Review Date 12/2/2002
Last Updated 12/25/2005
Wow. Bow wow.
When Dogwood Brewing of Atlanta, Georgia does up a beer, they do it right. I
must admit that when I first moved down here, I was afraid that I wouldn’t
be able to find beers of the caliber I’m used to. Dogwood has certainly
allayed any fears of that nature I might have entertained. A killer hoppy
IPA, a roasty Irish dry stout, and a malty, nutty Oktoberfest ale are just a
few of the beers these guys do, and do so well.
If there is one beer that defines this brewery, however, it is their winter brew, at least as far as I’m concerned. Dogwood’s Winter Brew is bold, flavorful, and unique year after year. Like many breweries, Dogwood produces a brew to celebrate the holidays, but unlike many, they produce a completely new brew each winter holiday.
In 2000, Dogwood Winter Ale was a beer lover’s dream come true: made with seven (count ‘em) grains: top-quality two row barley, carahell, flaked oats, chocolate wheat, chocolate rye, rye oats, and a special smoked malt which Dogwood smoked themselves right at the brewery. Dry hop all that with whole leaf hops and you have one hell of a beer!
How do you top that? I’m not sure you can, but Dogwood brewed up a beer just as delicious for 2001: a Belgian styled tripel, fermented with Chimay yeast and packed with flavor and authentically Belgian in style. These guys are as serious about their beer as people down here are about Christmas. I happen to love Christmas Music, and I was pleasantly surprised to find one of the more popular local stations, Peach 94.9, playing nothing but Christmas Music from the Monday before Thanksgiving on. As Peach is to Christmas Music, Dogwood is to serious beer.
Dogwood is the connoisseur’s microbrewery here in Georgia. Recently I was discussing local breweries with a beer savant at Taco Mac in Marietta, and he was of the opinion that Sweetwater was the best local micro. His logic was that their beers were lighter, cleaner, and much more popular with the patrons. Dogwood, by contrast, was less popular because their beers were far different from what people were used to. Exactly the reason Dogwood was the superior brewery in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, Sweetwater is a great brewery. I just think Dogwood is brewing more interesting beer.
Here are my notes on the 2001:
Dogwood Winter Ale 2001 pours to a cloudy yellow color with a light head formation and a funky Belgian-yeasty nose. The palate is very rich and candyish, citric fruity, and full of delicious crisp malt and unique Belgian yeast flavor and strong vanilla notes. The finish is balanced and dry, rich, slightly warm in alcohol but not so much as one would expect in a triple. But that’s OK. Considering the limitations imposed by Georgia’s beer laws, which cap a brew’s strength at no more than 6% by volume. A wonderful, lightly hoppy but dry finish rounds this beer out to perfection.
In many ways, opening your first bottle of Dogwood Winter Ale of the season is like opening your presents on Christmas morning. You just never know what you’re going to get. That’s because Dogwood doesn’t merely tweak the recipe a bit each year, instead they bottle an entirely new beer style for the holiday season.
When I saw the stack of cases of this year’s batch sitting on the floor at Sherlock’s, I immediately asked the employees standing nearby if they had tried it. One replied that he had, and that he didn’t care for it. That means I probably will, I thought to myself. “Was it too hoppy?” I inquired. It was, he replied, adding that he wasn’t a fan of hops.
As I always say, beware of the advice proffered by guys at liquor stores. This guy was way off, because the 2002 Dogwood Winter Ale is not a hoppy beer by any means. What is it? Why it’s a weisse bock this year, similar to the legendary Aventinus. I’m impressed. As I poured the first bottle into my glass, I got a cloudy muddy orange colored brew with a small but creamy head formation and a bit banana nose. In fact, I could smell the spicy banana notes as I poured, even before I put my nose to the glass.
The palate is tart with wheat while at the same time rich with a big and creamy, luxurious mouthfeel. There’s a hint of clove, some subtle chocolate, bubblegum, and an underlying alcohol warmth. The finish is spicy, a little peppery, and well balanced. The beer is bottle conditioned; I dispensed the yeast into my glass.
An excellent weisse bock, I’m extremely impressed with this one. I also suspect Dogwood went slightly over the 6% legal limit here in Georgia with this one. But shhhhhhhhh. I won’t tell if you don’t.
And how much do you pay for all this? An amazing $5.25 a six-pack.
Awards? Dogwood Winter Ale has picked up the following:
2000: Gold Medal, World Beer Championships
Best of South, US Beer Tasting Championships
1999: Best Local Brew, Atlanta Journal Constitution
1998: “Exceptional”, Beverage Tasting Institute
It wouldn't be winter without Winter Brew. For 2003, Dogwood has brewed up a rich and warming Belgian style Dubbel that pours to a murky brown color with a thick creamy head and a yeasty, chocolatey nose. The palate is rich with sweet chocolate flavors, nutty and musty-yeasty. There are hints of banana and rasin, and a wonderfully warming and slightly minty grassy hop finish. This is a wonderfully complex beer and another triumph for Georgia's best little brewery.
This may well be my final entry on Dogwood Winter Brew, recorded for purists and beer historians. I'm polishing off a one liter swing top of the 2003, the last run of this beer ever made. It's aged beautifully, and the beer exhibits rich notes of prune, raisin,a nd a touch of chocolate. More's the pity this wonderful little brewery is gone.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.