Category Archives: Flying Dog

Goodbye To All Of This

A recent event has caused me to reevaluate whether or not I should continue this blog. But before I get to this, I would like to thank all the people who have helped me in my educational path in the world of beer. Most of these encounters occurred long ago, but that does not mean I have forgotten their contributions. This was back in a time of magical beer thinking and writing, when there was actual poetry in describing the world’s great beers. That was before the technologically driven market place raised the concept of American exceptionalism to the point that the latest upstart breweries are bold in their marketing chutzpah:

WE DON’T BREW BEER FOR THE MASSES. INSTEAD, OUR BEERS ARE CRAFTED FOR A CHOSEN FEW, A SMALL CADRE OF RENEGADES AND REBELS WHO ENJOY BEER THAT PUSHES THE LIMITS OF WHAT IS COMMONLY ACCEPTED AS TASTE. IN SHORT. WE BREW FOR PEOPLE LIKE US. FOUNDERS. BREWED FOR US.

Well I do not know about you dear reader, but I certainly do not consider myself a part of that small cadre of the chosen few, although I have enjoyed Founders Dirty Bastard Ale, but after sampling their absolutely wretched PC Pils index a beer that actually made me ill. The first day I tried 1 bottle after a long hot day working outside. About 10 minutes later felt nauseous, so I thought maybe it’s heat exhaustion so I went to bed with an upset stomach, and thought nothing else about it.
The next day, same scenario, but with only a have day outside and an early morning breakfast, and the exact same thing happened. I was forced to throw out the rest of the six-pack and as a poor person (according to Founders, that must mean I am one of those “masses” that they do not brew for) that $10 plus tax does not sit well with me. But as the Beer Doctor, I always assumed that buying bad beer, or simply beers I do not like, was part of the material costs of the continuing project. But the arrogance associated with this horrible brew, went beyond all decency for me.
Calling this beer American hopped pilsner is a cruel joke for someone seeking the comfort of the malt forward style accentuated by floral hops. This is just an India Pale Lager of the worst kind. It made me wonder if perhaps those bold American hops of Chinook. Cascade. and Centennial where sprayed with pesticides? All I really know is this beer made me sick.

For those who have grown up learning about beer from the Internet, most of the information posted on web sites such as Beer Advocate or Rate Beer are basically useless, because there is an entire cadre of beer fans who offer their opinions with no idea of what they are talking about. Back that up with belligerent bullshit from the aggressive new breweries on the block, and you have a rising mountain of disinformation, which makes you believe that the latest US barrel aged sour is better than Rodenbach Grand Cru.

Then of course there is that neoliberal wet dream known as the Brewers Association, who seem to evolve along the lines of the Democratic National Committee. First, by expanding how many millions of barrels of beer you are allowed to brew and still be designated with that most holy term of craft. Then there is the thought police aspect of this virtuous group who have decided to clean up their industry of what they deem to be offensive labels. This prompted Flying Dog Brewery to say, thanks but no thanks, and bye bye.
The recent BA decision to produce an independently brewed designation on labels, it is said to be designed to differentiate from Big Brewer takeover of craft brewed brands. Well, this seems like pissing into the wind, because after all, those masses are not part of their audience anyway, that is mostly white, affluent and exceptionally American. How else to explain why Dogfish Head takes pride in the fact that their beers sell for over $50 a case?

Beer at one time was the drink of the common people. Who were the common people? Those who were not a part of the Ownership Class. The people who had to have session beer so they could continue their long shifts in armament factories in England in World War I. Beer provided respite from the often brutal ordeals of everyday living. In that sense, big beer productions is still doing that ihamms but is often overlooked by the racist snobbery of those in the industry who think it would be fun to make a faux tribute to malt liquor. To be sure, I lived under that delusional nonsense that tells me I should be concerned about where my precious money goes. In other words: who are the cool millionaires?
Globalism is not just for shoes and clothing. Beer is right there in the mix. Ask the people in the continent of Australia how they feel about AB-I taking over Carlton United ownership? How does Cooper & Sons play into all of this?

Here in the United States, we have the altruistic craft breweries, who do the neoliberal right thing  of donating to charities they deem worthy, or creating projects such as teaching incarcerated women how to repair bicycles.
The spirit of inventiveness abounds. I have a brewer in my own neighborhood who is creating an ale that mimics a famous local dill pickle.
Oh lord get me out of here! Goodbye to all of this.

