I saw Otter Head Ale at the World Beer Festival last fall, and importer Jim Lientz (that's him holding the beers on the right) was very excited to have me try it. I'm not sure why, cuz at 5.8% ABV, it's sure not a session beer, but it was quite nice. We exchanged cards, and he said he'd send me a sample. Which he did, and...I put it in the fridge. That was in December.
When the fridge died two weeks ago and we had to get a new one -- a very nice black one with a fast ice-maker -- I came across that bottle. Whoops. I put it up front to be sure to drink it, and tonight was its turn.
Otter Head is an English strong ale, and it tastes it: it's solid and malty, a mouthful that puts me in mind of Young's Old Nick, a big beer that tastes like it could easily go higher than the ABV it is. I've seen people say it's not very hoppy, but I disagree: it is, but it's not Cascades or Centennial, it's Fuggles and Challenger, hops that a lot of the American geekerie just don't get, or even know how to notice (please, before you make a bunch of "I do too!" comments...I said "a lot," not "all"; assume I was talking about someone else. I probably was. As far as you know.), and they're very, very nice here.
But the malts are the stars, and no surprise: the label says they're using both Maris Otter (natch!) and Golden Promise malts, the favored malts of finicky Brit brewers (or so we've been led to believe). This is finely layered stuff, and the low carbonation really brings it all out. I long to try this on cask, I can only imagine what it must be like alive.
Definitely worth a spin. I don't know why people always talk about all the beers with dogs in the names and on the labels: I'm liking hell out of otter beers lately (tip o' the hat to the Gilded Otter in New Paltz, NY, too: be seeing you guys on my way to the Mondial!).