impressive criteria personally.
    matthewp and SABERG like this.
  6. eLMsITYbUM

    eLMsITYbUM Initiate (89) Oct 24, 2007 New Hampshire

    I think you all make some very compelling arguments for some truly great local beers. I would go a different route all together and say the "Crowning Achievement" for a lot of NE breweries is their ability to stay relevant (and on most nights of operation, packed seats as well). For example, Harpoon is always packed every single time I go in there. Despite the fact that they never (really) chased the haze craze and by in large have UFO'd everything possible. Anywhere I go in NE that sells Alchemist beer (in any label) is NOT struggling to move the stuff. The same is true for quite a few VT breweries in general. I see your point about Allagash White, but would make the same argument about SA Boston Lager or Long Trail. They are all very good beers and could be chosen based on a multitude of reasons. All I'm saying is it is amazing to think about ALL THESE locals staying afloat and some are really doing great in today's quickly evolving beer scene. I hope they all continue to make great products and stay viable for years to come.

  7. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Zealot (541) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    Jacks Abby Hoponius Union probably checks those boxes too. Brewery flipped the domestic lager market on its head and Hoponius is the ultimate crossover beer in that regard.
  8. OffTrail

    OffTrail Initiate (80) Aug 12, 2012 Washington

    The most impressive beer in NE is the one in my hand.

    Oh wait, I'm not in New England any more.
    AlcahueteJ and GeauxTigers13 like this.
  9. Sheppard

    Sheppard Meyvn (1,168) Mar 16, 2013 Virginia

    I wonder how much Heady has done for the Vermont economy. When the Waterbury brewery had to shutdown retail, they distributed only to stores in that corridor. I imagine a lot of people not only went up to get Heady but visited local breweries or picked up stuff by local breweries and that's how word of mouth spread about a lot of these places. I feel like I still get a lot of "have you heard of Heady Topper" from random non-beer people. It really put Vermont on the map IMO.

    I think a lot of people discount how good Heady is and how unique it is. A lot of breweries make a lot of less complex beers. There just aren't a lot of beers like Heady that are stone fruity, slightly tropical, citrusy with earthy spicy resiny character. There's a lot to chew on in a Heady. I don't know of anyone even trying to make a beer like Heady in Virginia whereas almost everyone is trying to make juice bombs. It's a hard beer to duplicate IMO.

    That is the case I would make for Heady.
  10. Mikecap

    Mikecap Champion (804) May 18, 2012 Rhode Island

    Allagash White and Heady would be two of my top picks, but of those two I'd lean towards Heady - there are very few breweries that have survived (and couldn't meet demand) off literally one beer for several years - I also agree that Heady did a ton for Vermont beer tourism (good and bad) and its economy as a whole.

    This said, I'd go with Edward. Hill Farmstead does a lot of things well, but Edward epitomizes the approach and nuance you find in all of Shaun's beers. Full of flavor, but doesn't tire the palate and is extremely consistent. I've probably drank more Edward than any other beer, but enjoy it just as much every time.
  11. kinopio

    kinopio Aspirant (269) Apr 30, 2009 Massachusetts

    I remember hearing about allagash white being the best selling beer at bars in other parts of the country like Chicago. That’s pretty impressive.
  12. mrmattosgood

    mrmattosgood Initiate (137) Nov 6, 2010 Monaco

    Not sure if anyone is a sports fan here, but one of my favorite things is hearing a superstar speak candidly about another player. For example, I remember listening to a podcast with Kevin Durant and he was talking about Kyrie (I know, I know), but he was speaking of him glowingly, like "This kid can fucking play. He does stuff that the best players in the world can't do." Basically, he's your favorite player's favorite player. The people who know the game of basketball know this guy is something special.

    And that's how brewers across the country feel about Allagash White. That's why White is the answer.
  13. pbrian

    pbrian Defender (677) Feb 8, 2001 Connecticut

    The problem with Heady is availability, if that is one of the boxes, it's not checked. Shit, I think I've only had one Heady before.
    Sheppard, AlcahueteJ and Singlefinpin like this.
  14. SunDevilBeer

    SunDevilBeer Defender (639) May 9, 2003 Massachusetts

    Shipyard, followed closely by White Birch.

