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 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.
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.