Heat. Blazing sun. Perspiration soaking through your shirt. That’s the definition of a “dog day.” Nothing’s cooler, more refreshing, or more iconic than an icy cold beer. For those moments, nothing but a brew that’s light, cutting, and cold will do. We’ve got them.
But after dark, well after the sun goes down, it’s time for slowing down, for savoring these last awesome nights of summer. Sitting on the porch or around a campfire, you owe it to yourself to try something a little more sophisticated–something that perfectly sets off other indulgences like a s’more with dark, dark chocolate. We’ve got those, too.
Finally, you’ll notice this month we’ve veered from our usual course of covering only those beers available in cans. We’d love to tell you it’s some studied delivery on audience demand, but in reality we have a “new guy” writing the column in this issue, and he just didn’t know any better! We’ll be anxious to hear your thoughts if you like coverage of bottled beer … or if we should stick to the more campsite convenient cans!
Wag the Dog
Brewery: Big Dog’s Brewing Company
Style: Session IPA
Tasting Notes: Now available in 16-ounce cans since last month, Wag the Dog is a diversion from ordinary IPAs. You may expect a higher gravity beer when you see “IPA” on the label, but WTD drinks light and easy like a session beer in the brutal summer heat. Yet it packs a wallop of hops making it versatile in food pairing after the sun sets. It features a golden appearance with a bright orange citrus aroma and hint of grapefruit from generous use of Citra hops. Light maltiness and bright citrus dominate the palate with pleasing hop bitterness. It provides a light mouthfeel with a distinct citrus finish.
Brewery: Monday Night Brewing
Style: Pseudo Pilsner
Tasting Notes: While Nerd Alert is light, refreshing and great tasting for hot-weather consumption, it’s worth a history lesson first on how Monday Night Brewing came to be. Would you believe its founders came together as strangers at an Atlanta Bible study? Fact is once again stranger than fiction; but back to the beer. Nerd Alert boasts a medium yellow body. The brewery calls it wheat blonde like the hair of the beautiful nerd girl you could never get. The head is frothy and pure white and really lasts. Great lacing. Drinks smooth to start followed by some bite with hops and bread. Nerd finishes with lingering tart lemon bite and aftertaste. Technically a light ale (this is where that whole nerd name comes in) this is the perfect kind of beer for pairing with hot weather food like pizza, burgers, fish, or lightly spiced Mexican.
Brewery: Flying Dog
Style: Belgium IPA
Tasting Notes: Careful … don’t let her bite you. (Sorry, it had to be said.) Seriously, Raging Bitch is an interesting combination of American IPA hoppiness and Belgian body. It’s a beer with a beautiful golden brown, slightly syrupy body. Flavors include wheaty sweetness, citrus, yeast, and a touch of pine all concluded with Belgian funk. Pairs well with summer celebration food styles and flavors that can hold their own like wasabi, ginger, jerk, Cajun, and cayenne. A Raging Bitch reduction would add awesome depth to a homespun bbq sauce. Also good with befores like tangy cheese and fruit and afters like rich, high-cacao dark chocolate.
Noche de los Muertos
Brewery: Aztec Brewing Company
Style: Imperial Stout w/cinnamon
Tasting Notes: “Night of the Dead Imperial Stout” – hmmm — as you’d expect, it pours totally black as the dark before dawn with just a rim of foam – thicker at the glass, wafer thin in the middle. Aroma is of cinnamon (which it’s supposed to be), pepper, and spice. Flavors include coffee, pepper, cinnamon and the darkest of dark chocolate. Definitely a brew for well after the blazing sun has long set, served at the proper 55-60 F temperature its on-the-bulls-eye imperial stout body and flavors make it great for pairing with rich, spicy foods such as moles and Szechwan. Also an excellent complement to awesome late-night indulgences like coffee-deserts or dark chocolate. Serve with cheeses like Gouda, Parmesan or well-aged cheddar.
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing
Style: American Black Ale
Tasting Notes: It’s as though Lagunitas whipped up a custom brew for this issue of 50 Campfires themed “Dog Days & Awesome Nights!” Consider the facts: (1) It’s called NightTime Ale, (2) It has a friendly dog on the label, (3) The Lagunitas brewmaster’s recommendation for food pairing specifically mentions … wait for it … s’mores! Is this the “official” beer of 50 Campfires? You’ll have to let us know what you think! As for aroma and flavor, think about the fine line between dark ale and a really dark IPA. Offers a lingering stout aftertaste. Hops aroma with caramel and a bit of coffee. Bitter and sweet in a good balance will definitely cut, yet not destroy the overpowering sweetness of the perfectly toasted s’more – especially if you use dark chocolate to make the sweet treat.