Kai Dog Returns As An Amber Ale
(In place of the Red IPA!)
Some of you may remember last year’s review of the Kai Dog Red IPA, a spring seasonal released by Ghostfish Brewing every year. Well, the Kai Dog is back…but not as a red IPA. This year Ghostfish decided to go with a new recipe, toning the hops WAY down to brew up a Kai Dog Amber instead! Don’t worry, the label still sports Kai’s dashing good looks.
For those of you who haven’t seen the Ghostfish brew tour teaser, Kai is the regal golden retriever mascot of the brewery. (I consider him Neela’s male doppelgänger.) He is also a cherished family member of one of the owners. His presence has led to an incredibly dog-friendly culture at Ghostfish Brewing.
The 2019 Taste Test
Kai Dog Amber Ale (Canned)
The 2019 version of Kai Dog is an amber ale, which is consistent with its release in 2018. (Whereas in 2017, Kai Dog was an Amber IPA.) The label is the same as last year’s, but the package has changed quite a bit. Up until now, this beer has always been released in 22 ounce bottles, but THIS year they are packaged in 16 ounce cans. Check out the full beer pour in the video below. (By the way, Patrons have access to the full pour in real-time, with sound.)
The 2019 Kai Dog Amber Ale has a rich cranberry red color, until its held up to the light where it turns into a vivid fire-red. Like the color of the sun when it sets behind a blanket of forest fire smoke. This amber ale poured with a moussy head that bubbled away within at the first couple minutes. This amber is crystal clear and seems to present with a lively amount of carbonation.
It has a familiar malt-forward aroma filled with notes of sweet caramel and toasted pastries. The taste is similar to how I remember it, but with a bit more hop presence. It is more bitter than last year’s release. Not to say that it’s very bitter, just more than last years. The malt profile tastes exactly how it smells.
The body and mouthfeel is a bit lighter this year too, which I really enjoy. It makes this a thirst quenching amber that doesn’t sit too heavy on the palate. The Kai Dog Amber is a 21 IBU brew this year (up from 15 IBU) and has a 5.7% ABV. (An increase of .2)
This beer was brewed on a base of white millet, red millet, and rice malts. I think this is my favorite year yet. I feel like the mouthfeel and flavor profile of the 2019 Kai Dog sits somewhere between the 2017 and 2018 releases. It’s a really nice balance and a very enjoyable amber ale.
If you’ve had the opportunity to try past year’s brews, I’d love to hear how you think it compares. (Feel free to comment below!) You can also continue reading to refresh your memory on the 2018 release…
The 2018 Taste Test
Ghostfish’s Kai Dog Amber Ale (Bottled)
This year’s Kai Dog Amber Ale is bottled in a 22 oz. bomber. It’s been circulating the west coast shelves for the past several weeks now. This amber is brewed with a base of malted white millet, red millet, and rice. It has a mild 5.5% ABV, and clocks in at only 15 IBU.
The Kai Dog Amber Ale pours with a majestic deep red color. It’s hue is rich and the clarity is high. It forms a healthy head, which bubbles down to a thick filmy layer of micro bubbles that linger even now as I continue to write. It smells heavily of toasted caramel and malty sweetness.
I just have to mention something. Watching the micro bubbles fizz to the top of this beer is entrancing. Several minutes it’s been sitting next to me, and it just keeps sending a consistent fountain of bubbles up the center of the brew, which accrue as a frothy buildup around the edges. The longer it sits, the frothier it seems to become. Just beautiful.
This amber tastes as it smells. Rich, dark, toasty, smooth, bready, sweet, malty…and not bitter at all. Hops take a back seat in this brew to allow the malt to take center stage. The body is full and the texture is thick, but not particularly heavy. The mouth feel of this amber just lingers on your palate long after the swallow.
Bringin’ Ambers Back
I was particularly excited to review this beer because I don’t know if you’ve noticed but–there just aren’t many gluten free ambers on the market. Even my local community, beer-capital-USA, doesn’t seem to give ambers much attention. As I pondered that fact, I realized something else.
Excuse me while I make a quick beer geek confession…
It’s been a long time since I’ve had an amber ale. Even before going gluten free (8 years ago now), I rarely reached for ambers…if ever? I do remember drinking Deschutes ambers occasionally back in the day, but those memories are quite distant. It occurred to me at this moment that I wasn’t even sure I remembered what a gluten-full amber tasted like!
So I reached out to two different local beer shop owners/managers that were stocking it–just to see what a gluten-drinking palate thought of this beer. My limited and outdated exploration of this beer style had me feeling slightly unqualified to judge this category! It tastes like a pretty balanced amber to me…but I was interested in what others thought. Both shops I spoke to had tried it themselves, and both found it to be a very solid amber–particularly for being gluten free. So there ya go.
I’m happy to finally release a true-amber review on this blog (I reviewed an Amber IPA a few weeks ago), but I won’t be abandoning my hop-heavy beers any time soon. Ambers are more of a dessert beer for me. But I highly recommend getting your hands on this one if ambers are your jam. (I even have a PDF with live links to online sources. Request an emailed copy of it here.) Not sure if you can still source this seasonal online or not, but it’s worth the shot!
I think it goes without saying but, if YOU have tried this beer and have an opinion about it, I would LOVE it if you commented it below. I am always interested in other perspectives, and perhaps some of you out there have a more sophisticated amber palate than I. ;)
Until next time…