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Flying Double

I was amused to read reviews of Flying Dog’s Double Dog Double IPA where tasters complained about the boozy quality of the production. In this day and age when breweries pop up like unannounced new flowers on a continuous basis, it would be good to remember the wisdom imparted by Fritz Maytag long ago, when he reminded The Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson, that breweries have their own personalities.
This is certainly true of the Flying Dog Brewery, whose original roots were set down in Woody Creek, Colorado, where the founder, George Stanahan, befriended the late writer Hunter S. Thompson, who in turn introduced him to the British surrealist illustrator of his published works: Ralph Steadman. It is artwork by Mr. Steadman that graces the covers of Flying Dog beers, often bizarre depictions of dogs to illustrate beers with titles like: Gonzo Imperial Porter, Horn Dog, Dogtoberfest, K-9, The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale, and Raging Bitch.
FlyingDog_DoubleDog12ozBODY
This tawny coloured pour with a malty nose is a bit of a surprise for what is called a double India pale ale. A big time imperial ale at 11.5%, this has that lupulin warrior niche that many who drink this style, are often not even conscious of. Boozy? Yes, like many examples in the Flying Dog portfolio, but what should you expect from a brewery that embraced Hunter Thompson’s love of drink and firearms: “Good People Drink Good Beer.”
Of course many a state liquor control board could not understand the humor of the labels. With Double Dog, you have the use of copious amount of caramel malt combined with over-the top amounts of hops. Not exactly my cup of beer, but nevertheless, the execution of this recipe is outstanding.

k-9 I first sampled this delicious ale when it was still being produced in Colorado. In those days, the expression “when in doubt, go flat out” was used.It was removed from the label after the Nine Eleven catastrophe.
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Raging Bitch is another boozy production of Belgian yeast combined with American hoppy sensibility. Steadman’s notes on this label helps to explain what is going on.
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I sampled this just before Cinco de Mayo. Numero Uno is tasty alternative to the one-dimensional  Bud Light Lime. Cactus Juice has proven useful in beer designed for warm weather, whether it is Sierra Nevada Otra Vez or Shiner Prickly Pear.

First Things First, Second Things Second

Much has happened since neglecting my favorite web site, due to crazy local events. I refuse to bore you with those details, so let me get to the subject at hand: Beer!
I am sure by now almost everybody has tasted their fall marzen, or what is commonly called Oktoberfest. I usually sample as many of these as possible, but this year I slacked off a bit, but still had time to try the Kostritzer version from the black bier people in Germany. A change of pace from the caramel malt laden versions around, like Samuel Adams Octoberfest.
But the caramel malt profile has become synonymous with autumn beers in the United States. As the weather turns cooler the body has a need for more malts, which makes super hop productions seem out of season for the moment.
Since it is autumn and we are rapidly moving towards Halloween, I do want to mention one of my favorite seasonal productions, that being Saranac Pumpkin Ale.
Many compare this beer to pumpkin pie, although I do not eat pumpkin pie as a rule. No, what I like about this pumpkin ale is the recipe. I prefer it over Brooklyn Brewery’s Post Road, which Matt Brewing does the contract brewing for.
About a month ago I attended a distributor trade show where Rochester, New York brewer Dundee had samples of their Oktoberfest. A very good take on the style, that is not as widely distributed as it should.
I also got to sample Sierra-Nevada’s Chico Estate. A complete “in-house” brew, using hops grown by the brewery. It was quite good, but time limitations prevented the kind of serious, sit down contemplation this smooth ale demanded.
At the very same show (hell, it might as well been called a party) the Schlitz Gusto folks were in full promotional mode. Schlitz Gusto is the trade book name for the revived early 1960’s formula of Schlitz, before the marketing geniuses came up with the idea of tweaking the recipe, to supposedly produce more, while using less ingredients. That lead to the ultimate disaster where Schlitz, the number one beer in America since World War II, lost its market dominance to Budweiser, and never gained it back. As a kid, I heard beer drinking adults refer to Schlitz as “Shits” when the reformulated suds turned people away in droves.
But corporate amnesia was in full play this evening. Like Microsoft wanting you to buy 7 and forget all about something once known as Vista, the Schlitz Gusto had not only tied in to their daddy or granddaddy’s beer, with its Schlitz classic logo, they even had buttons promoting it as the beer of choice for the 1969 Woodstock music festival.
I also had to marvel at the riffs being used by the sales representative. Not only was he promoting Schlitz with quite a bit of gusto, he also had on hand their strong (8.5%) malt liquor, which he made a distinction that it was not malt liquor (which is in fact, a rather ambiguous term) but a high gravity lager.
Which was also in full play at this trade show, the distinction between craft, regional retro and corporate has becomes pretty much of a blur. I know the so-called craft brewers want to seperate themselves from the rest of the brewing industry, but is that actually possible, or is it by now, just another marketing ploy? I mean after trying Samuel Adams Coastal Wheat, how is it different than other big brewer’s wheat productions? From Coors’ Blue Moon to Bud Light Golden Wheat?
As I stated in a previous post, the recipe is the final deciding factor. Consolidation of brewing interests can reek havoc on a beloved brew. Take what A-B Inbev as done to the venerable Bass Ale. Corporate concerns have forgotten all about the character of this famous ale, that once upon a time, in Burton-On-Trent England, was brewed with gypsum mineral rich water that provided a somewhat chalky but delicious finish. None of that is present in the concoction now sold as Bass.
Luckily, some recipes have not been changed, or in rare cases, actually improved. Two of the early winter arrivals are outstanding: Avery’s Old Jubilation Ale and Flying Dog’s K-9. Both of these examples show that if you are going to fork out some serious money for a six pack of beer, it had better be worth it. In the case of these two, I would say it is.
As always my only prayer is thank you.