God, I mean Dog, exists after all. Wild Dog, that is. I received a nice letter in the mail today from Flying Dog Brewery. Here’s an excerpt:
“I have been following your blog and as a reward to your dedication to promoting great beer, I wanted to treat you to a ‘sneak taste’ of our new releases . . . First is our Wild Dog release . . . ” Enclosed in the package were two beers.
Free beer showing up in the mail! What happens when dreams come true? It seems things can only go down from here. Down my throat, that is. Which was precisely the fate of these two beers.
Heller Hound Bock Beer
Heller, according to the label, means “a person who behaves recklessly or wildly.” Dictionary.com says, “a noisy, rowdy, troublesome person; hellion.” Brewed to the maibock style, this is a bock beer tradtionally brewed in May, which is why Flying Dog releases theirs in . . . March? The label also says “anti-spring” right underneath the style name, so perhaps they meant ante-spring, as in “before spring”.
On the other hand, this spring seasonal beer is actually appropriately timed for the common historical purpose of the related dopplebock style: a strong beer to get monks through the day during the fasting period of Lent. Lent is the forty days prior to Easter Sunday. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring. This year it falls on April 8th, so the monks would have wanted to be drinking a strong bock beer at least as early as when this one was officially released on March 7th.
Enough history. Let’s talk about how this beer tastes. Maibock is a strongish style, slightly sweet, with little hop bitterness or aroma. At 6.2% ABV, this maibock, also sometimes called a helles bock (inspiration for the ‘heller’ moniker?), is at the lower end of the traditional alcohol content range for a maibock, which makes the “heller” attitude a little questionable, but this is still slightly stronger than an everyday-drinking beer.
Golden in color, low in bitterness, high in alcohol – almost like a malt-liqour, except without the adjuncts. And, more importantly, this tastes wonderful. Its beautifully balanced considering the low bitterness. Neither the sweetness nor the alcohol overwhelm. Heller Hound has session beer quaffability despite it’s higher-than-session-beer alcohol content.
As is the case with all Flying Dog beers, the label features art by Ralph Steadman, famous for his “gonzo” artwork that has accompanied Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo-style journalism. Thompson, it should be noted, did in fact have a hand in the development of the Flying Dog Brewery. Steadman’s art is, in a word, disturbed. But it’s “wacky” trimmings make it more eccentric than scary.
Whiskey Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter
Barrel-aged beers have been popping up all over in the last couple years. In this one, the whiskey comes out with its dukes up ready to punch you right in the nose. This beer was aged for three months in charred White American Oak barrels from the Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey distillery, a new small-batch distiller in Denver, neighbors of Flying Dog.
This oil-black robust porter has a huge, dark-brown head, and with 9.5% ABV the alcohol is hot and makes it’s presence known. Toasty, caramel sweetness countered by espresso-bitterness – but more than anything, this is whiskey barrel through and through. It’s the kind of beer that makes you sink lower in your easy chair as your skin begins to tingle and your senses get fuzzy.
Having said that, and having now consumed this whole beer, I need to stop writing so I can become one with my couch.