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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Old Brown Dog Ale by Smuttynose Brewery

Image borrowed from
  • Style: American Brown Ale
  • ABV: 6.7%
  • Season: All Year Round
  • Ease to locate: Large liquor stores around the country  (Binny's sells it for $9.99 a six pack)
  • Color: Gorgeous reddish brown.  Cloudy when served too cold.
  • Head: Medium, but sticks around.  Aromatic.
  • Aroma: Opens as it warms.  Initial notes of caramel and malt heat up to the scents of fig and roasted nuts
  • Mouthfeel: Medium.  More lush than most brown ales.
  • Finish: Medium.  Fruity hops on the finish. 
  • Food friendly: Homey, rustic food.  Serve with braised or roasted meats and vegetables.  
I make it a point to take a trip at least once a year.  Twice even, if I can find enough change under the cushions (and they don't necessarily have to be on my couch.  You've been warned.)  Now, I'm not a sit on the beach sort of girl, so most of my vacations center around destinations lush with history instead of mai tais.  And as luck would have it, these same places usually also showcase amazing local food and drink options.  I recently returned from a trip to Boston where I made it a point to try a different local craft beer each night.  I'm just zany like that.

We were pretty tired from travel our first night, so we ate at a small seafood restaurant right around the corner from our hotel.  Let's just say that I was a bit more (WIDE) awake after I realized that the place charged $30 for a simple lobster roll.  For that price, I'd like to think that my lobster had at least graduated from  Harvard before being boiled.  I honestly had no idea what to drink with a thirty dollar hot dog bun stuffed with a bit of lobster meat.  My server suggested Smuttynose Brewery's  Old Brown Dog Ale.  Smuttynose is a well known New Hampshire brewery and their Old Brown Dog is regarded as one of the best American Brown Ales produced today.   I, of course, didn't know that then.  I just thought "Smuttynose?  Is this some sort of porn influenced beer line?  The Cinamax after Dark of breweries?"  (Smuttynose is actually an island off the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine, so mind = gutter for me apparently.)  Brown Ales emigrated from England in the late 1700's along with roast mutton and buckle shoes.    And just like cars and Big Gulps, New England soon decided that bigger is better.  American Brown ales are usually stronger than their English or German counterparts and much hoppier.  Old Brown Dog is no exception.

The Old Brown Dog Ale had a deep, reddish brown color that just screamed Autumn to me.  The head on the pour was a bit heavy, but sunk down nicely after a minute.  It left a soft, almond colored foam resting on top that lingered even after a few sips.  The initial smell of malt was quickly replaced by the aroma of fresh caramel and whiffs of vanilla.  Honestly, this was exactly how I imagined that a public house in Revolutionary times would smell.  And so much more romantic than I assume the real scent of BO and rotting food. (That lovely image was brought to you courtesy of the subway ride I took later on the trip.)  There was a back note of fruity hops as I drank, which added an enjoyably refreshing quality to the swallow.  As the beer warmed, the flavors became more pronounced.  Midway through my Ivy League educated crustacean in a ball park bun, I could taste the sweetness of figs, the sharpness of roasted nuts and a spiciness that wasn't really there during the first few sips.  I love it when your beer opens like a great wine.  It makes for a ginormously more interesting brew.  It was an incredibly smooth beer as well.  Medium bodied with a semi lush mouthfeel.  It was as if a porter and an ale had a baby and named it Old Brown Dog (of course that's pretty cruel parenting, like calling your newborn Enoch or Bertha.) 

While it's sold as a year round beer, I think that it's especially satisfying for the Autumn months.  I certainly plan on purchasing a few bottles to enjoy while the leaves are still falling.  Drink it with a rustic pot roast or homemade chicken pot pie fresh from the oven.  And, as I'm sure my crimson lobster friend said as he was being lowered into that scalding pot of water, "Hurray pro bonus imbibo!"

Of course a  Harvard lobster would speak in Latin.  Pretentious snob.