Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company
Un-Leashed Imperial Red Ale
Earlier this month, the Great Dane brewpubs introduced a specialty line of bottled beers. The series will feature quarterly releases of limited seasonal beers, sold in 22-ounce bottles, a.k.a. bombers. The Dane calls these big bottled beers "Un-Leashed" -- the first on the shelves is its Imperial Red. Few breweries in southern Wisconsin have offered these big bottles so far, but it's a growing trend. These large bottles are good for sharing with a friend, often over a meal, as one would a bottle of wine.
What is it? Un-Leashed Imperial Red Ale from the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company of Madison, Wisconsin
Style: The imperial red ale style (sometimes called a double red ale) is medium- to full-bodied and known for strong hop bitterness, aroma, and flavor. While the hoppiness can be intense, the bitterness and underlying malty tones blend with the alcoholic strength of the beer to lend a spicy complexity to the flavor profile. The color is deep reddish amber to dark copper. Alcohol content can be high and noticeable at 8% to 10% ABV.
Background: Fans of the Great Dane have been hearing talk of bottles from this Madison-based brewpub since it opened its Wausau location in 2009. Imperial Red Ale marks the first Great Dane beer in what co-owner and brewmaster Rob LoBreglio sees as a growing trend from craft brewers. "Small runs of bottled beer is something we've wanted to do for a long time," he says. "Hopefully we will do this every season from now on."
Un-Leashed Imperial Red Ale was made and bottled at the brewpub's Wausau location. Just 2,000 bottles are being released through the Great Dane's five pubs, along with a handful of specialty liquor stores and supermarkets. The 22-ounce bottles sell for around $12 each (most Wisconsin bomber-sized beers are under $9).
Madison fans of the Great Dane will notice some taste similarities to a neighborhood favorite made at the Hilldale location called Pine Marten Red Ale. The Un-Leashed version is much more assertive in bitterness, with a complex spiciness from three different types of caramel malts. It gets lots of piney and citrusy bitterness, around 80 IBUs, from Ahtanum, Amarillo and Horizon hops. It's unfiltered and strong at 12.4% ABV, and it's a beer that will age for years if kept out of the light at cool constant temperatures.
The Great Dane plans build its Un-Leashed series with a Doppel Weizen Bock and ber Bock in time for winter.
- Aroma: Malty with sweet hints of fruity-plumb and raisin.
- Appearance: Hazy amber-copper with a soft marbled tan head.
- Texture: Full bodied, bubbly, with a hot-alcoholic warmth throughout.
- Taste: There's a hint of fruity maltiness up front, but it's overcome by a sharp hoppy bitterness that bursts into the flavor profile and doesn't let up.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Strong lingering resiny bitterness with an underlying raisin-spicy-bitterness that offers a hint of roasted dryness as the beer warms.
Glassware: There is a lot of flavor and aroma in this beer, and for a bold assertive red ale a wide-mouthed and heavy dimpled mug usually makes a great choice. However, if you're splitting a single 22-ounce bottle with a friend, you'll want a glass that makes the servings more equitable, like a small snifter. It will also encourage slowly sipping and appreciating the changing nuance of the flavors that arise as the beer warms.
Pairs well with: The boldness of flavor is nice with heavy sauces, meats and the char-broil flavors from the grill. It goes nicely with a steak. However, given the strong flavor and alcohol content, it's a relaxing beer to savor on its own. It's a great beer for the deck or patio while watching the sunset on one of the remaining days of summer.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: There are lots of great flavors here; "robust" hardly describes Un-Leashed Imperial Red Ale. Enjoy this brew by slowly allowing it to warm, almost to a temperature that one might serve a Merlot (chilled but not cold). It actually offers some wine-like qualities, and as it warms, the sweet and bitter tones from the hops and malts merge, becoming complex and spicy. I actually bought two bottles: the first because I was curious, and the second to stash away for a couple of years to allow it to mellow.
Un-Leashed Imperial Red Ale isn't a beer for those with timid taste buds or those looking for bargain pricing. With all those malts and hops, and the hand labor of bottling small batches, this is an expensive beer to make, so it stands to reason that it should cost more.