    How both breweries have survived so long making terrible beer is VERY impressive.

    Srsly tho, I’ll join the chorus on Allagash White with a nod to Heady Topper.
  15. robo55

    robo55 Initiate (62) Oct 29, 2015 Massachusetts

    Heady all day long. Such a complex beer that still awes me every time I drink it.
  16. GeauxTigers13

    GeauxTigers13 Initiate (62) Apr 30, 2019 Maine

    Feel like it has to be between Julius & Allagash White for all of the reasons mentioned in this thread. White has such a respect amongst brewers, educated consumers & people who don't know a thing about beer. Julius was the driving force behind the creation of a brand new style. Julius is to the beer industry what the Tesla Roadster is to the car industry - a revolutionary creation that flipped the industry on it's head. I would say one of them is 1A, the other is 1B, but I can't put my finger on which is which.
  17. seakayak

    seakayak Defender (678) May 20, 2007 Massachusetts

    Lots of great beers to chose from, but I did some calculations, and these are the most impressive because of what they inspired others to do:

    -Heady Topper
    -Allagash Curieux
    -Smuttynose Baltic Porter

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  18. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,182) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I think @matthewp 's reply in post #4 pretty much said everything I wanted to say.

    I'll just add that I think many in this thread are talking about Heady Topper as the most INFLUENTIAL beer, not the most impressive, at least in my opinion. Not to say Heady Topper still isn't one of the most impressive beers in New England.

    One of the boxes was that White is one of, if not the, best in its style in the world. That's not Harpoon IPA (although it's a damn fine beer I love to drink).

    Yes, but Boston Lager's sales have been slipping for years. And while a great beer, I wouldn't say it's easily one of the best Amber Lagers out there.

    I'll say the same thing about Boston Lager that I would about Hoponius. Sales have slipped for years, and now House Lager has surpassed it. Jack Hendler said in a recent article that outside of New England sales have really slipped for this beer.

    I do have to say that as far as IPLs go, no one does them better than Jack's Abby (not that there's a lot of competition in this arena anymore...of course the same could be said of Witbiers).

    I think Sip of Sunshine and Second Fiddle are in the same vein. I actually think you could find quite a few people who like Sip better. And it's also still ALL over the place down in Boston. It doesn't fly off the shelves, but it still appears to be popular.

    I won't knock Heady for it's lack of availability. But I will give extra credit to White for it's ubiquity.

    I think Heady is a good choice, and is currently on a "Mount Rushmore" of New England beers. But I feel many of the reasons people are choosing it is taking a slightly myopic view of the craft beer scene. I've been on Beeradvocate for over 15 years now, and I've already seen Heady Topper drop in popularity. I think in 5-10 years people will look at it with even less reverence.

    In fact, you can already see that happening just within this thread. As some of have mentioned Julius as the most impressive. And I imagine the same thing will happen with Julius over time.

    I always think of Westvleteren 12. It held the top spot on the BA Top 100 (back then it was the top 100) probably for longer than any other beer. EVERYONE knew that beer. And now when I talk to beer geeks, I'm hard pressed to find anyone who knows what it is.

    When I first got into craft beer, everyone knew about Allagash White. And it was already in production for 9 years at that time. It's now been in production for 25 years (I bet they'll have a killer party for this right?) and I would argue even MORE people know about Allagash White. That's impressive.
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  19. jhavs

    jhavs Poo-Bah (1,838) Apr 16, 2015 New Hampshire
    Society Trader

    I guess I took that "check box" as
    "It's sessionable, loved by both beer geeks and non beer geeks (like Blue Moon)"
    Because you said the "arguably the best Belgian Witbier" part was your opinion.

    My main point was not that White isn't an icon and worthy of all the respect it receives. It was that your boxes didn't = my definition of impressive.

    Semantics, but I would have 100% agreed with you if you used "Most important" as opposed to "Most impressive"
  20. RauchbierFan33

    RauchbierFan33 Initiate (60) May 27, 2019 New York

    +1 for Edward. Extra apt since they’re hitting the 10 year mark. I would say accessibility (accessible compared to other HF beers? Of course. But more broadly not so much) marks it down a little. That and it “only” being 10 years old.

    it’s hard to argue with White. Excellent beer. I think one of the first craft beers I had when I moved to the US 12 years ago. When I think of a brewery that has integrity in every sense - Allagash really deserves top spot (and not just in New England)

    on the topic of heady - that’s a good shout too. Again accessibility knocks it down a little. Plus whoever said it was a precursor to the NEIPA and the “East Coast IPA” - not sure I agree. The former yes. The latter (unless it means something else these days) I disagree.

