In the interest of full disclosure; I will admit up front, that the reason I am reviewing 4 beers from Flying Dog is that they were sent to me by the Flying Dog Brewery PR department. A comment was left in response to my blog post reviewing Jolly Pumpkin Brewery’s Bam Noire by Stephanie, from the PR department of Flying Dog Brewery, offering to send me some free bottles of beer. I, of course, responded like any beer geek would, “I would love some tasty brews from Flying Dog. Who doesn’t like beer delivered to them at work?” True to her word, a few days later a box arrived containing 3 bottles of beer, and then Flying Dog sent me another bottle of a very limited edition beer, their Horn Dog Barrel Aged Barley Wine. Awesome!
For whatever reason, I have not had much exposure to Flying Dog’s beers. I am sure I have had their beer in the past, but I can say that about a lot brewers’ product. All I really knew about Flying Dog, is that their bottles all had super cool Ralph Steadman designed labels. I am a huge fan of all things Hunter S. Thompson, so these labels always grabbed my attention as Ralph Steadman did the illustrations for most of the late great Dr. Gonzo’s books and articles. Check out the Flying Dog Website for more information about the link between the brewery and Hunter S. Thompson. The site is very well laid out, extremely informative and probably the best brewery website I have yet to come across, so get clicking on it.
On to the beers… I gathered my wife and my good friend Mike, who is always interested in trying new tasty beers, for a mini tasting in our kitchen to try out the four beers I had been sent.
First up was the K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale. The beer was dark red amber with little noticeable nose. We all found it very balanced with a steady undertone of hops layered over with sweet toffee malt. Overall, a very balanced and drinkable ale on the strong side (alc. 6.4%). My friend was glad to note that there were no spices or added flavors like a lot of other companies winter ales.
Next was the Gonzo Imperial Porter. I was very excited to receive this beer as I have not met too many imperial porters I did not love. Plus, it had great caricature of Hunter S. Thompson on the label. The beer did not disappoint, and was my favorite of the bunch. As soon as I opened the bottle I could scents of floral hops and dark roasted coffee hit my nose. The beer poured dark with a minimum dark brown head. The flavor was dominated by dark chocolaty roasted malt with a slight anise (me) or dried fruit/raisins (my wife and friend) flavor. My little tasting group found this to be a very rich complex brew that left us all with slightly different impressions. We all agreed that the beer finished extremely dry with and a nice warming feel of alcohol (9.0%).
Third up was the Wild Dog Doppelbock. This Flying Dog brew was created with input from the beer loving public through the Flying Dog Opensource beer project. You can learn more about this very cool idea for collaborative beer brewing and even get the recipe at the Open Source Beer Project site. The beer comes in heavy green glass 750 ml corked bottle. Upon opening and pouring we all took note of the sweet fruity nose that reminded us of candy apples. The beer poured a bright amber with a nice tan head. Like the nose, all three of us noticed a sweet apple cider taste right away. The fruitiness subsided to a sweet malt passing into pleasant hops flavor and throat-warming alcohol finish. At 8.3% the warming effect was not unexpected.
On to our last and most exotic bottle from Flying Dog; Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Horn Dog. According to the literature that accompanied the beer, this is an experimental brew made in limited quantities (only 725 12-ounce bottles) that is only sold at the brewery in Denver, Colorado. This Wild Dog is made by aging Flying Dog’s Horn Dog Barely wine in whiskey barrels for 13 months. I have only ever had one other whiskey barrel-aged barley wine, made by Weyerbacher and aptly dubbed Insanity, and it is one of my favorite beers, so I was quite excited to get to try and compare this rare offering from Flying Dog. The Horn Dog poured a very dark and cloudy brown that did not let light through the glass. The head was pretty much non-existent and it poured almost completely still. The nose was very distinct with notes of caramelized sugar, dried fruits, vanilla and noticeable aroma of alcohol. My friend said the nose reminded him of a tawny port. The taste was huge and complex with a distinct whiskey character imparted by the barrels it was aged in for 13 months. Right away, we all noted the brew’s incredible maple vanilla sweetness backed by the very noticeable flavor and warmth of alcohol. The alcohol flavor started right in the mouth and warmed all the way down to the stomach; not surprising at 10% ABV. The hops character of the original barley wine seemed to have been completely replaced in the barrel aging process by oak and smoky charcoal flavors. With its strong whiskey flavor and heat; this is definitely a beer for whiskey lovers. My wife, who is not a fan of whiskey, did not find the beer all that pleasant. I would recommend this unique Flying Dog to adventurous beer drinkers who appreciate whiskeys and are not afraid of a beer that bites back.
I have to thank the great folks at Flying Dog for sending me four big tasty beers. One of which, Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Horn Dog, I would never had a chance to drink unless I went to the brewery in Colorado. With my thanks to Flying Dog, I also extend the invitation to any other breweries out there to send me free beer at work. I’ll drink it and write a blog about what I thought of it. Just respond to this post with a comment and I’ll tell you where to send the beer.