Beer Review 0124: Laughing Dog Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA

While at my preferred bottle shop recently (Total Wine in Winston-Salem, great folks) during the craze that is Bell’s Hopslam (a beer I scored a perfect 100 points), a gentleman who works there named John suggested I give Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA a shot, brewed by Laughing Dog Brewery in Ponderay, Idaho. He swore by this elixir; said it was the best Imperial IPA he’d ever had, and that it was better than Hopslam because it costs much less.

John briefly told me about the beer, saying that it was an exclusive to Total Wine and part of their “Brewery Direct” series. After he told me that, and after I purchased some of the beer, I did some research and found reviews of this beer by people who I know don’t do business with Total Wine — but recently, the Laughing Dog Brewery either sold out or moved, so maybe it is a Total Wine exclusive. I’m not sure, but I do know this: if you go to Laughing Dog’s website, this beer is not listed as one of their offerings.

Laughing Dog has been making beer since 2005, and has a complete line of regular series beers and seasonals. They say that a yellow lab named Ben runs the company (hence the name, Laughing Dog), but there is a different dog on the label of this beer, who has scrawled “water” on a glass of beer. We’ll assume his name is Pete, since I can’t find any solid information about this beer…

The pour produced an average size head, falling on the large side for a 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer. The head was creamy in texture and lasting, settling atop a deep amber colored liquid that had orange highlights. The body was clear, free of particles and sediment, and the lacing left behind right from the pour was a nice, thick coat. Sneaky Pete is a great looking beer; a very fetching Imperial IPA.

On the nose, there’s a unique aroma going on — I got an immediate blast of tropical fruits up front, balanced out by a definite sweetness, which was some caramel and Tootsie Roll. Yes, Tootsie Roll, like the candy. Ever smelled one? This beer most decidedly smells like that, with a heavy hop presence. Lingering in the background are the traditional grapefruit and pine notes, along with a grassy scent. You’d think that might be iffy, but trust me: it’s quite nice.

To the tongue, immediately that Tootsie Roll taste comes out, mixed with just a faint hint of mild chocolate, and then the bitterness of the hops kick in — tropical fruit, grass, and a soft carbonation tingles the tongue and leads to a complex finish of grapefruit, pine, and creamy Tootsie Roll. There’s a noticeable alcohol burn on this one, and it warms the entire body as you drink. There’s a drying effect, but it only makes you want another sip. Sneaky Pete is exceptionally drinkable, and you could find yourself in trouble with this beer quickly.

So, is it better than Bell’s Hopslam? I don’t think so. Hopslam is such a hop bomb, you can’t help but adore it, whereas this one is more balanced. Take note: this is not a sweet Imperial IPA, like some tend to be, but there is a definite candy-Tootsie Roll thing going on. But the slap of bitterness is there, and Laughing Dog have created a winner here, for sure.

If you can find it, you must try it!

Laughing Dog Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA, 95 points. Price: $9.99 US for a four pack.

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