Beer Review 0294: Laughing Dog The Dogfather Imperial Stout
Laughing Dog Brewery produces beer in Ponderay, Idaho, and began doing so in 2005. The inspiration for all the beer they make is from Ben, the family dog — he is a yellow lab, owned by Fred Colby and Michelle Douglass.
The human owners, Colby and Douglass, began by making just 1,000 barrels of beer per year. After many awards and some publicity, the brewery has increased capacity to 4,500 barrels in just six years.
While I don’t know this to be 100% true, the beer up for review today, Dogfather Imperial Stout, is a Total Wine “brewery direct” beer in these parts. That means you can only find this at Total Wine — I have reviewed another beer with a similar arrangement, and it received a high mark: Laughing Dog Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA, which scored 95 points on my rating scale.
The Dogfather comes in at 11% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is brewed with seven different malts and four varieties of hops. They say it is a limited release, and it comes out each November. The IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are 71.
On the pour, Dogfather made an average size head, dark tan in color, soapy and lasting with large bubbles. The color of the beer was opaque black, classic Stout color, with minimal lighter highlights. I noticed as I poured, the body was clear, free of particles and sediment, and the lacing was sparse, which is to be expected for such a high alcohol brew.
On the nose, you immediately start to notice something weird afoot — this beer reeks of banana bread; not that banana bread is a bad thing, but I’ve never smelled it in an Imperial Stout before. There are more traditional aromas here, like plenty of sweet caramel and chocolate; then, there’s also some cough syrup-esque cherry. Other notes included some toffee, a general roasted malt, and the higher you held your nose above the glass, extremely sweet caramel.
Taking a sip, the first flavors are a thick line of coffee and dark chocolate, which is followed by a general roasted malt. None of the so-called “off” aromas are here in the taste — there’s perhaps a bit of dark fruit, a dark grape, and it transitions to the finish that hits with a blast of bitter black coffee. And once again the beer moves — into the final conclusion of bittersweet layered dark chocolate. At no point does the alcohol come through. This beer is full-bodied, with a thick and creamy mouthfeel.
Color me impressed. For such a small brewery and for a Total Wine “brewery direct” offering (some of these have been, shall we say, horrible) this is a very good beer. The flavors are excellent and for such a big beer, it’s easy drinking and quite enjoyable. The only pitfall here is the aroma, and even that’s not totally awful, just a bit strange. For the price, you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a high octane Imperial Stout full of chocolate and coffee flavor.
Laughing Dog The Dogfather Imperial Stout, 87 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.