Friday, September 07, 2007

The Session #7: Brew Zoo

It has come to be that time once again. A new month is upon us and therefore a new "Session" as well. I was honored when the Chief Executive Blogger tapped me, of all people, to pound out the September "Session" for Beerjanglin. The topic at hand is the "Brew Zoo". You may wonder what in the heck that means, perhaps even furrowing your brow a bit upon reading it. Well rather than explain this myself, I will simply have the guys over at "Appelation Beer: Beer From a Good Home" do the honors:

"Have you ever noticed how many animals show up on beer labels? We have lions and tigers and bears, plus various birds, reptiles, fish, assorted domesticated and wild animals, plus a few mythical creatures. For whatever reason brewers have a tradition of branding their beers using everything from pets to predators. The Brew Zoo will celebrate these lagers and ales."

Well, to kind of narrow things down a little bit, I will mainly focusing on beers that are readily available to myself up in the Northeastern United States. But enough Golden Monkey-ing around let's get down to business. I am going to explore several of the more popular beer animals.

[And big thanks to Rick Lyke at Lyke 2 Drink for hosting the festivities this month! You can read the four updated Session collections here, here, here and here, as well as Lyke's own entry here. Please visit all these sites and leave comments.]

Ah yes, the canis lupus familiaris, or dog, could, I said could be, the most popular animal to grace beer labels world wide. Now if you are expecting to find Red Dog in this post (other than here), than you have taken the wrong exit on the information superhighway. Feel free to turn around at your earliest convenience, and proceed back to the Macro Crap exit. Anyway back to the canine, man's best friend. Dogs are ever-present in the world of brewing, and why shouldn't they be? Go on, tell me. Nothing? Alright then. You see, while the dog is said to be man's best friend, beer has certainly given the canines of the world a pretty good run for their money. I mean, I love both, but dogs don't assault your taste buds or refresh you like a good beer will. But in a dog's defense, beer doesn't fetch or sniff your crotch, so, it's sort of a toss-up. It seems only natural that man's two best friends be joined in beautiful harmony. I think we've all needed a little "hair of the dog" at one point or another. One place that has really gone to the dogs is Flying Dog Brewery in Colorado.

At Flying Dog they work doggedly at making their delicious brews year round, all aptly named to reference the canine. From the In-Heat Wheat to the Doggie Style IPA to the Tire Bite, they offer quite an array of refreshing and delicious brews. Most of the dogs on the labels are crudely drawn cartoons, so it is difficult to see exactly what kind of dogs they are. But if I had to guess, I would say, "friendly and playful". Several different dogs actually grace the labels, not just the flying dog itself.

Now most of the regular offerings don't have that much "bite", topping out just under 6% ABV, with several staying more in the 4-5% ABV range. But if you don't want to be left lapping up their regular offerings, you may want to try and find their annual Wild Dog Series release. The current one is the Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter which is 9.0% ABV. Yep, not something to just go wagging your tail at. Interestingly enough, this concoction does not have a dog on the label? Go figure, more alcohol, less dog?

Now, unlike Flying Dog, The Sea Dog Brewing Company in Maine relies on just one dog to appear on it's labels, a dog by the name of Barney.

"Barney was the Sea Dog Brewing Company's apprentice brewmaster and figurehead. Sadly he is no longer with us, but his spirit lives on. A Great Pyrenees, which were originally bred for their dauntless protection of mountain flocks and as official guard dogs for the French court in the 17th century, Barney continued this age old tradition by posting guard over the brew kettle as it boiled. Although, the Great Pyrenees breed usually dislikes the water, Barney loved it and dove right in whenever he got the chance. As a boating "enthusiast" he began sailing at three months and thus acquired his nickname of "Sea Dog". Barney was just as at home on deck as on land."
Oddly enough, much like the pack at Flying Dog, the Sea Dog line is not heavy on the alcohol content, offerering only 4 brews above 5.0% ABV. We're not saying they're dogging it, but I find it interesting that beers with dogs on them do not offer that much bite? Although looking at Barney, you realize that such a nice, sweet dog would not bite you unless provoked. I mean how intimidating is a shaggy dog in a rain slicker, really? Sea Dog seems to offer more in the way of fruity flavor like in their Raspberry, Apricot or Blueberry Wheats. They may not have much bite, but I wouldn't mind taking these dogs for a walk anyday, if ya catch my drift.

Now just because a brewery doesn't have a dog name, doesn't mean they can't put one on the label, does it? No it does not. Take a "Beerjanglin" fan favorite; Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale, for example. This Brown Ale features, in case you couldn't guess, an old brown dog on the label. At 5.7% this brown ale could quickly become your best friend. But what's really interesting here, is that Smuttynose logo actually features a smuttynosed seal-like creature that is, quite possibly, an actual seal. But it only appears on the upper labels of their bottles and never anywhere else. Sounds a bit.....

Ah yes, the wonderful world of sea creatures. I would say sea life is about as well-represented in the beer community as the dog. Don't believe me? Think I'm baiting you? Well, I'm not, my friends, I speaketh the truth. So read on, drink on, whatever floats your boat, and take a look at these offerings that you are sure to fall for hook, line and sinker.

