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Beer Tasting: Dog Days of Summer

July 30, 2012

Friday 4:00 pm until 6:45 pm (or until it's gone) $5 per person, at Inari Wines! The “dog days” are upon us. We all know what the dog days are – hot, sultry, miserable heat that grinds on without end, from roughly early July to mid August – but what are they really? And why are they called that? As it turns out, ancient Egyptians believed that the star Sirius brought roasting temperatures down on Earth when it passed close to the sun. This is not as parochial as it might sound, considering that Sirius (which is also called the “dog star”) is measurably the brightest star in the night sky. The name stuck, and we have been suffering ever since.

In defiance against the dog days, we will quaff plentiful beer. Each of these brews is dog-themed, to maximize the irony.

Sea Dog Wild Blueberry
FROM: Portland, Maine

STYLE: Blueberry Ale

THE BEER: This is a popular summer style – an American wheat ale flavored with fresh fruit. Wheat beers are light and ethereal in style, typically balancing hints of sweetness and yeasty spice. Fruit can be added either during fermentation, or afterward as flavoring. Sea Dog adds blueberry juice after the beer is through fermenting, presumably to prevent the natural sugars in the juice from being converted into high levels of alcohol. The stylized dog on the label is Barney, a Great Pyrenees who used to be Sea Dog’s “apprentice brewmaster.”

ABV: 4.7%

Recommended Glass: Pint or Nonic

Dogfish Head Black & Blue
FROM: Milton, Delaware

STYLE: Proprietary

THE BEER: Compared to the Sea Dog blueberry ale, Black & Blue has actual berries added during fermentation. This integrates the fruit flavors with the beer and drives up the alcohol content as yeast converts the fruit sugars into alcohol. The base of this brew is a “Belgian-style golden ale,” fermented with the same yeast strain that is used for Red & White and Pangaea. This is fermented with blackberries and blueberries and then flavored with additional pureed berries after fermentation. This produces a complex, intense, wine-like beer.

ABV: 10%

Recommended Glass: Chalice or Snifter

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog
FROM: Portsmouth, New Hampshire

STYLE: American Brown Ale

THE BEER: American Brown Ale is a catch-all style for anything that is maltier than an Amber Ale while still falling short of the Porter and Stout styles in both malt and hop intensity. This is America’s take on the classic English Brown Ale style, which is one of England’s stronger beer styles, typically 5% ABV or higher. Old Brown Dog is quite strong for the style. A blend of pale and chocolate malts lends the beer its rich color and malty substance. Hop presence is mild; this one comes in at a paltry 18 International Bitterness Units (IBU’s).

ABV: 6.7%

Recommended Glass: Pint or Nonic

Flying Dog Raging Bitch
FROM: Frederick, Maryland

STYLE: “Belgian-style” IPA

THE BEER: Flying Dog is interesting for making both traditional and over-the-top beer styles. This one falls into the over-the-top category. It is becoming increasingly trendy for breweries to tout “Belgian-style” this and that, usually without warrant, and it appears that this IPA is no exception. The only conceivable merit for the designation is a slightly musty, floral aromatic profile that hints at the possible inclusion of a Belgian yeast strain. All malt and hop varieties are American. So basically what we have here is an American-style IPA with aromas that might or might not be reminiscent of Belgian yeast.

ABV: 8.3%

Recommended Glass: Pint or Nonic

Laughing Dog "The Dogfather"
FROM: Ponderay, Idaho
STYLE: American Imperial Stout
THE BEER: Laughing Dog is famous for making seriously big beers. They claim that this is one of the biggest in their line, brewed from seven different malts and four hop varieties. Bitterness is a respectable 71 IBU’s. Aromas of espresso, dark chocolate, and burnt toast dominate, while the palate adds a hint of tartness, which tames the sweetness of the malts. The massive 11% ABV actually helps to cut the sweetness also, keeping the beer from becoming flabby.
ABV: 11%
Recommended Glass: Pint or Nonic