Raison D’Etre, Oliver Gray Guest Post – The Dog(fish Head) Days of Summer

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Oliver originally wrote this with Shelter Pale Ale in mind, but realized late that DFH no long offered it in bottles. He wrote the story below with a combination of SPA and RD’E as only Oliver can do. I will always thank him for his contribution to my blog]

Today I’m thrilled to have Oliver Gray from the awesome blog Literature and Libation as a guest poster here at tDoB.  I’ve been reading Oliver’s blog for quite awhile now and it’s an amazing mix of posts on writing, beer, brewing and beertography.  If you have not check it out, I highly suggest you do so.

One of the things I like most about Oliver’s blog is that his reviews aren’t the traditional by-the-numbers reviews that so many of us do.  In keeping with his passion for writing, Oliver takes the essence of the beer, plus a little pinch of whatever is inspiring him on that particular day and scripts a piece of beer review fiction.  Past stories have ranged from a wheelchair bound man dreaming of surfing, an elderly man at a nursing home reliving one of his last lucid memories, and a woman struggling to find the proper words at her brother’s funeral – inspired by DFH’s own Noble Rot.

So with that, let’s get to this.  But before we do, keeping with the other reviews that I’ve done this month, let me toss out a few words about this beer.

THEM:  Raison D’Etre is a French phrase that means “Reason for Existence”.  I think this is a pretty clever play on words, one because beer certainly is one of the things that make existence enjoyable and two, DFH brews the beer with green raisins.  The beer is also brewed with beet sugar and fermented with Belgian yeast to 8%ABV and bittered to 25IBU.

ME: Nice head and carbonation.  Notes of fruit, caramel, dark sugars and Belgian yeast in the nose.  Interesting spice up from in the mouth, with what you get in  the aroma peaking through which clears out to leave a nice malt finish with perhaps a touch of booze.  There’s a sweet stickiness left behind when it’s all said and done, with the clean finish you’d expect from 25IBUs in this beer.  This is a pretty decent beer, but for some reason it’s not doing more for me than a 4-PACK.  Some might go CASE, but I think there’s a few things about the beer that keep me from going that extra rating point.  If I were to cheat, I’d go two 4-PACKS because that’s pretty much where this thing sits for me, but I’m not going to muddy the waters in the last week of doing this thing.

And now Oliver:

With my back turned, all I could hear were the whimpers of the other dogs, the longing whines of those furry faces trapped behind cross-hatched steel. I could picture all of the faces that went with each canine cry – the ugly beauty of the smoosh-faced Pugs, the dopey loyalty in the eyes of the Labradors, the regality and inborn pomp of the Poodle mixes – all staring out at me, trying to win me over with a melting puppy gaze if I’d just turn and look.

But my mind was made up. I couldn’t own a dog, not even one as painfully adorable as Nymeria. I wasn’t a “dog person.” Never had been, never would be. Dogs meant pre-sunrise walks and poop-scooping and hundreds of dollars at veterinary offices just to find out the dumb thing had eaten a frog that didn’t agree with her.

No. No dogs.

I signed the papers to give her up, but refused to turn around.


The font of the note was 11 point Calibri. The default. He hadn’t even bothered to change it to something more thoughtful, more meaningful, something with a goddamn serif. It was just a wandering explanation of reasons, some apologies, some blames, some pathetic attempts to justify leaving abruptly after 9 years.

His hasty signature at the bottom sliced through the arteries that pumped blood to my inner romantic; a formality that made it seem like our love had been some kind of official arrangement or contract, to be severed or ended whenever one party was no longer satisfied with the work being done. He didn’t even close it with “love” or “yours,” just a perfunctory penultimate punch: “thanks.”

He’d loaded up most of his clothes and electronics while I was at work. He’d faked sick that morning, letting me worry about how he was feeling while he was dismantling and unplugging his life from mine, leaving half of an apartment and half of a home for me to return to. He’d been conservative in what he took, perhaps to assuage his guilt, leaving most of our “joint” purchases behind like inappropriate gifts.

