Some beers just come into your awareness from some weird direction which in all honesty, probably makes them seem better than they actually are. Let’s look at Abita’s Turbodog, a relatively harmless brown ale style beer that more times than not, I probably wouldn’t have given a lot of notice to, that is if it hadn’t been for Emeril Lagasse.
As many of you might know, Emeril was the first breakout celebrity chef on the Food Network. Lagasse had already made marks in the culinary world, succeeding none other than Paul Prudhomme as Commander’s Palace’s executive chef. Cooking what he has called a “New, New Orleans” style, Lagasse quickly became known as a force in the Louisiana food scene (although local Louisiana chefs are quick to point out that he’s originally from Massachusetts).
Eventually he caught the eye of executives at the Food Network, where he first appeared on small shows like “How to Boil Water”, to finally hosting his own show “The Essence of Emeril”. But it wasn’t until he was tapped for a new prime time live cooking show that the general populace, including myself, discovered Emeril.
One of the things I liked about the show was that he always had a table of four people in front of him with whom he would interact as he cooked. These people would always get a sample of the dishes he prepared throughout the show and on occasion, he’d ask a guest, “Could use a beer to go with it, huh?” at which point he would walk over to the refrigerator and pull out a Turbodog. Well of course, if it was good enough for Emeril, I had to give it a try! Especially when he presented his technique for creating the perfect rue. “You want to make a two beer rue,” he would say. “Stir it for as long as it takes you to drink two beers.” Well that never seemed to work for me, my rues never seemed to be where I wanted them until after I’d finished three beers. But maybe I just drink faster than Emeril. Or maybe I use less heat when making my rue. Probably the former. So is this beer worthy of being what I call the “unofficial official beer of Emeril Lagasse”? Let’s Taste.
THEM: Turbodog is Abita’s take on a brown ale. The grain bill is pretty straight forward; Pale ale (90%), Cara-90 (6%), and Dark Chocolate (4%) which is mashed in to achieve an OG of 13.5 Plato. The bottle label and packaging make it sound like Williamette is the only hop used, but in an August 2012 interview head brewer Mark Wilson stated that the bittering hop addition is Apollo, with two additions of Williamette later in the boil for flavor and aroma. A German Alt yeast is then used to ferment Turbodog down to 5.6%ABV.
Of interest is that Abita is only one of two breweries (New Belgian is the other) in the US to utilize a Merlin Boiling System to produce their beers. From Abita’s webstie:
The Abita Brewing Company was the first brewery outside Europe to use a revolutionary new boiling system called the Merlin. It reduces the boiling time from 90 minutes to 35 minutes and is 70% more energy efficient. It works by moving the wort over a heated cone inside the Merlin, quickly bringing it up to the proper temperature. Have you ever seen one of those cold drink dispensers where the lemonade or fruit punch is circulated like a fountain over a cone inside a clear glass container? The chilled cone in the drink dispenser is cooling the drink and making a pretty display. Inside the Merlin, the heated cone is boosting the temperature of the wort and speeding up the brewing process.
ME: If Turbodog was a painting then chocolate would be the canvas as it’s the dominant flavor and aroma that supports everything else that’s going on in the glass. The nose also shows the slightest touch of touffe/coffee and I could get a hint of English hop (Williamette is a descendent of the English Fuggle hop) every now and then when I brought the glass to my nose. As the beer warms up the chocolate definitely comes through in the flavor as the profile leans towards the malty side. I never really found the hop addition in the flavor. The beer looks a little darker than some other brown ales I’ve had and in a wide glass it can almost be mistaken for black, but hold it up to the light and you can see that it’s definitely not. The carbonation level is good, the initial head recedes to a small layer of bubbles across the top and there’s some weight to the mouth feel, but not enough to get it up to what I consider to be “medium”. Turbodog ends with enough bitter to balance, but not so much to linger on.
To me, this is just a fine drinking beer (regardless of how I “stumbled” upon it) and the best beer Abita makes. It’s going to take something special to knock it off as my “rue making beer of choice”. Bring on the gumbo!
Time for another beer….