    Edit - and Hoponius I think takes the “Most Mildly Cynically Well Capitalized Upon Niche” spot, not the most impressive one
    #20 RauchbierFan33, Feb 12, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2020
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  21. seakayak

    seakayak Defender (678) May 20, 2007 Massachusetts

    The one New England beer I found the most impressive, as in "OMG, that's amazing!" (as opposed to influential), even more so than Heady, Julius, SoS, Allagash White, or Congress Street IPA, was Jack's Abby Barrel-Aged Framinghammer - Cocoa-Nut. What a taste sensation!
  22. matthewp

    matthewp Aspirant (205) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    I can see where you are coming from but I think you are looking at this backwards, like many on this thread. There are many important beers in New England that have greatly impacted the industry. Heady is definitely one of those beers, its important and it made a big impact. Allagash White isn't that important of a beer IMHO, Allagash as a brewery is very important and impactful. Pretty much every brewery in Maine owes Allagash for their existence. White is a big part of that but by itself I don't think its made as much impact as beers such as Heady.

    The single most important beer in New England though is Sam Adams Lager, it can probably be said its one of the most important beers to craft beer period. Its not impressive though. Unlike Sierra Nevada Pale Ale which could be argued as important as SA Lager but is impressive.

    So let's imagine a world where every beer is equally available anywhere in the US. Do you really think people looking for an IPA are going to pick Heady over other options? You could see that when Sip of Sunshine became available in MA. When it first came out it sold out in minutes wherever it showed up. Now its pretty easy to find (personally I like SoS much better than Heady). Honestly if you were going to make any IPA easily accessible then Hill Farmstead would probably beat out almost every other IPA but it would hands down beat out Heady (I can't think of a Hill Farmstead IPA I've had that I didn't prefer over Heady).

    As both @AlcahueteJ and @mrmattosgood have stated (in one way or another) there's no other beer that is enjoyed by such a diverse group of people and in such quantity and still is considered by fellow brewers and beer critics to be a well made beer (25 years later).

    P.S. Sorry to be so down on Heady, that is not my intention it is still a great and important beer. I just don't think its as impressive.
    SABERG, AlcahueteJ and seakayak like this.
  23. lic217

    lic217 Champion (862) Aug 10, 2010 Connecticut

    Allagash white
    Heady topper
    Farm to face
    Von trap Vienna
    HF anna

    My top 5 New England beers that are most impressive. These are the only beers that I have rated above a 4.8. There is one other which is king Titus but I have not had that one in a very long time and would need to have it again to include it in the list above.
    jbarletto likes this.
  24. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,182) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Ahh, gotcha.

    And again, what @matthewp said in post #22.

    I feel like he's in my head!

    Although I'd argue Heady is more important than Boston Lager. Due to it influencing the creation of the New England IPA and the 4 pack 16 oz. can format.

    But that's a separate thread...
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  25. jhavs

    jhavs Poo-Bah (1,838) Apr 16, 2015 New Hampshire
    Society Trader

  26. Sheppard

    Sheppard Meyvn (1,168) Mar 16, 2013 Virginia

    For the record, I was playing Devil's Beer Advocate. I'm also on board with Allagash White. I took great pleasure in there being a line for White at my business school's function last week while no one was in line for Goose IPA.
  27. RauchbierFan33

    RauchbierFan33 Initiate (60) May 27, 2019 New York

    In Feb 2020? No absolutely not. But rewind several years and yes I'm sure a lot of beer nerds would have been asking where to sign (in their own blood if necessary) on the dotted line. I mean that's sort of the nature of the beast, and goes to the point someone made earlier that Jjjuliusss (anyone who's going to call me out for this not being the latest/greatest/"best" - please forgive me - I hope you get the general point though) will likely be in a similar boat a few years further down the road.

