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Beer of the Week: Abita Turbodog

Unrepentant beer drinkers, rejoice! Each week, Clean Plate Charlie will

select one craft or import beer and give you the lowdown on it: How

does it taste? What should you drink it with? Where can you find it?

But mostly, it's all about the love of the brew. If you have a beer

you'd like featured in Beer of the Week, let us know via a comment.

When it comes to pairing beer with food, some combinations are mysterious and exotic, or require extreme knowledge to ascertain ("this malt was produced next to an orchard, so it goes great with fruit," etc. etc.). Others are more straightforward, such as "bold beer favors bold flavors." Then there's Abita's flagship brown ale, Turbodog. Pairing it is easy: it goes well with everything.

I've never tasted a beer that fits so well with so many different types of food as Turbodog. It's like each sip is a malty Tetris piece that enhances flavor in just the right way. I've drank it straight from the bottle alongside fried gator tail dapped in remoulade and burgers with jalapenos and sharp aged cheddar; I've chugged the blackish brew from frosty mugs with salad laced with gamey gorgonzola crumbles, sausages, catfish, and nachos. The best way to drink Abita Turbodog is any way; but my favorite method is swallowing it in big gulps while peeling and eating fresh-boiled Louisiana crawfish teaming with Cajun spices.

Perhaps Turbodog pairs so well with food because it hails from just outside the greatest food city in America, New Orleans, in a little town called Abita Springs. Abita is not an exceptionally old brewery, however. It was founded in 1986, around the time many other craft brewers were springing up across America. Though it's still a relatively small operation, pumping out less than 100 thousand barrels-per-year, Abita has been completely embraced by the people of Louisiana. You'll find Abita beers everywhere in New Orleans and the surrounding area. Most Cajun restaurants here carry Turbodog as well. (It kind of makes you wonder why Florida's bars haven't yet fully embraced some of our local brews.)

Turbodog pours a rich, shimmering black with little head and light carbonation. Most people instantly connect any beer that's dark with stouts like Guinness. But Turbodog couldn't be more different from the Irish strength syrup. This is a dark beer that drinks like a light ale. It's chocolatey thanks to the addition of chocolate malt, but it's not heavy. It also has some fig and banana flavors to balance out the richness. Though not an exceptionally hoppy beer, Turbodog has enough bitter finish to keep it from getting too sweet.

Where can you get it? Lucky for us, Abita Turbodog has started to spread all across South Florida, and can now be picked up at just about any supermarket or liquor store. In fact, it's the easiest Abita brew to find, with the possible exception of Purple Haze (a raspberry wheat ale that even manly men will enjoy). So drink it if you got it, friends. And don't forget to pick up some food to go with.

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John Linn