Sunday, July 3, 2011

Raging Bitch (Flying Dog Brewery)

The distorted, slightly unhinged artwork on all of the Flying Dog Brewery's packaging is instantly recognizable as the work of Ralph Steadman, and thus instantly brings to mind an association with the legendary journalist/degenerate Hunter S. Thompson. None of it is a coincidence, it turns out. Flying Dog founder George Stranahan was a neighbor and friend of Thompson in Aspen, Colorado where the brewery started (before it moved to Frederick, Maryland in 2007), and thereby became friends with frequent HST co-conspirator Steadman.

This indirect connection between the brewery and journalism is appropriate for the current blog entry, as Flying Dog's Raging Bitch was a TNJ Beer Club contribution from the legendary journalist/very nice guy Phil Freedman.

Flying Dog touts Raging Bitch as a Belgian India Pale Ale, a sobriquet that is nonsensical in historical terms. This is an emergent style that combines characteristics of two styles that are very popular among the craft brew crowd -- basically, it adds the now ubiquitous hops edge to the complex, dry-finishing Belgian ale platform. Let's see what kind of drinking experience this yields. I anticipate something similar to Flying Fish Brewing Company's Exit 4 American Trippel.

Maybe I didn't pour this as aggressively as I could have, but the head was not as billowy as expected. I thought it would blow up with piles and piles of fluffy foam, but it actually only produced about three quarters of an inch. The color of the beer is a hazy apricot. The nose a near perfect balance of Belgian yeast and citrus hops chaser, so that part did hit the mark dead on.

My first impression is that the taste is more like double IPA than Belgian, though there's always that yeasty aroma hanging around as a reminder. The body is nice and big and chewy, with a big alcohol kick. As I drink I keep thinking double IPA, mainly on the basis of the hefty mouthfeel and dense sweetness. It's really toward the finish where some phenolic elements show up to add their signature spiciness.

As the beer warms, it opens up and its Belgian characteristics come to the fore. The character change with temperature is quite dramatic. Though it is unquestionably a bold brew, by the end of the glass this bitch seemed much mellower and less raging -- a fascinating balance of grape and grapefruit flavors. An enjoyable and stimulating ale, recommended for the adventurous palate.

From the bottle's label:

Two inflamatory words... one wild drink. Nectar imprisoned in a bottle. Let it out. It is cruel to keep a wild animal locked up. Uncap it. Release it....stand back!! Wallow in its golden glow in a glass beneath a white foaming head. Remember, enjoying a RAGING BITCH, unleashed, untamed, unbridled -- and in heat -- is pure GONZO!! It has taken 20 years to get from there to here. Enjoy!!
-- Ralph Steadman

Featured beer:
Raging Bitch

Honorable mention:
Exit 4

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