If his reminders had been left at the material, just those physical items abandoned in the ruins of our relationship, I could have sold them or washed them or performed rituals to purge his energy from them. But of course, that asshole left the dog. No note about coming to get it later, no instructions for where to take it. Just a drooling mess of barks and pee, rolling around blissfully happy in the dirt and petal mess he’d made of my prize hibiscus.

I’d fought getting the dog in the first place, but he had always wanted one – a purebred Chesapeake Bay Retriever, specifically – and saying no to Alex was like trying to ask a hurricane to kindly go away and come back at a better time. He’d promised me that it wouldn’t be a hassle, that he’d train the thing and that it would be good for our social lives to get out and interact with other dog owners. But all of his plans devolved into spoiling the ball of tangled golden fur, giving into its every whim like it was a bratty child, smothering it with sometimes overly enthusiastic affections.

And now, he’d left it with me. He wouldn’t answer his phone, the coward. I assumed my voicemails would be deleted as soon as they hit his inbox. I tried email, and Gchat, and speaking to him through his mother, but he had, as far as I could tell, managed to completely excise me from his life. His last will and testament to our love left yellow stains on the carpet while I was at work and completely voided my security deposit when it voided its bladder. I wasn’t cut out to own a dog; especially one whose shining brown eyes did nothing but remind me of its former master.

It wasn’t lightly that I decided to take it to a shelter. I knew what shelters meant, knew what connotations sat like vultures atop the brick façade. I secretly hoped that its purebred blood and youth would get it adopted before anything bad happened, so that I wouldn’t feel too bad about having this dumped on me during an actual dumping.


I rested my hand on the bar of the door, taking a moment to curse Alex under my breath, damning him for making me do this. The smell of wet dog and industrial cleaner and stale dry dog food hung heavy in the air, and I wanted nothing more than to escape into the oppressive warmth of late-summer Delaware.

But my hand would not push, and my feet would not move. My mind kept me planted, replaying mental home movies of Nymeria, like when she leapt up on our bed at 2 AM covered in mud after having escaped through a poorly secured door, and us laughing while trying to wrestle her into the bathtub.

I remembered all the times her smiling face, tongue flopping lazily as he spun in little circles, greeted me as I came home from a long day. The sound of my keys in the lock was a herald of excitement for her, the trumpets blaring the return of the master, and I could trust she’d be there ready to jump on me without fail. It was Nymeria who cared about me, was always happy to see me, while almost antonymous, Alex sat on the couch, eyes unmoving from the TV, barely acknowledging my presence.

I hear people talk about “man’s best friend” but is it reciprocal? Who is “dog’s best friend,” if not man? We’re so selfish in our desire to be loved and not be alone, that we treat these perfectly loyal creatures like emotional putty, to be molded and shaped and forced into the holes of our psyche. It wasn’t Nymeria’s fault that Alex had been a terrible dog owner.

I turned around. The woman who had taken my paperwork was sitting down at her computer, about to process my information. The green leash that belonged to Nymeria’s green collar was coiled in a pile on her clipboard. She looked up at me, her gaze equally sympathetic and confused.

“I think I made a mistake. Can I have my dog back?”

Beertography Credit: Oliver Gray
Beertography Credit: Oliver Gray

I’d like to thank Oliver for taking the time to do a guest post for me, especially under what could be described understatedly as a very difficult month for him.  Again, check out his blog and read all the other excellent “reviews” that Oliver has written.

Time for another beer…

Author: Ed (The Dogs of Beer)

Beer Blog focused on Delaware & surrounding area. Drinker of beer. Writer of stuff. Over user of commas. Dangler of prepositions.

3 thoughts on “Raison D’Etre, Oliver Gray Guest Post – The Dog(fish Head) Days of Summer”

  1. Well done Gents! The woman I work with calls this Raisin Beer. She has a home down in Georgetown, DE and has been to the Dogfish Head brew pub on a few occasions. Definitely a tasty brew! Must revisit it soon.

    And FYI, we MUST get together for beers one day soon. And maybe some whisky and rum too. Or how about some gin? I like that too. Just sayin…

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