Recently in Flying Dog Category

Smarch Beer Club

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Due to a calendar misprint, the Smarch edition of beer club came later than normals, but we had it all the same. For the uninitiated, beer club is where a bunch of booze-minded folks from my work get together and sample beers and usually other beverages of choice. We always hit up a local BYOB and tonight, we didn't even get banned! Good times had by all, and we got to drink some pretty good beer too:

Smarch Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

In accordance with tradition, I will henceforth record some disgruntled, freakish opinions on each beer below. You know, for posterity. Of course none of these notes are reliable because I wasn't in a sensory deprivation chamber and didn't chemically cleanse my palate after every sip, so read them at your own risk. In order of drinking (not in order of picture, and due to some tardy attendees, some are not even pictured):

  • Kaedrin Fat Weekend IPA - My homebrewed IPA, one of the last bottles at this point, seemed to go over pretty well. Again, I hope to do a more detailed review at some point, but in short, it came out super dank, very piney and resinous hop character dominates the flavor. A little overcarbonated, but I should be able to correct that in future batches. I'll refrain from rating right now, but aside from the carbonation issues, I really like this.
  • Wagner Valley IPA - I've used this description before, but it's perfect for a beer like this: It reminds me of the sort of thing you'd get in a John Harvard's brewpub, circa 1998. Totally an improvement over most macro lagers, but not particularly accomplished either. C+
  • DuClaw Naked Fish - A beer we've had before (at beer club, even), and my thoughts haven't changed much at all. It's got a really nice raspberry and chocolate character mixed with a really low-octane stout base. Easy enough to drink, but it's not going to blow you away. B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Oktoberfest - New homebrewer Ken brought one of his first batches, an Octoberfest beer that probably still needs some conditioning time, but was drinkable as it was. It had some apple-like off flavors, but it was actually sorta pleasant anyway...
  • Magic Hat Pistil - Super light, flowery, herbal, crisp and refreshing, would make a great summer beer. Not something that will blow away jaded beer nerds or anything, but it was actually a nice palate cleanser and certainly a lot more pleasant than macro stuff. B
  • Flying Dog Lucky S.O.B. - A pretty straightforward Irish Red Ale. Not bad or anything, but not particularly distinguished either. Nice malt backbone, easy drinking stuff. B-
  • Kaedrin Stout - Another of my homebrews, this thing is about a year and a half old, and it's actually drinking really well! Complex malt character, caramel, roast, dark chocolate, still packs a whallop of flavor and hasn't really lost anything over the year and a half in my cellar. On the other hand, this has always been a beer that's worked well in small pours. Still, I think I may revisit the recipe next year, perhaps amp it up a bit more, give it some more hops, get a higher attenuating yeast. It's pretty good right now, but it could be great.
  • Boulevard Harvest Dance Wheatwine - It's like a hefeweizen, only moreso. In my limited experience with big wheat beers, I've always gotten cloying, sticky sweet notes that just made it unpalatable. But this drinks like a slightly boozy hefeweizen. Huge banana and clove weizen yeast character in the nose, and you really don't get that big boozy flavor until the finish, and even then, it doesn't quite feel like a 9.1% monster. Still not my favorite style, but this was among the best I've had. B+
  • DuClaw Bourbon Barrel Aged Devil's Milk - The regular Devil's Milk is a wonderful little barleywine, this bourbon-barrel aged version makes a nice complementary offering. It's a huge, bourbon forward beer, lots of caramel and vanila, much less in the way of hops than the base, but still an eminently drinkable brew. Would like to try again sometime, but I'll give it an tentative A-
  • Weyerbacher Riserva (2012) - Picked this up at the release at the brewery this past weekend (will have a more detailed post later, stay tuned), even briefly crossed paths with Rich on Beer and fam on my way to pick up some Riserva and the last NATO beer (Zulu, which, again, will be covered in a separate post at some point). Anyways, Riserva is an oak aged beer made with raspberries. It's going to be distributed, but as American Wild Ales go, it's pretty solid stuff. It's not a top tier Russian River killer or anything, but it's got a place at the table, and I'm continually surprised at how well sour beers go over with the beer club crowd. Even non-beer drinkers gave this a shot and really enjoyed it. For my part, I found it to be a bit hot, but otherwise a pretty solid beer. Funky, intensely sour, but with a nice oak character balancing things out. A little astringent and boozy, but still really enjoyable. Not sure about knocking back an entire 750 ml of this, but I'm sure it will happen someday. B+
And that about covers it. Good times had by all, and already planning next month's meetup, since this month happened so late.

