February 27, 2012 | 2:59pm
Beer: Red Rover
Brewery: Sleepy Dog Saloon and Brewery (1920 E. University Drive, 480-967-5476)
Style: Irish Red Ale
ABV: 6.5 percent
Red Rover, Red Rover, send Sleepy Dog right over.
Thanks to Four Peaks, most beer drinkers in Phoenix are familiar with the Scottish ale style. Kilt Lifter is everywhere -- as my mom likes to say, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a case of the stuff. Far fewer are familiar with the Irish red ale, which is a shame, as the style can be lighter, fruitier and more drinkable than its Celtic cousin.
The best example made in the Valley is from Sleepy Dog, the tiny BYOFood brewery in Tempe. Colored the maroon of an old velvet smoking jacket, Red Rover iss dark yet clear, fading to burnt orange at the edges. The head of thick, creamy froth is sandy tan and sticks like glue, refusing to recede. Leaning toward the sweet side, the malty nose delivers aromas of caramel, toffee, fruity red apple and earthy hops.
The flavor exhibits similar apple fruitiness, this time with a blend of Granny Smith and Red Delicious drizzled in caramel. Some toasted bread and graham cracker are also in there, along with very light earthy hops that impart no bitterness. The melange quickly fades to a fairly clean finish, though there are lingering notes of toffee. The body is a fluffy delight -- soft as a pillow and medium in fullness, with gentle massaging bubbles. It's like drinking whipped cream.
Sleepy Dog's brews aren't all winners, but Red Rover is. Its fruity malt sweetness will win over less experienced drinkers and provide beer pros something to ponder. It's available in 22-ounce bottles and on tap in locations throughout the Valley.
Food pairing suggestions:
Sweeter, malt-heavy beers have a penchant for reducing the heat of spicy food. Try the apple-sweet Red Rover with some spicy Ramen -- the beer will cool the heat of the dish while playing off the savory broth.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer.
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