Beer Review 0158: Smuttynose Really Old Brown Dog Ale

Smuttynose Brewing Company, located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has a beer called Old Brown Dog Ale. I reviewed this beer over a year ago, scoring it 89 points — on the bottle is Olive, the brewery’s canine mascot and spirit guide.

Old Brown Dog was the second beer Smuttynose created, and was released in 1994. Olive was much younger then, so thirteen years later in 2007, Really Old Brown Dog Ale was created, and Olive again graced the bottle, retiring in a cozy chair on the beach.

This website is known to be partial to breweries that feature animals on bottles — it’s just cool.

Unfortunately, Olive passed away in 2007 at the age of fifteen — but she lives on thanks to the two Smuttynose beers. And today we’re looking at the Really Old Brown Dog Ale, an Old Ale (or Stock Ale). This beer is part of Smuttynose’s Big Beer Series, which are limited release brews in big bottles.

Pouring from the bomber bottle produced an average size head, creamy and with tight small bubbles. The head lasted a good while, hanging around on top of a reddish-brown beer with tons of carbonation bubbles zooming to the surface. The drink had orange highlights when held to the light, and the body of the beer was clear, free of particles and sediment. The lacing was superb, thick and creamy, and it coated the glass with ease.

The aromatics were where I was highly impressed; smitten enough to award this one a perfect score in the category. As expected, this one is heavily malted. There were delightful upon delightful layer of rich toffee, cinnamon, and butterscotch, along with a general roasted note that provided just the right amount of warmth and bite. This one had that Tootsie Roll candy-like scent going on, which I have found in a few beers. There was so much going on here…you know all those pumpkin beers that come out at the end of summer? This one has the most authentic pumpkin aroma I have ever sniffed from a beer, believe it or not! There’s some dark fruit lying around in there, specifically raisin. Trust me, this one is worth picking up just for the aromatics alone.

On the palate, things start coming apart a bit. This beer is just simply not ready for prime time, and it’s a really good beer right now. There’s rich caramel and brownie-esque chocolate up front, very sweet, which leads to a raisin flavor that turns everything fairly bitter. The sweetness returns on the finish with another hit of the caramel, but there is a big alcohol note that was just straight up hot — Really Old Brown Dog is 10% ABV (alcohol by volume), so a little alcohol is to be expected — but this was nearly overwhelming. The mouthfeel was nice, thick and creamy, and although there was a heavy sweetness to this beer, it wasn’t cloying.

My verdict is this: Smuttynose have produced a damn good brew worthy of the big bottle and higher price. But if you find yourself with a bottle of this celebration of Olive’s life, you ought to lay it down and pick it up a year from now, because I think you will be rewarded. Better yet, buy two; sample one now, and have one later. When this calms down, the complexity is only going to go up, and I’m betting this one resembles more of the complex nose than the hot booze when rested.

On my next beer run, I’m looking for another bottle of this. And in one year, I will return to it.

Smuttynose Really Old Brown Dog Ale, 86 points. Price: $5.99 for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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