Friday, June 22, 2007

Really Old Brown Dog Ale...

Smuttynose Old Brown Ale is a fantastic American Brown Ale that was inspired by Olive, the dog that graces the label. Unfortunately, Olive died on March 15, 2007, just a month after the release of Really Old Brown Dog Ale. If you are a dog person, the label image will just about bring you to tears.

Really Old Brown Dog Ale is part of Smuttynose Brewing Company’s impressive Big Beer Series. It is bottle conditioned–I cellared this one for about 4 months, but I have another that I am going to save until next year.

For those of you not from New England, Smuttynose is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The name comes from an island on the Maine/New Hampshire border. The label states: "Olive, iconic mascot and spirit guide of our brewery, first appeared on our Old Brown Dog label and has returned 13 years later, to pose for our Really Old Brown Dog, a luscious, malt-rich, full bodied old ale featuring deep notes of complex fruit. Much like our beloved Olive, this beer will mellow and age gracefully."

This beer has a rich garnet brown color that pours to a thin, tight head with decent Belgian lace. It has a very pleasant raisin and currant aroma with a touch of milk chocolate. The Really Old Brown Dog is medium-bodied with a nice, light carbonation, and it finishes with a tea-like dryness. Actually it is much drier than I had expected. Hop flavors develop more and more with each sip and help balance off the rich malt sweetness. It is pretty complex, with tastes of pear, plum, candy sugar, chocolate, caramel, pepper, and even the faintest touch of espresso at finish. This beer is 7.0% abv and I find it very smooth and drinkable.

While it is very good, I am anticipating that my second bottle with taste even better after an additional year. I am toasting Olive while I drink this one. My little beagle is curled up against my leg as I type--there really is nothing better in life than a great dog.

Here's to Olive.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Session Four - The Local...

Snekse over at Gastronomic Fight Club is hosting the beer blogger session this month. We were asked to review a local beer made within 150 miles of home. This was a tough call for me. My first thought was to choose one of the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series sitting in my cellar--I have been very impressed with most of these beers. My next thought was Mercury Brewing Company. Their Ipswich Stout is amazing and Ipswich Ale is one of my favorite summer beers. Of course I could have chosen one of the great offerings at Cambridge Brewing Company or The Tap's Leather Lips IPA. All of these beers, well except for the Harpoon, are made within about 25 miles of my house.

However, I decided to choose a beer made just a couple more miles away in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It seems like I am always drinking this beer. I offer it in my beer appreciation classes, a good friend made sure it was available at his wedding last month, I went to a BBQ tonight and there it was, and I pretty much buy a case of it every other month. I love Smuttynose IPA. This unfiltered IPA has a very cool label that depicts a couple of old timers sitting on folding chairs in front of a trailer, kicking back and quaffing a killer beer...could this be a vision of my retirement!

The first sniff and first sip are all grapefruit hop goodness. This beer always tastes extremely fresh to me. Smuttynose IPA is a respectable 6.6% abv and pours to a beautiful orange gold color with a great big frothy head with lots of Belgian lace all the way down the glass. The hop flavors are citrusy, herbal, flowery, and piney. The first sip pretty much tastes like a freshly cut grapefruit. However, the bitterness fades into an interesting sweet caramel malt flavor. Overall, this beer is almost all hops. It is pretty dry at finish, but a very drinkable and remarkably refreshing IPA. Smuttynose just hit 15,ooo barrel production last year for the first time, so maybe you will see this beer at your local sometime real soon. If you do, put on a plaid shirt, grab a folding chair, and sit back and enjoy.