    I personally totally agree with you on HF. My favourite brewery in the US from when I first sampled their stuff back in 2011, and went there in 2012. But how much of that is still in part due to the lack of availability (granted they can IPAs now but still not remotely apples to apples comparing them to Heady/Sip) and the overall Hill Farmstead "mystique"? I refuse to believe that any IPA if made in enough quantity could retain a long term top dog position.
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  28. BRoweski30

    BRoweski30 Initiate (79) Sep 10, 2016 Massachusetts

    The HF regulars (Anna, Florence, George, Brother Soigne, Arthur) have to be the best deal in the world. They are more or less available all year and cost $10 for a 750. This lineup gets my vote for most impressive. If I had to pick one it'd be Anna. They are worth the trip up to Greensboro on their own, whether or not there is a special release or any canned IPA available.
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  29. HopsDubosc

    HopsDubosc Initiate (160) Apr 24, 2015 Vermont

    Backacre has been making one (delicious) beer for going on 10 years now. I find that pretty impressive.
    skivtjerry likes this.
  30. Dukies222001

    Dukies222001 Initiate (111) Oct 21, 2016 New Hampshire

    Haha I had a White Birch once on our annual golf trip, worst beer I've ever had. Everyone on the trip took a sip and everyone spit it out and gagged.

    More seriously Prospect from Foley Bros. has been real good for a really long time as a sleeper.
    meb3476 likes this.
  31. Takeanotherswing

    Takeanotherswing Initiate (127) Jan 14, 2011 New York

    What new style is this exactly? No offense but no way that one TH beer was more influential or bigger in New England than Heady Topper. There would be no TH like you know it without Alchemist’s Heady Topper or Hill Farmstead.

    Heady Topper is a beer that anyone not into beer I run into knows of or has had even though not distributed enough. Now when I say I’m going up to VT, non beer people ask you skiing or getting Heady Topper? Not to say VT is all of New England but it put a new style on the map and created a mad rush of brewers and breweries like no other beer could other than maybe Pliny. Allagash White is a great consistent beer that was inspiring as well and distributed way more, but would not count it in this time as most impressive New England beer. With all that said I’m more impressed by Hill Farmstead consistently in all styles beyond either of these.
    Mikecap likes this.
  32. matthewp

    matthewp Aspirant (205) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    I agree that going back a few years and Heady would have been picked over nearly every other beer out there, but that is my point. Heady today, removed from the hype, doesn't stand out. White still does.

    Now to your point that any IPA if made in enough quantity can't retain a long term top dog position, you are probably correct. At least from the perspective of being considered the most hyped. I think Bell's Two Hearted would be a good comparison to Allagash White. They sell a ton of that beer and its a pretty well loved and regarded beer.

    I guess we'll see how Hill Farmstead is regarded 10-20 years from now as well as other NE breweries. I think being well loved and regarded for a long period of time has to factor in to being impressive.
    SABERG, AlcahueteJ and RauchbierFan33 like this.
  33. Sheppard

    Sheppard Meyvn (1,168) Mar 16, 2013 Virginia

    White is like the SNPA of Maine/every market it is in. It's been around forever and has maintained great quality. It is the gold standard for witbiers made in America. A lot of breweries don't bother making wits or making them on a larger scale because White is so synonymous with the style. Why try to make the beer you already love if you can readily get that beer everywhere around you?

    Then you factor it into the fact that it enables Allagash to:
    1. take care of their employees
    2. create cash flow to allow them to make other great beers
    3. be a company with a mission
    4. provide a tremendous experience when visiting the brewery
    The Allagash White case is very compelling.
  34. RauchbierFan33

    RauchbierFan33 Initiate (60) May 27, 2019 New York

    Don’t get me wrong. In case it wasn’t clear from my prior two posts:

    a) I totally agree with OP/you/anyone else making the case that Allagash White is the most impressive beer in the region. It’s a fantastic example of the style, made by a great (in many ways beyond the beer itself) brewery that’s stood the test of time

    b) I also agree that HF - natural advantages aside - has constantly impressed me with their ability to stay ultra relevant while not compromising themselves, for a whole decade. Again - they are my number one brewery. Will be interesting to see how they are perceived in 2030 but if anyone can still be swinging at the top of their game after 20 years, it will be them.