Garde Dog

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Maryland's Flying Dog brewery has never really wowed me with a beer. On the other hand, they've rarely disappointed. Looking through my ratings, almost everything is in the B- to B range, even for well respected stuff like Raging Bitch IPA and their Gonzo Porter. They seem to make well crafted beers, so it's not like I dislike them or anything and I have to admit that their distinctive Ralph Steadman artwork always catches my eye... Also, they've been doing some interesting seasonal stuff of late, like this new Spring offering, a relatively lightweight Bière de Garde that still manages to pack a nice punch:

Flying Dog Garde Dog

Flying Dog Garde Dog - Pours a clear golden color with lots of fluffy white head. Smells of musty Belgian yeast with some spiciness. Taste is sweet and spicy, finishing quite dry. Mouthfeel is very highly carbonated and packs a bit of a wallop, medium bodied, and dry. Not something you'll gulp down, but it's an easy drinking beer and at 5.5%, you could certainly knock a few of these back at a barbecue or something without getting too sloshed. Overall, this is a solid beer and it's very well executed. It strikes me as a great gateway beer for those folks looking to expand their horizons without getting too crazy. Also a nice beer to transition from the dark, heavy beers of winter into the lighter fare of summer (i.e. a good choice for a spring seasonal). B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/17/12.

So it's not a revelation, but it's towards the top of what I've had from Flying Dog. Of course, I'd love to get my hands on some of the Bourbon Barrel Aged Gonzo, and maybe some of their other limited edition stuff too...

The Fear of 120 Minute IPA for Halloween

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I don't normally talk about where I work, and I won't go into specifics, but I always wonder who on earth signs up for our emails. We're a retail company, and I guess if you're into some stuff, the emails could be beneficial, but in my personal life, I don't think I've ever actually wanted an email from a retailer (aside from order/shipping confirmations, which are a different beast). Except, of course, for my local beer and liquor stores. So when Pinocchio's sent out their Halloween specials, notably featuring the long absent Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, I was all aboard. I now know what it means to be an email subscriber, despite the fact that I've never really cared before (I mean, aren't emails so 1990s?) So yeah, I got to have a long sought-after beer (hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on some bottles that I can age (more on this later)), and Pinocchio's always has a huge selection of great beer in the coolers as well, so I brought home some interesting stuff as well. Let's just call this a beertastic Halloween. But enough babbling, let's get to the good stuff:

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - Many moons ago, Dogfish Head was among the few breweries shooting for the title of highest ABV beer. Their entry was a whopping 23% ABV IPA that was basically an extension of their 60 and 90 minute series of IPAs. The central conceit behind the series is that they are continually hopped beers. Small amounts of hops are being added to the boil continuously, eventually yielding a large amount of hop character. The 120 is boiled for a full two hours (an hour longer than most beers) and it features a huge amount of hops and malts too. And then the beer is dry hopped and further aged with hops for more aromatic characters. Anyway, as the race to highest ABV beer evar went on and breweries like Brewdog started really pushing the envelope, Dogfish Head bowed out and actually decreased the amount of alcohol in this beer to make it a bit more manageable and well balanced. This was probably for the best, as I can't imagine a higher ABV beer tasting this good.

Pours a mostly clear but dark golden color with minimal head. The aroma is full of citrusy hops, orange and grapefruit notes, just a hint of herbal hop character and alcohol heat. Taste is sweet with a very well matched booziness. It's obviously a strong beer, but I don't know that I would have guessed just how high the alcohol is... There's surprisingly little hoppiness in the taste, with just a hint of bitterness in the finish and aftertaste. The mouthfeel clearly features that alcohol burn character, and yet it's relatively smooth for it's strength. Overally, it's quite good, complex, and well worth seeking out. I'm having trouble picking a rating, as I value the extreme and experimental nature of the beer, but it's not exactly the most delicious beer ever or anything. I'll give it an A-, because I really enjoyed it and would love to get me a 4-6 pack of the stuff to try over the period of a few years.

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 10/31/11.

Now, after the beer (and after I ate something), I headed to the back room at Pinocchio's, which has a massive (800+) selection of beer varieties available. A few folks were tasting some of the beers, and I spied an open 750 of the 120 minute. Knowing that I'd love to have a bottle or two of the stuff, I asked the guy behind the counter if he had any for sale and he laughed and pointed at the date on the bottle. It turns out that the bottle was from 2003. The guy kindly poured about an ounce into a shot glass for me to try out (for which I am very grateful), and damn, this is clearly that same beer, but with a much more complex array of flavors. It was too small to really rate, but damn it was good. I really need to find me some bottles of this stuff and age it in my cellar (aka my fridge).