The Smuttynose Brewing Co. is one of the better breweries to use a sea creature on it's bottles and logo. The Old Brown Dog Ale is an award winning brew and pretty much everything they offer is delicious and does that smutty-nosed fella on their bottles proud. Just pick one and drink it, you'll sea what I mean. I'm telling you it does not matter, which one you choose, pick randomly. It'll be good. Of course some are better than others, sure.The Big A IPA, the Smuttynose IPA and Smuttynose Robust Porter are among their top offerings, and you'd be wise to make any one of them your "catch of the day."

But really, why settle for just a dog or just a fish?At Dogfish Head Brewing they've found the common denominator, and trust me it does not get much fishier than the brewing at Dogfish Head. There brews tend to be both "experimental" and "extreme". By "extreme", I mean, they have a tad bit more alcohol in them than your average brew. You know like 18-20% or so, no big deal. Perhaps best known, at least to this drinker, for their I.P.A.s. There's a 60 Minute, 90 Minute and for the ever daring, the 120 Minute I.P.A. Some other more experimantal brews include the Aprihop, Chicory Stout and Fetsina Peche. Some of these "experiments" should, perhaps sleep with the fishes. But say what you will about Dogfish Head, they are not afraid to try new things, they'll do something just for the halibut.

Meanwhile, at Rooster Fish Brewing, located slightly more than a stone's throw away from us here in Syracuse, down in Watkins Glen, NY, is the cock of the walk baby. Okay, sure, I've never had anything from this particular brew station, but it looks like a great place. For the hop heads there's a Hop Warrior Imperial IPA, that has my mouth watering just typing about it. But of course there's more, sillies. It looks like they have about six brews on tap, and I'm sure they are all well above mediocre, and are just begging to be reeled in. And besides you know what they say, "Beer with fish on the labels is brain food", or something like that? Or perhaps that's just a......

If your talkin' birds and brew, then you must be talkin' Mendocino Brewing Company, right? The Mendocino family of brews features a bird, mostly hawks, on every label, and delicious beer in every bottle. Now, trust me when I tell you, these brews are not for the birds. Each beer named for a bird is representative of said birds characteristics:
"We are proud to have a range of impressive imagery on all our labels. The Raptors that represent our ales possess all the qualities that our beers have. For example, the Red Tail Hawk, native to Northern California, combines a subtle strength with an amber allure that is reflected perfectly in the ale that bears its name. Eye of the Hawk, features a magnificent head of a Hawk - its piercing eyes giving it an aura of power and presence. So also, our Select Ale that pays tribute to this Hawk. The Black Hawk that our stout portrays, is a singularly elegant raptor that has a maturity born of confidence - so too our Stout."
That just about says it all, don't it? Myself, I'm partial to the White Hawk IPA and the Eye of the Hawk, but I don't think you'll be disappointed with any of their offerings. These brews are great on tap or out of the bottle back at the nest. Trust me, when it comes to making beer, the gang at Mendocino doesn't lay an egg. So take flight (after you're done reading this post of course) to your local grocer or beer store and see if they stock it!

Another notable bird favorite is Middle Ages' Swallow Wit. Brewed in the style of a Belgian wit bier, it has a fruity taste created by orange peel. One of my personal favs, this is a light and refreshing brew that is very drinkable and a delight to have on a warm summer's day. I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and say you'd have to be some sort of bird-brain to not enjoy this. Seriously, I mean it. It's delicious. Maybe not the best Middle Ages has to offer, but it's definitely worth a few pecks. Now don't worry, this brew doesn't fly south for the winter, you can find it year round. Down at Middle Ages they take there brewing seriously and are not about......

Possibly my favorite member of the animal kingdom, I find the monkey to be rather underrepresented in the world of beer. But hey, maybe I'm not looking hard enough, who knows?

Victory's Golden Monkey
is, well, the "gold standard" in monkey-labeled beers. With a 9.5% ABV, it will only take a few of these to make you go bananas. One of Victory's biggest, um, victories, Golden Monkey continues to be a fan-favorite in the beer community. I know, without question, it's the best monkey beer I've ever had. Sure, it's the only one I've ever had, but don't let that detract away from my statement, because it's still top-notch! Nope, no monkey business here, Golden Monkey is the real deal!

Well that about wraps it up folks. Talk about animal magnetism, right? So, heyI'd love it if you left a comment to let me no what you think (please keep it clean and constructive), good, bad or indifferent. Thanks for stopping by, come back soon, and until then...."Bottoms Up!"


DG Dunford said...

Willie, this was perfect. Well done, sir.

Bill said...

I would have liked a few more animal-related puns. Couldn't you have maybe worked at least two or three in there???

Willie Moe said...

Sorry Bill, don't have a cow, you sly fox, you! You'll just have to bear with me for now. Glad to see your commenting and the cat hasn't got your tongue, though, you silly goose. I don't think I horsed around enough on this one.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Interesting blog! A while back I started brewing my own traditional english ale, I have really started getting into it and now actually sell my beer to friends and family. I wanted to add that extra touch to my beer so I designed my own beer labels and had them printed by a british labels company who did a excellent job. It has made my beer bottles look really great!