Red Dog: Best in Show (context)

Red Dog: Best in Show (context)

Red Dog


  1. A beer produced by Miller Brewing Company.
  2. An assistive beverage in the attainment of high scores in Medieval Madness and Addams Family pinball machines.

When I write “Red Dog” I imagine a few things come to the minds of our dear readers (well, Sam and Pete’s readers — I have yet to earn the inclusive possessive “our”):

  1. A beer, right?
  2. Oh yeah! Malt liquor–I remember seeing that crumpled up in paper bags floating toward storm drains.
  3. Gross! That’s like, the shittiest beer ever made?
  4. Um, a dog? Like, a RED dog? (no one thinks this)

Well, 1 (and, to some extent 4) are the only correct thoughts. Red Dog is, in fact, a beer. It’s around 5.00% abv and typically comes in a big ol’ fat tallboy bearing the fleshy red mug of some nameless bulldog who grimaces at the beer’s drinker as if to implicate him or her (him, probably) in the sheer criminality of imbibing what is generally considered a cheap, cruddy brew. Ah, but I am no snob; don’t work for Beer Advocate, nor do I use their web site, so I can perhaps backtrack and infer from that dog’s jowly pate what I think is truly being communicated: “RUFF! Drink my beer! It tastes grrrreat! Kind of! Especially in context!

Ah! You see, that’s a magical word: context. It’s bandied about like a stale baguette on a Frenchman’s birthday, but methinks it has especially relevant meaning in this conversation. I, like many others these days (and in this town that is Denver), am a fan of “craft” beer. I love things that taste like things: hoppiness makes me think of freshly-cut grass; maltiness makes me think of sweet, home-baked bread; Belgian yeast esters tickle my love of coriander and bananas (gaaaay); sours’ notes…well, sour shit tastes good. The fact that there is a beverage out there that can be so complex, that can sate so many palates–and get you fucked up–is a blessing from atheist Jesus (atheist God rest his soul). Enjoying such a beverage in the company of friends, or alone while you watch Big Trouble in Little China for the 90th time while wondering if masturbating would be more productive, is a fucking mitzvah–a soul-enriching experience that makes you (the royal “you”) a better person. I think the same can be said for a beer like Red Dog.


I know what you’re saying/thinking: (this asshole just used the phrase “Belgian yeast esters” and now he’s saying Red Dog–the beer that my stepdad was drinking when he made love to my pet rabbit in front of me–is just as deserving of praise and consideration as, pfft, CRAFT BEER?!). Well, yes, them is a things I am indeed sezzing right now.

Consider it said!

This brings me back to context. Let’s say you (royal) just got off from work and are going to join some chums at a local pub for a pint or twelve–typical shit, right? In some circles you might order a Pliny the Elder or a GD Yeti–beer snob gold medals (sort of). In others, a Bud Light or Miller High Life (yum, by the way) might suffice. This is social context. This is a simple idea, dictated by your tastes and/or the unspoken consensus of your group o’ chums.

What I’m interested in is separating the stigma from the context. For example, when I lived in Florida I used to mow my lawn weekly (Florida is like Jurassic Park with fewer dinosaurs…well, unless you count all the old people! Zing!). During mows I would drink quite a bit of beer. And, being the lover of all things fermented I am, some might think: oh, I bet he was sucking down a sixer of Monster (best barley wine ever) during mows–cool!

Fuckity. No.

I would plow through a sixer of Narragansett, a simple lager brewed in Providence, RI that was $4.99 for a six-pack of tallboys. Was it complex? Yes…in the way a Goosebumps book is well-written. Did I care that it tasted like bubbly water with some barley tossed in? No. I cared that I was sweating my sack off in 95 degree weather mowing a lawn that would just grow back ten minutes later, and Naragensett was the best thing on earth in those situations.

OH! This reminds me of a fairly apropos story hot from the presses: Broncos QB Peyton Manning came under fire from Denver-area brewers when he said shortly after beating the SD Chargers in a divisional playoff, “I can’t wait to get a Bud Light in me” (paraphrased from slightly buzzed memory). PURE…FUCKING…OUTRAGE from the local craft beerians: how could he say such a thing?! There’s so much crafty goodness in Denver! Why didn’t he say: “Gee, I can’t wait to get a DBC graham cracker porter in me?”

Well, I will tell you why: after I just played NFL football for three hours with giant men heaving their meats at me in front of a crowd of 75,000 ready to denounce me for one mistake, one ill-timed pass, I might just want a Bud Light myself. Because it tastes good when you’re all sweaty and hot and kinda want water but also want a little booze, too. A DBC graham cracker porter–while delicious–would cause me to vomit my spleen in a series of rapid, gutteral heaves if I’d just spent several hours running back and forth on a football field.

Similarly, Red Dog is best when doing things… things that are not sitting around and bullshitting with pals; or showing off that you know more than the rest of the world by ordering an imperial IPA from some brewery in Maganassasuckballs, VT. Things like:

  1. Mowing lawns (Red Dog was hard to come by in FL)
  2. Carpentry
  3. Playing pool and not wanting to get stabbed
  4. Sneaking into middle school girls’ volleyball games
  5. Writing a blog post
  6. Pinball…

Numero seis brings me to my secondary point: Red Dog and pinball are inextricably linked and the former improves the latter while the latter is made all the more enthralling by the former.

When I discovered 1up here in Denver (it’s an arcade and pinball bar chain here in town), I was so happy to find that the proprietors knew full well how important it is to serve cheap suds to people popping quarters (that’s a type of coin) into Donkey KongStreet Figher, and Terminator 2 pinballs. When I strut my proverbial stuff (and boy, do I have some stuff) at 1up, I can’t imagine wanting to plop down six bucks for a Dale’s Pale Ale, especially when I usually go to 1up after having had far too much beer at another place. What I want, nay, CRAVE, is a very large, very inexpensive beer that evokes from my spirit the powers of all the greatest pinball stars of the 1970s…like…that John dude. John? Jahn, maybe? Anyway, Red Dog–or any cheap sud–fits perfectly next to the right flipper of a Simpsons pinball, literally and figuratively: the former because, well, cup holders; the latter because pinball is fun, but it’s also hard work (like mowing lawns in Florida in July). And I can’t be thinking of the sweet, dried grape notes in a Dogfish Head when I’m trying to nail three lanes in succession without losing my stacking wizard bonus in Medieval Madness. When I reach for a brew in that situation I want it to stream from the wider-than-necessary lid like so much spring water from an artesian well…that also is contaminated by ethyl alcohol.

What does it all mean, Basil? Well, it means that beer is beer is beer. I came to the keyboard wanting to extol the virtues of just Red Dog and how it affects my pinball skillz (and it does, probably for the worse), but I wound up opining a la James Joyce on the fracture between enjoyment of something and its categorization as crap. The point is beer is beer is beer. If a Red Dog or a Hamms is what makes you happy, even when cadres of douchenozzles around you are giving you shit about your subpar tastes, know this: pleasures are beholden to no one.

Guilty pleasures are for pussies. Drink Red Dog. Drink Duchesse de Bourgogne. Drink Arbor Mist dessert wine. Just drink and be merry.

Written by MattDog 20/20

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