My beer review articles are never just tasting notes, I always try to start each article with some information about the style, the brewery, relevant news, an opinion, or a personal story. This is always the more challenging part of the article (it’s easy to write out the tasting notes), so when I am shopping for beers to review I am usually doing it with these stories in mind, searching for beers that will fit the stories I want to tell. Things can change really quickly though. I picked up Single Digit Dubbel from Smuttynose with the intent of writing about dubbel as an underappreciated style perfect for the cold winter months, and how I would much rather drink a good dubbel over a spiced winter warmer. Then last week Smuttynose announced that the brewery is going to be put up for auction by a bank. This doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the brewery, it sounds like revenue was still acceptable but the current owners over-expanded and took on too much debt right as sales started to plateau due to increased competition. Hopefully a buyer can come in and save the brand, but until this gets resolved the fate of the company is very much up in the air.
Smuttynose had a huge impact on my growth as a craft beer fan. My college buddy Tim worked outside of Portsmouth in the summer and became a big fan of their beer, which he introduced to me. Selections like Shoals Pale Ale, Old Brown Dog and Robust Porter were early favorites and in some cases introductions to their respective styles. More recently I thought Smuttynose did a good job of staying relevant in a changing beer scene. Their Smuttlabs and big beer series were creative and constantly changing, which are important factors with promiscuous modern beer drinkers. I think the modern industry is going to be really hard on regional and lager craft breweries, they are getting squeezed by big beer (with their crafty brands) who can usually offer a lower price point and also by small local breweries who specialize in fresh, creative offerings. Some of the best Smuttynose beers are also in styles that don’t fuel much buzz with many current drinkers, like porter, brown ale and dopplebock. I hope next winter I’ll still be enjoying a bottle of Single Digit Dubbel and other Smuttynose offerings, but that remains to be seen.
Smuttynose Single Digit Dubbel pours cola brown with a minimal tan head. The aroma is a mixture of rich malts and fruity Belgian yeast. The flavor is malt forward, notes of brown sugar, raisin and toffee. This is complemented by the flavors imparted by the yeast, hints of clove, bubblegum and apple. There is minimal hop flavor, which fits the style, but you get a touch of bitterness at the end which keeps the beer from being cloying. Single Digit Dubbel is medium bodied and drinks very easy but packs some punch at 8.3% ABV. The finish starts rich and then dries out a bit, with some lingering fruity esters and malt. This is a really good winter beer, I would much rather drink a well crafted dubbel than a spiced winter warmer and Smuttynose packs a ton of flavor in here. Hopefully this beer and the rest of the Smuttynose lineup have a path forward. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Smuttynose Reviews: