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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Laughing Dog Alpha Dog

If there is a mixed blessing in the wonderful world of aging #craftbeer, it's the imperial IPA.  Yes, the hops act as a natural preservative.  127 IBUs should do the trick.  The thing is, though, the hops will melt into the malt base as time goes by.  So the freshness of a wet-hopped or "harvest" ale disappears.  What's left, however, is a big ol' mouthful of glorious...ness.

This bottle of Laughing Dog's Alpha Dog Imperial IPA has been in my fridge for quite some time.  By that I mean, at least a year.  Actually, probably a lot longer than that.  But recently I've begun opening up some larger format bottles that had been my "rainy day" stash.  Since we here on the east coast have experienced a pretty darn rainy summer (August has been NJ's wettest month on record.  Ever.), I suppose it's okay to bust out some of those rainy day beers.
Laughing Dog calls its Alpha Dog a "hop bomb" and I'd say that I agree for the most part.  As previously noted, the hop freshness won't make your eyes spin round and round.  The maturity of the hops, however, will make your eyes roll back in your head.  I did a pretty smart thing by aging this brew.  It has a timeless smoothness that makes it feel like a cellared classic.  The bitterness has been mellowed by the malts but the piney resins seem to flourish.

Let's start at the beginning.  The aroma is pure hops, showcasing a piney nose.  Caught somewhere between bright and dank, the hops deliver bitterness with a lingering, resiny pungency.  I think I'm sensing a vanilla-ish roundness to the body, though neither vanilla nor oak seem to be involved in the aging process.  Maybe I just have a magic fridge.  Anyway, a slight alcohol warmth is present in the swallow, and then reappears in the gullet as a nice glow.
The finish of Alpha Dog is extremely complex.  The draught itself is complex, with its myriad flavors, but the finish is even moreso.  After the mouthful has been swallowed, the experience is just getting started.  It's super clean at first, but then the bitterness happens.  Way on the back of the tongue, a deep, resiny hop essence flows to the forefront.  Then the grand finale is ultimate dryness.  Wait, it's bitter again.  This brew certainly is multi-layered.

But with all these complexities and bold flavors, Alpha Dog is quite drinkable.  8% abv is no joke, and boozy warmth does factor into the drinking of this big poochie.  But if you had to split this 22oz bottle with a friend, it would result in a serious second-guessing.  Dude, I totally should have gotten another one of these!  Nah, take the bottle for you and you alone.  Then treat yourself to several small pours into a round-bottomed glass.  Somewhere between fridge-chilled and room temperature is that magic sip.

Keep in mind that my bottle was aged for quite some time, so your experience may be markedly different.  Overall, though, I'd say that Laughing Dog Alpha Dog Imperial IPA is totally worth buying.  Ever heard of Laughing Dog Cream Ale and Pale Ale?  Well, I've reviewed these Laughing Dog brews before, and you can check them out here:

Honestly, they weren't the absolute best brews I've ever had, but they were fairly well-crafted and worth a look-see.  Alpha Dog is the best offering I've had from Laughing Dog to date.  I think I have a few more stashed away for that proverbial "rainy day," however, and 'round these parts, that could very well mean tomorrow.  Cheers!
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