Wild Dogs on the Loose

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 HoundHeller 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.

Wild Dog porterWhiskey 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.

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10 Responses to Wild Dogs on the Loose

  1. Dave Bonta says:

    Goddamn. I need to start beer-blogging more often – maybe they’ll send me free beer, too! The second of these sounds like something I’d really enjoy. I’m having a hard time imagining a malt-liquor-like beer that tastes wonderful.

  2. lucyb says:

    your beer talk is beter than most wine talk. 🙂

  3. lucyb says:

    better

  4. beeractivist says:

    Dave – don’t let the malt liquor reference fool you. I didn’t mean it disparagingly. Malt liquor, as a style, generally refers to strong lagers that have extra non-barley-malt fermentable sugars added to boost the alcohol content, like corn (and maybe other sugars, not sure about that). Maibock is, in fact, a strong lager, but as I said, without adjuncts. So the nasty alcohols you get in a malt liquor are not apparent in the Heller Hound but it does have the same kind of malt-oriented backbone, high alcohol, low hop bitterness and low hop aroma that a malt liquor would have. So Heller Hound is like a malt liquor except without the bad stuff and probably with better ingredients all around.

    lucyb – thanks for the kind words and thanks for stopping by. Cheers!

    Chris

  5. Devon says:

    Chris –

    I’m going to have to agree with lucyb – your beer talk is better than most wine talk. Of course, I’m a beer geek – so…

    And if anyone is looking to get their paws on some of the Wild Dog Whiskey Barrel Aged Gonzo, it releases to the public on April 1st. So start requesting it at your local beer stores – it comes in 750mL bottles as well as nifty gift packs.

    Cheers,
    Devon

  6. beeractivist says:

    Thanks for pointing out the packaging Devon. I should have mentioned it in the review. With the whiskey barrel aging and the champagne bottle packaging, this should be an especially nice beer to lay down for a few years and uncork on a cold winter’s evening with some special friends.

  7. […] the only fire-colored thing right now. ‘Tis the season for doppelbock, according to the Beer Activist. At 8.3% alcohol, one bottle of these is just about all you need. Suddenly, a campfire in the woods […]

  8. brady says:

    That porter sounds super tasty. Gonzo would be proud, and wasted.

  9. beeractivist says:

    ‘Twas tasty indeed. It looks like 23rd Streer Brewery in Lawrence makes a seasonal bourbon barrel aged stout that would probably something akin to this beer. Check out there site here:
    http://www.brew23.com/23rd/beer/flagship_beers.htm

    Cheers,
    Chris

  10. […] Speaking of the Gonzo Imperial Porter, click right here to read my previous review. […]

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