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Belt’s Beer Garden: Dog days of winter

Sleepy Dog Tail Chaser & Northwest Hoppy Bitch

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Once again I have the Pacific in mind as I have a two beers from out west for you. I’ll start with (yet another) brewery from Washington before showing off a beer from Arizona.

This marks the first time an Arizona brewery has been featured on BBG...meaning 37 of the 50 states have now been represented here, if you were keeping track.

First up, a Washington brewery that’s had a few name changes:

Northwest Brewing Company started off as Laughing Buddha…then Trade Route Brewing…then, in 2012, finally became NWBC.

Located in Pacific, Washington (a city just east of Tacoma and 30 miles south of Seattle) they offer ten year round beers and can be found in nine states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, Montana, the Dakotas, and Minnesota.

I found their year-round IPA, Hoppy Bitch, which is brewed solely with Columbus hops (but four types of malt). The brew holds a 6.3% ABV and 65 IBU and a 22-ounce bomber set me back just $5.50.

Columbus hops are my least favorite of the Three C hops (the other two being Cascade and Centennial)…maybe it’s my hatred for Ohio State, or maybe it’s just their flavor. So I’m walking into this review with some slight hesitation…but here we go!

Hoppy Bitch poured a deep, crisp, copper color with two full fingers of dense off-white head billowing upwards. There was quiet a bit of sediment dancing around in the liquid, trapped underneath the fortress of foam that seemed to stick around forever.

On the nose – despite the beer’s name – there was a nice balance between the hops and malts. Up front the sweet, slightly, bready malts were most noticeable but there was also a white wine/grape-like aroma, some light tropical fruit (mango and cantaloupe), and hints of caramel and pine too.

My first sip began with an incredibly smooth and creamy mouthfeel and a light fizz of carbonation. Then the flavors showed up.

And initially it was all malt flavors. First a caramel sweetness flooded my tongue for just a brief moment before cracker and biscuit notes cut in.

The whole first half of the sip I wondered where the hops were…and then I noticed them, or rather they hit me. On the back end, a light fruit flavor appeared followed by some pine and a huge smack of hoppy bitterness. At just 65 IBU, I didn’t think it was going to hit quite as hard as it did.

After my initial taste was gone, the bitterness stuck around…for a long time. My only recourse was to drink more.

But a weird thing happened as I continued emptying my glass. Hoppy Bitch seemed to get drier and drier the further down I got…but, on the plus side, there seemed to be less and less bitterness. So while my mouth was craving water, at least I wasn’t still getting smacked by the hops like I initially had.

The heavy foam had finally become a small dusting about half way through and, despite how much there was when I first poured it, only a few cloudy wisps dotted the sides of my glass now.

Overall, Hoppy Bitch was initially just that…a bitch to drink. But, after it settles down and warms up a bit, she mellows out and it’s not nearly as harsh. It is still a pretty bitter, quite dry, IPA though…non-hopheads be warned. 7.5/10

7.5

Next up, the first Arizona brewery to been featured on Belt’s Beer Garden: Sleepy Dog.

Sleepy Dog is one of seven (possibly/soon to be more) breweries located in Tempe, Arizona. They started out back in 2009 and, due to their “commitment to brewing consistent, quality beer with meticulous attention to detail” they have expanded their distribution to across the whole state of Arizona as well as southern California.

They offer seven different beer varieties, including just one IPA (which you know I bought): Tail Chaser.

Tail Chaser is made with Cascade, Nugget, and Warrior hops and comes with a pretty standard 6% ABV but a whole lot of IBUs…90 to be exact. A single can was a modest $1.49 and a six-pack was super affordable, costing just $6.99.

This IPA poured a crisp copper color with just a finger of head billowing up out of the liquid. The off-white, almost tan, bubbles didn’t stick around long and, within a few moments, only a dusting was left across the top of the beer.

There was a really nice balance of smells coming from this beer. Light citrus notes (mostly tropical fruits) merge with a solid dose of caramel and bready malt to create an aroma from this IPA that seems like it will please those that love malts and those that love hops. I definitely would not think that this beer has 90 IBUs.

My first sip confirmed everything my nose had picked up. There is a mild carbonation to this medium bodied beer before the flavors kick in. And, as the smell foretold, it was citrus fruits and sweet malt that carried Tail Chaser.

Grapefruit initially led the way with some orange and lemon following suit. The caramel malt cut into the bitterness and add a sugary-sweet flavor that really made those IBUs disappear…until the end.

As the beer left my mouth and headed into my stomach, the hops stung my tongue with a long, dry bitterness that lasted well after everything was all said and done.

And, as the beer left my glass (in a really quick manor), the little head that remained actually laced the sides pretty well – creating some nice cloud formations and a few lines here and there...definitely more than I thought it would from how quickly the head disappeared initially.

Overall, the first 95% of my experience with Tail Chaser was really, really great. I thought their attempt to please everyone by balancing out the beer might result in a slightly muted IPA but I was wrong. Tail Chaser has really great flavors that ended up actually being enhanced by the balance between the malts and hops. The 90 IBUs were hidden really well (until that ending, but oh well); and so was the 6% ABV. Great quality for a great price! Well done, Sleepy Dog! 8.5/10

8.5