Words and photo by Burt Hoovis
For those of us who enjoy beer, there very well could be no better time to be alive than right now. It seems like every town with more than one traffic control device has a brewpub, and most are putting out very respectable products. While there are plenty of microbreweries, few can lay claim to having been around for over 20 years and helping to drive the craft beer revolution. New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewing Company is one of those few.
Smuttynose produces a varied stable of beers, including its English-style Brown ale, Old Brown Dog, which is a carry-over from a beer that majority owner Peter Egelston originally brewed at one of his other brewpubs, the Northampton Brewery, in 1988. Winning several awards (including a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival), Old Brown Dog became a staple of the brand, which saw production steadily expand to over 40,000 barrels by 2010.
Really Old Brown Dog is a fuller-bodied version of the original, employing opious amounts of American two-row, CaraRed, aromatic and Carafa malt. The Cascade hop character is appropriately subdued for the “old ale” style. Smuttynose uses port-soaked oak chips during brewing, which helps add complexity and aroma. At over 11 percent ABV, I expected this beer to come across as boozy. Surprisingly, I found it to be pleasantly flavorful without being overwhelming in the manner of some “imperial” high-gravity styles. The beer is malty and substantial in a way that coats the palate and stays.
Unfortunately, Really Old Brown Dog is not available in cans. This fact, combined with the elevated alcohol content, means that it’s probably not the best choice for mid-ride refreshment, especially if a technical downhill or a drive home from the trail is in your immediate future. Instead, this beer is great for enjoying during your post-ride bike cleaning on a chilly fall evening or as a social lubricant when planning the next day’s exploits with you riding buddies. With distribution in 25 states, a bottle probably shouldn’t be hard to find in your neck of the woods.
ABV: 11.1 percent