In an effort to broaden my beer-tasting horizons, I decided to revisit IPA territory. I’ve had recent success with Goose Island’s India Pale Ale and Fuller’s Bengal Lancer, so I felt reasonably confident heading into the bar across from my office and ordering a pint of Dogtown Duck, produced by Venice Duck Brewery in Venice Beach, CA.
Peering over the shoulder of the bartender, I watched as the beer flow gently from the tap into my glass, producing a smooth and modest head. I had a better look at the color once the barkeep placed it before me – an even and healthy copper, not too dense.
So far it had been an amicable introduction, and the initial fragrance was just as polite. As a relative neophyte when it comes to beers that aren’t produced en masse, I tend to expect all IPAs to have the same level of hoppiness and, subsequently, a lively and prominent nose. Not so with Dogtown Duck. The gentle aroma led me into a refreshing first sip.
Goose Island, Bengal Lancer, and now Dogtown Duck…it was going to be a trifecta of blissfully brewed indulgence. I was ready to become a full-blown IPA evangelist.
I took a triumphant second sip.
Indeed, I was all set to trumpet the drinkability of every India pale ale being bottled. It was clear that my earlier unpleasant experiences were entirely my fault, for not having enough of a sophisticated palate. Well, bring it on!
I threw back my head and gulped down a hearty mouthful…and did all I could to keep it from coming back up.
Imagine one of those high-speed, time-lapse blooming flowers you might find in a nature documentary. That’s what flashed through my mind as an explosion of citrus coated the back of my throat. Whereas the other IPAs I recently enjoyed played nice with notes of lemon and blood orange, an aggressive grapefruit sourness went from underwriting to overpowering the flavor.
I stoutly finished my pint, feeling the full effect of the hops and every bit of Dogtown Duck’s 6.8% ABV. Luckily a plate of hot wings kept me from becoming too light-headed (note to self: never sample ANY beer when all you’ve had to eat that day is a cake donut).
Perhaps this is a lesson for IPA (and high alcohol-by-volume) newbies like myself. By pairing an India Pale Ale with an appropriately spicy meal, like Buffalo wings or a bold Asian curry, you not only temper the buzz but also allow its bigness and bitterness to dampen the heat and cut through the sauce.
To be sure, Dogtown Duck IPA ain’t no leisurely happy hour brew to enjoy with the interns and co-workers. It’s a beer with a quirky and audacious personality, just like the town where it’s brewed. I recommend trying a pint just as I would recommend visiting Venice Beach itself – count on an eye-popping time, but follow it up with familiar ground if you intimidate easily.
Tom Dumenjich is a new writer here at PGA, but a beer lover and obviously lives on a cloud, if we are to believe his picture from Facebook! He and fellow PGA writer Tom Becham have been known to meet and discuss beer over, well beer… what else would you discuss beer over? Expect updates on Mr. Tom as he provides us more great reviews.