After the Dog Days of Summer, the Dog Beers of Fall
“It takes a lot of good beer to make good wine”. Many winemakers around the world — including those in Maryland — adhere to this adage. Harvest season is a time of hot and thirsty work in the vineyards and many who work in the vineyards make sure that there is some refreshing beer nearby. According to Beer Blogger Steve Matthiasson, “[beer] is as much a fixture of the crushpad as the pump or the forklift.”
Fortunately for Maryland winemakers, Maryland’s breweries are offering an array of interesting and delectable “dog beers of Fall”. And what better companion to have to explore these brews than Bobby with his big eyes and soft paws. Bobby* put away his tennis balls long enough to contribute his opinions about the beers through his barks (1 = worst, 5 = best) but not his bite!
Let us start out with a nice and easy ale brewed in Westminster by Dog Brewing. Dog Brewing has been around since 2001, and their reasonably priced beers can be found in their draft houses in Baltimore and Columbia and in liquor stores around Maryland. The Pub Dog Blond Dog ale is a refreshing, thirst-quenching beer that goes well with pizza. It has approximately five percent alcohol by volume (ABV) with slight cereal, blond malt, and gentle hop flavors. This is a pleasant ale to quaff after tasting highly tannic red wines all day. Pub Dog Blond Dog is straightforward and needs to be consumed well-chilled, since the carbonation is not very long-lived. Bobby gave it 3 barks!
Frederick’s famous Flying Dog brewery has released a Marzen-style beer just in time for fall. Winner of several gold medals, this beer was brewed with 100 percent imported German ingredients (Light Munich, Munich 90 and 100, and Vienna malts and German Perle and Hallertau hops). To achieve the appropriate Marzen style, the Flying Dog Dogtoberfest was brewed with proprietary lager yeast. Look for an attractive copper color, pleasant toast, mild bread and caramel flavors, a solid, yet smooth hop backbone at 30 IBUs and the perfect 5.6% ABV. A beer that is fun, one never gets tired of, and that certainly is a crowd-pleaser; it easily gets 4 barks!
A Note on “Marzen”: in the year 1516, the Marzen style was created as part of the German Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot) that prohibited the brewing of beer during the warm summer months (because the production of lager beers requires low temperatures and the danger of fire from boiling beer is elevated during the summer months). The beer that was brewed to be consumed over the summer had to have a relatively long shelf life, so more hops and malt were used (resulting in higher alcohol content). Nowadays, the term “Marzen” often is used for strong lagers. The Octoberfest and other beer fests traditionally were used to drink up the leftover Marzen beers to make room for the new brews!
In Summer and early Fall, it is hard to ignore fruit beers. The best examples are pleasantly fruity and not overly sweet. Pub Dog Blueberry Dog pleases with subtle blueberry notes and just a little sweetness that is balanced by fruity acidity. The label states that Natural Blueberry Flavor was added, and the beer certainly does not taste artificial. Blond ale flavors come through on the palate, so this is not a “soda-pop” style fruit beer. Gets an enjoyable 3 barks.
Flying Dog uses roasted barley, Midnight Wheat, Cara Pils, and Black malts combined with Perle hops to brew their Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout Ale . Drinking this beer is good for the environment because the proceeds benefit the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration. With 5.5 percent ABV and an ample 35 International Bitterness Units (IBUs), the Pearl Necklace is a refreshing, not-too-heavy stout with good carbonation and with pleasant balance between the roast coffee, dark chocolate, espresso, and a hint of floral hop. A very drinkable and balanced stout that deserves 4 barks and an extra little yip!
The award-winning Flying Dog Barrel Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter is a lot more challenging. I found it quite hot on the palate and boozy, and it will be best enjoyed with strong-flavored food with a good helping of fat and charred flavors (chili, smoked meats, stews, and rich chocolate desserts). The malts used are 120L Crystal, Black, and Chocolate; they contribute to the rich and almost over-the top-flavors in this beer. Bobby found the Gonzo’s label the best in the entire lineup – many interesting bones to bury and to dig out! Aged in Oak
Whiskey Barrels, this one has a lethal dose of oak, alcohol (no surprise at 9.5 percent ABV), roasted chocolate, crushed dark roasted coffee beans, and charred malt with an underlayer of charcoal-grilled bacon (did I mention charred and smoky flavors in this beer?). Gonzo is a limited distribution beer. A hefty 85 IBUs give it a palate-shredding kick of hops generated by a combination of Warrior, Northern Brewer, and Cascade. A bottle is best shared with a friend (or foe?). The tasting bottle was Vintage 11, and I found it a lot more palatable than the bottle I had a while ago – this beer certainly benefits from time in the cellar. Altogether, Gonzo will get 3 barks for now; it is certainly an acquired taste, but it is worth trying, as is the last recommended beer in this Maryland lineup.
In the meantime, we are showing another truly wicked beer, not brewed in Maryland, but at a doggie brewery: the Brewdog Paradox Storm IPA Aged in Caol Ila Whiskey Barrel. It is a “lighter” beer at 8 percent ABV compared to other beers from this brewery. It is made by the artisan brewery BrewDog, located on the rugged northeast coast of Scotland. Storm IPA displays a deep amber color, and it is so intense that it needs to be tasted last in the lineup. It is currently sold out, but my cellar hosts another three delectable bottles of this poison. It has an amazing single malt nose of Caol Ila Whiskey in a flavorful, dry frame with just the right kick of hops. Long and aromatic finish. A perfect beer for the lovers of single malt scotch. This is best served in a snifter and enjoyed after dinner with a cigar. Since it has so much of the Caol Ila peat moss in the nose and on the palate, this beer is a love-it-or-hate-it brew and therefore gets 3 barks.
Look out for the two versions of the International Arms Race Zero IBU IPA. One version is brewed by Flying Dog in Frederick; the other is brewed by BrewDog in Scotland. But since Bobby is now as tired as a dog, we need to discuss these out-of-the box brews next time.