Roak Brewing Co.
$2.19/Bottle (12 oz)
Last week was all fun and games, reviewing an (off-season) wheat ale with summery melon. Now we’re back down to business, staring down the barrel of the bleak core of winter and meeting it head-on with a beer that can meet it blow for blow. Not merely an oatmeal stout, but one with a rad-as-hell label image of a glowering hellhound rising from a cloud of flames. If that doesn’t get you geared up to go back out and face a blizzard, nothing will.
The Brewer’s Pitch:
Although the image is a hellhound, Roak had a different Devil Dog in mind when they created the beer — it’s a tribute to the WWII K9 fighting unit of the same name. Devil Dog is full, thick, and hearty on the palate. It pours dark with a thick head and a complex roast flavor that brings out elements of toasted grain, espresso, and dark chocolate. It’s not just talk, either, as a portion of the proceeds from all sales of Devil Dog go to the VA hospital in Detroit. Roak recommends pairing this with something strongly flavorful like BBQ, Gouda cheese, or even Tiramisu. At 8.5% ABV you might want to strongly consider getting some food in you.
Devil Dog is so dark there’s not even a glint of light through the edges, with a supremely dense caramel-brown head. The nose is subtle — chocolatey smooth and faintly metallic with an alcoholic tang. The beer is full and smooth and feels very heavy on the tongue. Right off the bat it strongly asserts the roast character, bringing smoke and char enough to make your eyes water and backing it up with bready grain. There are some acrid and slightly acidic notes on the back end that compete with and then smother a faint sweet chocolate burst, and the aftertaste is a lingering tang of burnt toast and battery acid.
This was an A+ on the first taste. It’s just what I want from a stout: it’s thick and aggressive, it gives me dark roast and smoke and hints of chocolate all in one warming package that rolls over my tongue and sticks to my palate. It started to stumble a bit in the back half- the acidic elements were more reminiscent of cheap coffee rather than fine espresso, and it made the aftertaste a bit too sour. It’s a testament to how good the rest of the beer is that the grade is so good. A lesser stout might have been overwhelmed by that acidity and become metallic and sour, but Devil Dog keeps landing body blows of malt and smoke that are only vaguely marred by the lesser elements. I can strongly recommend Devil Dog as a great grasp on what an Oatmeal Stout should be.
The Bottom Line:
There’s a whole history to the Devil Dogs — when the marines decided they wanted a K9 regiment, they just asked Doberman owners to donate their dogs. It’s a crazy story, and you should read about it here.