[Author’s Note: August is the Dog(fish Head) days of Summer here at The Dogs of Beer. All throughout the month I’ll be looking exclusively at the beers from DFH.]
I thought I’d take a day and look at one of DFH’s core beers, their Indian Brown Ale. Released in December of 1999, IBA is a play off the American Brown Ale style. It’s a style I have always had a touch of nostalgia for since it’s the style that homebrewer Pete Slosberg and Mark Bronder released in 1986 under the name Pete’s Wicked Ale, a beer that was instrumental in getting started on my craft beer odyssey. While a few “craft” beers were starting to show up on the shelf at that time, Wicked Ale really helped to twisted the game around. In a graveyard of yellow, bland, mass produced lagers, this brown ale stood out like….like…well, like:
Brewing your initial (and hopefully flagship) beer as a brown ale was probably a gutsy move at the time because except for dark German beers like Bocks, or English brown ales, the only dark beer that the common US beer drinker had any experience with (and not usually in a good way) was Guinness Stout. A dark beer? What was this man thinking?
But that wasn’t the end of it. Pete decided to give his brown ale a more distinct and pronounced hop character than its English cousins both in the aroma and in the flavor by a healthy addition of Brewer’s Gold hops. An American made dark beer that was hoppy? Possibly the Galileo of his time. Pete’s Wicked Ale was the first step in the journey to getting ‘American Brown Ale’ recognized as a distinct beer style, Sadly, Pete’s eventually fell under the ownership of The Gambrinus Company, who ceased production of the beer in 2011.
So does Indian Brown Ale harken back to those early days of American Brown Ales? Or have DFH taken this to a totally new level? I think I already know the answer, but let’s taste anyway.
THEM: DFH describes this as cross between an IPA, a Scotch ale, and an American brown; built on a pale malt, probably a little crystal and chocolate, with maybe a touch of roasted just for good measure. DFH also tosses in caramelized brown sugar for extra measure. The beer is dry hopped in the same way as their 60- and 90-Minute IPAs and clocks in at 7.2%ABV and 50IBUs.
ME: I’m embarrassed to admit that I can not remember the last time I had one of these and yes, this is probably as far away from Pete’s as Pete’s was from those mass produced lagers; but you can see genealogy if you’re willing to follow the limbs up the beer style tree a bit. IBA has a much more complex depth of flavor from the grains than Pete’s but amazingly to my recollection, less hop profile than Pete’s. The nose is just a grain lover’s paradise with notes of, well just about everything dark – molasses, brown sugar, chocolate and a slight hint or roast. Interestingly the hops seem subdued, although they are present.
The flavor is more of the same, with all kinds of malt type flavors running around, and does indeed give a nod to Scotch ales with a mouthful of caramel and a hint of roast. IBA has a nice fulcrum of chocolate in the middle, on which everything else seems to be balancing on either side of it. Interestingly, when the beer was cold there was a little “hitch” in the flavor just before the aftertaste came in. It almost took away from overall enjoyment of the beer, but as the beer warmed up it smoothed out.
The hops are more apparent in the flavor to me, although they certainly don’t peek through enough to steal the attention away from the malt side of things. The back end is clean with lingering malt and and something that comes across as a little bit boozy although I have a hard time believing this thing isn’t capable of hiding its 7.2%. There’s a lot going on in this glass, and if you’re a fan of dark malt flavors, then you’ll definitely like it.
I’m giving this one a CASE, because….well because I can. I love malt in all its forms and this beer brings a lot of those forms to the glass. Don’t turn your back on this one, it has a dark side. But you just might like it.
Time for another beer….