Anyway, before I went to the store, I had myself another beer (with my dinner), this one a more festive Halloween beer:

Flying Dog The Fear

Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale - Hey, look, another dark colored pumpkin ale. Very dark brown, almost black color with some amberish highlights and a finger or so of tan head. Light pumpkin pie spices in the nose. Taste is full of sweet malts and a well balanced portion of pumpkin pie spicing (I know lots of folks don't like overly spiced pumpkin beers, but these darker beers really do seem to stand up better to the spicing). Well carbonated, but either my palate was obliterated by the 120 Minute or it was a light bodied beer. I would have expected something with a little more heft to it, but it certainly wasn't bad. It's a really nice beer, but not something that really stands out. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip on 10/31/11.

I grabbed a glass of water, finished off my meal, and then headed over to the bottle shop, where I picked up a nice selection of exciting beers, including:

Phew. I've clearly got my work cut out for the next few months (not to mention all the stuff I still have sitting around, including a few cases of homebrew). Too many beers, too little time. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to finish watching Halloween. Speaking of which, have a good Halloween!

Double Feature: Yet More IPAs

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So now that I'm totally over 2010 movies, I've started hitting up 2011. This past weekend, I saw Hall Pass, which had a lot of funny moments amidst a rather trite plot and some unnecessarily scatalogical humor. Among the raunchy-movies-with-a-heart genre, it was actually decent and worth a watch if that's your thing. Far more interesting, though, was the movie I had some beers whilst watching - Rubber. You probably haven't heard of this, but it's a really profoundly weird film. It's about a tire. A killer tire. Named Bob. The grand majority of the film is just watching a tire roll around on screen, occasionally stopping to make people's head explode (my assumption is that Bob the Tire doesn't like that we have enslaved his brethren for use on our cars, but that is only implied). There's a lot more to it than that, of course. Bob seems to have fallen in love. And there's an audience watching everything. And some cops trying to catch Bob. Yeah, so really weird. It's a short film and kinda artsy-fartsy, but I loved it. It's available now on a lot of Cable On-Demand services (I saw it on Comcast), and my understanding is that there will be a short theatrical release in early April.

As for the beers I drank whilst watching, it was another night of IPAs (this is the 4th IPA double feature - more than any other style):

Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA

Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA: Yet another "Big Beer" from Weyerbacher's variety pack, this one actually has the best rating on Beer Advocate. The name of the beer is referring to the liberal use Simcoe hops during brewing. Simcoe has high levels of alpha acid, but it also has a very fruity aroma and taste component that makes the bitterness a little less aggressive than you may think (so says my homebrew book here, though I think Weyerbacher's beer also kinda confirms that). If I ever end up homebrewing an IPA, I might try getting my hands on some of these. Anyway, the beer pours a cloudy darkish brown color with about a finger of head that dissapates rapidly and doesn't leave much in the way of lacing. Smells delicious! Mostly fruity citrus hops and an almost candi-sweetness in the nose, with maybe a hint of earthiness or pine present. Very sweet start (maybe a little fruitiness), with a bitter hops kick later in the taste and the finish. Some sticky booziness comes into the aftertaste as well, but it's reasonably well balanced with the rest of the flavors (though I think you could also argue that this is perhaps a bit too strong). Mouthfeel is smooth, with just enough carbonation to offset the booziness (though again, you may be able to argue that it's not entirely successful in hiding the booze). All in all, quite an enjoyable beer and well worth a try for fans of the style. It's probably my favorite of Weyerbacher's offerings (that I've tried). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA: I've enjoyed Flying Dog's beers without ever being particularly impressed, but then, I've only ever really had their "normal" brews. This particular beer is one of their bigger beers, and it's also got a spot in the BA top 100. It pours a clear, light reddish brown (copper!) color with a couple fingers of head. Smells sweet, spicy and citrusy with a little bit of bready Belgian yeast and not much in the way of hops. The taste starts sweet with some spiciness in the middle and a crisp, bitter finish. There are roasted flavors in the taste as well, but not like a roasty stout. Is that pepper? It's a familiar taste, something I normally associate with beers like Hoegaarden and Chimay Red, but it's not as overpowering here as it is in the other beers - perhaps due to the strong hoppy bitterness. It's really quite complex, I keep discovering new flavors. As I drink more, the bitterness becomes more prominent, the peppery flavors start to emerge more and the finish becomes more dry. Mouthfeel is a bit harsher than the Weyerbacher, but still pretty good. A really well crafted and interesting beer, though I'm not sure I actually like it. It's amazingly complex, but I have to admit that it's not really my thing. It's something I'd like to try again sometime, and I can see why it's rated so highly, but something about the way it's spiced just isn't working for me. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

Well that just about covers it. Look for some more double features soon, neither of which will be IPAs (I promise!)

