Periodically throughout the year, local Big Dog’s Brewery hosts what they call Brew School. Brew School is a chance for their customers to take part in brewing one of Big Dog’s award winning ales. Not only do you get to help brew a beer, but a month later when the beer is finished, you are invited back to take part in a graduation dinner featuring the beer you brewed! Since I had first heard of Big Dog’s Brew School, I had been wanting to check it out, and I finally had the chance this past Saturday. Saturday’s Brew School featured Big Dog’s imperial IPA, War Dog. I’ve yet to try this beer out, but I’ve heard countless times how great it is. Brewing a batch of this beer myself is probably the best way to experience, and appreciate, this immense beer.
One of the greatest things about Brew School, is that head brewer Dave Otto is extremely candid and honest about their brewing process. It is clear that he is genuinely passionate about brewing and wants to ensure that everyone in the class is learning and getting involved in any way that they want. Attendees stirred the mash, cleaned up spent grain and added hops to the boil. Dave gave everyone a taste of the grains and also a taste of the wort after the mash, so anyone who hasn’t brewed before can have a better understanding of the brewing process. One of the things I found most interesting about this beer, is that it’s been several years since they last brewed it. The reason being, is that they have been unable to purchase enough of the simcoe hops that are needed. This year changed that, when Sam Adam’s found that they had an overabundance of the hop, and Big Dog’s was able to buy some off of them!
There were several home brewers who attended the Brew School, and as I mentioned earlier, Dave was very open about the brewing of War Dog. This beast of a beer uses 1,300 lbs of grain and about 60 lbs of hops! Dave mentioned that he really wants the malt to take a backseat in this beer so it can be primarily hop focused. With this in mind, there is very little specialty malts, it’s primarily just standard two row barley, with the tiniest touch of caramel and Vienna malt to add the slightest bit of color and sweetness. Not only that, even though the beer is about 8.3% alcohol, he wants to ensure the the beer is still extremely drinkable, with a light body, and little malt presence. To achieve this, Dave adds sugar to the beer as well. I’ve always preferred imperial IPAs that have sugar over ones that do not. Having a dry and crisp body helps to accentuate the hop bitterness. In my mind, even when the flavor is perfectly balanced, having a heavier body detracts the refreshing character that every IPA should have. This was one of my complaints of Stone’s 16th Anniversary IPA. The taste and flavor was amazing, but it was a very heavy beer. War Dog, on the other hand, not only has a strong, immense flavor, the light body makes it crisp and light.
As I mentioned earlier, a month from now we are all invited back to the brewery for a graduation dinner, featuring our beer cooked with one of the dishes. Of course, we also get to have a pint or two of our hard work, as well as take home a growler! I’ll provide additional details of the dinner when that time comes. In the meantime, be sure to check out Big Dog’s website. They should be posting details soon of their next Brew School on January 12!
Below are some additional photos from the class.
Our local New Belgium Ranger was kind enough to give some of their newest beers to Dave, which he happily shared with us. Thanks Karl!