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The Hard Work of Beer Tasting & the Best of Show

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The Hard Work of Beer Tasting & the Best of Show

Ernie, Russel, Linda and Dave take on the difficult job of tasting beer

I read somewhere, years ago, that beer should not just be a carrying agent for alcohol. For me, I need it to include good taste and a pleasant finish. This, along with good friends, is what makes a beer special.

Last week Trish invited me and several other friends for a tasting at the Laughing Dog Brewery in Ponderay.  We tasted eight beers and each came away with a different favorite. Beer tasting is very subjective, which may be why so many different styles are made.

We started with their Cream Ale. I found it to have a full malty flavor. For an ale it has a bit of a lager flavor and was crisp, but not bitter.  A good beer to keep in the fridge for any occasion requiring a fresh cool one.

The Huckleberry Cream Ale is—guess what?—fruity. But has a good “summer fresh” sweetness, and is not overpowering, just right for that hot August afternoon.

CSB is a fun beer that says hello, sometimes in the wrong places. CSB is named after Benny, our brewer’s dog. This beer gets just a little hoppy, but is playful to the pallet. As they say in the tasting room, “a good beer when you are out sniffing around.”

St. Benny’s is Laughing Dog’s offer to all the Belgian beer lovers in the world. This full beer has a rich aroma and just the turbidity one would expect from a Belgian. Its finish left me wanting more, so I indulged.

I think there must be a law that a Pacific Northwest brewer must have a Pale Ale on its roster. Laughing Dog’s Pale has intense hop flavor, due to the five hop varieties it uses, and is crisp with an herbal nose.

The next three are beers definitely for you hopheads out there.

India Pale Ale has the hoppy bite and just the right malt for a very full bodied beer.  The malt gives it a fresh aroma, more than is expected in a typical bitter.

Dogzilla Black IPA is another hophead’s dream, a little nutty, with a very hoppy bouquet and a dark roasted finish. 

A hophead’s delight is in a glass of Alpha Dog Imperial IPA. When asked what it was like, Fred the brewer said, “Hops, hops and more hops; need we say more?” I say, “Ya gotta try it—enjoy.”

I found it quite amazing in eight very different beers that there wasn’t one I would reject for any reason. All of the beers I tasted were far more than carrying agents for alcohol—each has plenty of flavor. Naturally, with that many different varieties to choose from, there were some I liked better than others. So for me, the favorite to take home would have to be the Belgian. I often drink Belgian but can get a little picky about it also. Laughing Dog Belgian is near the top.

As for the rest of the tasters: Russell Lacy, whose preferred beer is a Miller Genuine Draft (a Killians if he’s feeling feisty) said he stuck with his sissy nature and went for the Cream Ale. His wife Linda, more adventurous by far (her regular beer preferences are Dos Equis and Hefeweizen), walked away as a fan of both St Benny’s and Dogzilla, “depending on my mood.” David Broughton, normally a Miller High Life boy, went for the CSB. And Fred Colby, master brewer himself who joined us for the tasting was was holding on to a St. Benny’s, the beer that taught him to appreciate the Belgians.

READ: A Passion for Hops

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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