Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Dog has Landed

Don't get me wrong, I love German beer, but now and again I get the craving for those kind of hoppy animals that typify the American craft brewing world. Only thing is, they're practically impossible to get in Germany, and making trips to Brussels or Amsterdam have been the best opportunities for me to get anything like that. Till now.

Thanks to the efforts of Bier & Co, the importer based in the Netherlands and personified by Rick Kempen, I can now get good American craft beer almost at my doorstep. In Cologne, to be exact, via Bier Zwerg, who thankfully deliver. Because Rick is a thoughtful guy, he let me know via Twitter that Bier Zwerg had placed an order with Bier & Co, so I was able to camp, virtually, on their doorstep. And what did I order? Well, 20 mixed bottles from a handful of breweries, but lets start with some of the Flying Dog beers, in drinking order:

I broke myself in gently with a Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale, a clear amber beer with a small, tight head. It gives off a good, solid, earthy orange pith aroma with the support of a decent caramel base. Kinda comforting. My mouth was already watering at this stage, so the first sip was Oh Yeah! Up front there's a load of quite floral, pithy hop flavours, followed by chewy, bready malts all delivered on a soft, fullish body. The finish is relatively dry, leaving a lasting orange sorbet coating on the tongue I got a slight soapiness in the finish, but it didn't detract from an overall solidly brewed, and very drinkable (there's that word again!) 4.7% beer. Yeah, I'd call it a classic too, I suppose.
Moving up the ranks to the Snake Dog IPA, at 7.1% ABV. I've had this before (in Dublin as I recall), but I was keen to revisit. At a quoted 60 IBUs, I knew this was going to be loaded with hops and, sure enough, the aroma is literally like sticking your nose into a bag of fresh hops. Spicy, resinous, delicious. And you know what? That's what it tastes like too. It has a remarkably fresh hop flavour, with loads of pine and citrus sauciness. Oddly, I expected this to be a bitter bomb, but at that ABV clearly a lot of malt went in there, providing a luscious caramel body that holds those hops up wonderfully, and displaying great balance. If you crave hop flavours, but don't like them too bitter, this is for you. The finish is long, continuing that apparently never-ending citrus/resinous hop mix  and it leaves you with a slight sugary stickiness on the lips. Goes down a little too easy though.

I had intended trying the Raging Bitch last, but a tweet from Rick suggested that it might be best before the Double Dog, so I swapped them around. So, a Belgian-style IPA? Taking a sniff I have to admit thinking 'ah, that's what the mean'.The aroma is certainly unique. There are juicy-fruit elements, funky bits, a touch of bile, grapefruit, farmyard, pine nuts... quite hard to pin down, but overall, not unpleasant.

The flavour contains elements of all the above, but subtly. Then there's banana and bubblegum, passion fruit, yeasty, bready flavours and something deep down that reminded me of nothing more than melted cheese on toast. I'm not joking! It's all very strange, but fun and rewarding to explore. The finish is warm -- well, it would be at 8.3% -- with a pine nut hoppiness on rye.

Look, just ignore all the above and go try it yourself.

Last, but by no means last, came Double Dog, a so-called Double Pale Ale from their Canis Major series (Yay! I just realised I have them all!). This beastie weighs in at 11.5% ABV and a weighty 85 IBUs, so yeah, good call to leave it till last.

Compared to what went before, this displayed a surprisingly subtle aroma with classic C-hop orange and grapefruitiness. Sweet candy and toffee-like malts hit the tongue first, but on swallowing, the hops move in, surprisingly gently but taking no shit all the same. Big mandarin orange, pithy, sorbet-like hop flavours slide down the tongue. It's not brash or harsh, but it's certainly big and warm-hearted, gently beating you senseless by wrapping you in a blanket of toffee and grapefruit deliciousness till you drift of into a comfy sleep. Or that could just be the hops talking...

The problem with drinking beers like this is that it means I have to reset my taste buds back to German beer once I run out. Not a bad thing, but sometimes it's hard to go back to subtle, refreshing German beers after those that just made your tongue dance.


Mark said...

I like these beers a lot. I'm very glad that we can get Doggie Style in Tesco now alongside Gonzo porter.

I've had a couple of Raging Bitches so far and there's something about it which is jarring and I'm not sure what. There's certainly a lot going on in there!

I checked out the Bier Zwerg site and they sell some decent beers at good prices (although Black Sheep is more expensive than a Left Hand Imperial Stout...). There's a good range of British beers too, even a TNP in there!

I need to get some more Doggie Style (that's what she said! - sorry, couldn't resist) after reading this. To Tesco!

Barry M said...

I don't know who's importing the British beers, but I'd be paying about €5.50 in the pub for a bottle of Black Sheep. As they're generally higher cost, and it's usually the same selections, I stopped looking at the British beer on these sites, so never saw they had a TNP. I'll have to look again!

Raging Bitch is an odd one, and I felt myself swinging between liking and disliking it while drinking it. This is why I recon it has to be tried :D In the end, on balance, I liked it though. But the rest, now they're solid beers. Have a few more to go through, but trying to give my liver a break for a couple of days :)

Woolpack Dave said...

I sell SnakeDog IPA here. Do I need to say any more?

Barry M said...

Would you agree with my prognosis, Dave? Clearly you like it anyway! :D

BeerReviewsAndy said...

mmmm flying dog, not had the double dog but i enjoyed the rest.

didn't realise you sold snake dog dave - friday might get a bit messy ;o)

Barry M said...

Mark, I just had a look at the Scottish selection on Bier Zwerg, it's definitely increased since I last looked! Pricey, but nice selection! TNP is about 10 Euro more (€50!) than I'd have to pay at the BrewDog site, but not sure how it'd work out after delivery costs.

I'll have to snap up some more Flying Dog for a tasting session at the office.

mike said...

That's awesome that you got your hands on some of this. My uncle gave me some of this over the holiday's. He really likes the Raging Bitch. I'm more of the porter type, but it could have been because it was Christmas and cold out.

They have more, are you looking to try the rest of those as well? The Road Dog is good, that's the porter I was talking about. Its not "AMAZING" or anything, but its a solid choice in my opinion.

Let me know if you try it!

Mike's Brew Review

Barry M said...

Hey, Mike. Yeah, I was very happy to see any US craft beer available fairly locally, and the fact they're good beers makes me even happier!

I've got a good few more in my cellar to go through, including the porter as I recall, so stay tuned :D