Redux Review 0010: Smuttynose Really Old Brown Dog Ale

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Exactly one year ago, I promised I’d take another look at Smuttynose (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) Really Old Brown Dog Ale, a beer that I rated 86 points. I noted that the fresh bottle had a complex and delightful nose, giving off aromas of toffee, cinnamon, butterscotch, and Tootsie Rolls, while the taste was a little too boozy. A bottle of this beer has been sitting in my basement since then, awaiting this day. I’m expecting a tasty beer, with more rounded flavors that match the nose and a smaller alcohol presence.

Really Old Brown Dog is an Old Ale (or Stock Ale) brewed in honor of Olive, the brewery’s canine mascot and spirit guide. In the early days of Smuttynose (we’re talking 1994), the company brewed Old Brown Dog — a brown ale, and featured Olive on the bottle. Really Old Brown Dog came about in 2007, and again featured Olive on the bottle, this time looking much older and resting in a chair on the beach. It’s a big beer, coming in at 10% ABV (alcohol by volume). And it’s sort of a sad beer, considering Olive is no longer with us; but what a fond and appropriate way to remember a fine creature — with not one, but TWO different beers.

Taking a look back at the first Really Old Brown Dog review:

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Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 27 of 35 points
Drinkability/Overall Experience: 30 of 35 points

Final Score: 86 points, or very good to excellent on my rating scale.

And now, one year later:

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The pour kicked up a large, very attractive collar of foam; the bubbles were tight and exceptionally creamy. The head lasted long atop a gorgeous reddish-amber beer that was clear in body and featured no particles or sediment despite a moderate amount of yeast that had settled at the bottom of the bottle. Lacing is great, leaving behind thick, creamy sheets of foam. A very inviting looking brew.

Compared to the last tasting, the nose seems to have lost a touch of complexity, especially the Tootsie Roll aspect — up front, there’s lots of caramel and toffee, big and bold. And I’m calling the pumpkin for what it’s worth; sure, that’s not an ingredient in this beer, but it sure smells like it. There’s a touch of chocolate, which mixes well with dark fruits. This time, the sweetness is dialed back but a minor note of alcohol is still there, but nowhere near like it was a year ago.

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Has the taste vastly improved? In one word, YES — there’s cinnamon, campfire, and prunes up front, really full-bodied at first, but the middle of the mouth serves to round things out, delivering notes of milk chocolate, sweet caramel, and pumpkin pie. The finish comes on with a lightly bitter note, perhaps influenced by the alcohol, or perhaps by the hops — really can’t tell. The lasting flavor is of cinnamon and caramel, and as the beer warms, it starts tasting like Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup! The 10% alcohol is still here, but in a complementary way, not a flavor, giving this a full-body, medium, foamy mouthfeel.

With one year of basement time, Really Old Brown Dog has vastly improved and has jumped from a tasty, yet young beer to a smooth yet still beastly powerhouse of delicate flavors. I knew I was onto something good when I first tasted this beer, and given the time, just rewards have been achieved! Nab a bottle of this to enjoy now and one to enjoy later, it’s guaranteed delicious.

In redux:

Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 14 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 32 of 35 points
Drinkability/Overall Experience: 32 of 35 points

How about the two-year mark? Well, check back in one year from today…

Smuttynose Really Old Brown Dog Ale, 93 points. Price: $5.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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