    I was just commenting essentially on the Heady/IPA side conversation. I think we are both in agreement that it (the IPA style) is just a totally different animal. It’s not possible for any IPA from anyone to stand the test of time over the same sort of time period that Allagash White has. BUT - however it may be received now, a lot is owed to Heady (and some of the OG HF hoppy beers as you said) when it comes to the place we’re at today IPA-wise as well as the clout the region has in the beer world, and that should be remembered. Therefore while I would pick White too, I understand the argument for Heady.
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  35. thedaveofbeer

    thedaveofbeer Aspirant (220) Mar 25, 2016 Massachusetts

    So what are all your thoughts on the fact that King JJJ is now the highest rated beer on Untappd?
  36. YourDigitalGrave

    YourDigitalGrave Initiate (66) Jun 5, 2019 Massachusetts

    Nothing from Hill Farmstead fits the criteria outlined by the OP.
    There are people who drink craft beer who have never even heard of it.
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  37. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,182) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Ha, Devil's Beer Advocate. Nice.

    This is one aspect that does make the "White vs. Heady" debate a bit unfair. There aren't a litany of examples of Belgian Witbiers out there to compete with. Although I do believe Blue Moon is technically still the best selling "craft beer" out there, so in that sense for a widely distributed beer, that's A LOT of competition. And White STILL sells incredibly well, and not just in New England.

    Which actually goes to show just how impressively executed Allagash White is. One would think due to its success, other breweries' would brew more Witbiers. And others have, but do you ever hear of anyone singing the praises of Ommegang Witte? When's the last time you had a Hoegaarden?

    In the world? How much do fresh Fantome Saisons cost over in Belgium? And how good are they compared to Hill Farmstead?

    I know plenty of people who don't know what Heady Topper is. And I assume that number increases the further you get away from New England. And Allagash White is more than just consistent, it's a gold standard for the style, arguably better than any other in its category.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your entire post except for this last sentence. If this was true, why would anyone have bothered to try to replicate or advance the IPA?

    Brewer's have tried many times to make a Witbier that was as successful as Allagash White, but this one still stands alone as relevant and popular (well, next to Blue Moon).

    I don't know about that. As @matthewp mentioned, Two Hearted still does incredibly well. As does Celebration Ale (granted as a seasonal).

    I think people get way too caught up in recency bias with Heady Topper. Sure, it's been around since 2003, but it wasn't really even remotely attainable or widely popular until a few years after that. It's quite possible, in fact if we take history into account likely, that Heady will wilt in popularity and maybe even relevance in the next 10 - 15 years.

    Compare that to beers like Allagash White (1995) and Two Hearted (1997) which have been around for decades.

    My thoughts are that if I wait five minutes, some other beer will replace it at the top.
    matthewp and RauchbierFan33 like this.
  38. RauchbierFan33

    RauchbierFan33 Initiate (60) May 27, 2019 New York

    Hmmmm. I mean yes Two Hearted has been around a long time and is still popular/sells well, and certainly deserves respect. But if you ask a beer nerd “what is the best Belgian Witbier?” you’re going to get a lot of Allagash responses. You ask them “what is the best IPA?” - I’m doubtful. Moot anyway since we’re talking about New England. The closest comparable is probably Harpoon and that was already mentioned and got shot down.
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  39. Takeanotherswing

    Takeanotherswing Initiate (127) Jan 14, 2011 New York

    It is the gold standard for the style. I agree. I'm not really disagreeing, it's a top beer in the country. I love White. It's a dumb debate probably anyways. It is the standard of its style and Heady I believe is the standard for it's style which it created and put on the map. Anything after it can be amazing as well, but you can't erase history. It would still be "relevant" as a staple regardless of its current status. Once/If someone makes a better witbier in the future it wouldn't make Allagash White irrelevant by any means. I still think Heady is pretty amazing every time I crack a can.
    AlcahueteJ and RauchbierFan33 like this.
  40. RauchbierFan33

    RauchbierFan33 Initiate (60) May 27, 2019 New York

    I think that for better or worse trying to compare who makes the best Belgian witbier vs who makes the best NE(IPA), is sort of like trying to compare who makes the best Lamb Rogan Josh vs who makes the best Southeast Asian food

    I am aware that analogies always get picked apart - I am ready to be attacked