Flying Dog

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A little while ago I picked up Flying Dog's variety pack and in between all of the holiday beers and whatnot, I've been working my way through them and their awesome Ralph Steadman artwork.

Flying Dog Logo
  • In Heat Wheat: Sweet, light, crisp and wheaty - a rather typical wheat beer. More details here. B-
  • Tire Bite Golden Ale: Light and crisp, perhaps a small step above crappy "fizzy yellow stuff", but not by much. C-
  • Old Scratch Amber Lager: Nice amber color, medium body, a little sticky and overall, it's a very drinkable session beer along the lines of Yuengling lager (maybe even a little better, but that's hard for me to admit!). B
  • Snake Dog India Pale Ale: A nice west-coast style hoppy, earthy IPA. It does well on its own, but pales (pun intended!) when compared to other good IPAs (including Flying Dog's own Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA). B
  • Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale: Solid hoppy pale ale, a little darker than the IPA, but a nice quality session beer and maybe the best overall beer in this pack. B
  • Road Dog Porter: Dark and a bit roasty, it wasn't quite as complex as I'd have hoped. I've never been a big fan of the style though, so that's probably part of my distaste. It's not bad, but definitely not my thing. C+

Overall, while most of them are quite drinkable and solid beers, none are really all that exceptional. This isn't to say that they don't make exceptional beers though: Raging Bitch IPA is actually a big step up from the Snake Dog IPA, and I've heard good things about the Gonzo Imperial Porter.

The Session: Wheat Beers

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On the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Sessions. Started by Stan Hieronymus and hosted by a rotating group of bloggers, each Session has a chosen topic, and this month's is being hosted by BeerTasters.ca and covers the general topic of Wheat Beers:

Feel free to take this topic in any direction you like, specific reviews, historical information, or any other twist you'd like to use. Wheat beers are a pretty wide topic and actually cover German style Weizen, Heffe Weizen, etc. along with Belgian style Witbier and even Flavoured Wheat beers.

There are very few guidelines here, just have some fun drinking Wheat Beers in the fall instead of the summer.

So there. I'm no expert on the style, but I've had plenty of wheat beers over the years. One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was so that I'd gain a better understanding of beer, and while I've had a few great wheat beers lately (notably, Unibroue's Blanche De Chambly, a great beer I didn't even realize was a wheat beer, and Dogfish Head's Namaste, which is also pretty good, in a more traditional wheat beery way), I've found that having to write about beer makes me think differently about beer. While I've been drinking lots of craft beer over the past couple of years, I've only been blogging about it for a few weeks, so I'm not sure if I can trust my memory on the beers I just mentioned. So tonight I tried out a semi-local Hefeweizen:

Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat

Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat - I've had several Flying Dog beers, while they're eminently drinkable, they're rarely exceptional (the one exception might be the Raging Bitch IPA, which was pretty great). This shouldn't really matter, but Flying Dog also has amazing labels on their bottles. Apparently the owner of Flying Dog was good friends with Hunter S. Thompson, and through that connection came artist Ralph Steadman. He's got a distinctive art style, and the labels on all of Flying Dog's beers are awesome. Anyway, I found myself in a beer distributer the other day, and the Flying Dog variety case seemed like a pretty good idea, and among the variety was this Hefeweizen. It pours a light orange/yellow color. There's a bit of a haze too it, but I could still see my hand through it pretty easily. Smells a little yeasty with some citrus thrown in. Sweet, light, crisp wheaty/yeasty taste with a finish that's a little more tart than bitter. A little bit of citrus flavor, but the character of this beer isn't especially strong. It's light and refreshing, but it's not lighting the world on fire either. Like most of Flying Fish's offerings, it's quite drinkable and would make a nice summer session beer, but it's not exactly the best wheat beer I've had or anything. I'll give it a solid B-. Not something I'd seek out regularly, but it's still pretty good.

Beer Nerd Details: 4.7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.

Later in the night, I had a few IPAs, which I must admit, put this one to shame. Part of that might be that wheat beers aren't often meant to be huge flavor bombs, but I do like the wheat beer style, and there are many that I'm looking forward to trying. So here's a list of other Wheat beers I'd like to try (that I've never had before):

  • Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (duh)
  • St. Bernardus Witbier
  • Victory Whirlwind Witbier (pretty sure I've had several of these one night, but it's been a while)
  • Victory Sunrise Weissbier
Any other recommendations?

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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