Saturday Night Blue Collar Brew Review –
Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian-Style India Pale Ale

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Flying DogThe first leg of the Friday morning beer run led me to the beloved Morris Beer Store once again. And once again I received a big welcome from the chorus behind the counter as I plodded through the door. Gail, the Beer Maven, was on her way out but stopped to chat about about previous beers reviewed and new arrivals.

“Raging Bitch came in!” she exclaimed smilingly. (Tom Swift, anyone?) I was taken aback by the sharp tongue of this woman, but she led to a place on the shelf where there was space taken up by a concoction from the Flying Dog Brewery out of Franklin, Maryland. In keeping with their dog-style (!) themed beer names, this beer was called Raging Bitch Belgian-Style India Pale Ale.

Gail had a smile which exposed even her wisdom teeth. I grabbed a bottle and examined the label. On the front was a seemingly obscene illustration of a wild dog by Ralph Steadman who does all the label artwork for Flying Dog. Down at the bottom was a small, terse statement: 8.3% ABV with IBUs of 60!

In those quick microseconds it took to make a decision, I thought IPA, Bleah. Belgian-style, interesting. High ABV, even more so. I also thought that I should investigate the IPA style of beers with a new head of steam. I checked the price. $10.49 for the sixpack. Gail saw me looking at it and said, “It’s a little expensive but we’ve already sold two sixpacks.” Hmm. There were two sixers left on the shelf. I grabbed one and said, “I’ll buy it just based on the name.” Once again, I got a glimpse of wisdom teeth.

Back home, I was able to examine the label closer. The bottle label artwork may be considered by some as obscene, but after all, it is a picture of a female dog, as anatomically correct as Steadman can depict. On the side was the “brewery-speak”, touting the care and effort which went into the making of this beer.

“Two inflammatory 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

How profound! How scary! Perhaps we have a beer that will attack the tongue with fury unbeknownst to mankind. Like a raging bitch. I’m sure we all know someone who qualifies for that title. It’s a fact that along with Steadman, Hunter S. Thompson had some influence on the Flying Dog Brewery as well. Check out this link from their website. Link.

So what are we looking at here? Keywords are Gonzo, Steadman, Hunter S. Thompson, India Pale Ale and raging bitch. This should be quite the adventure. Let us begin.

The beer poured with a slightly orange hue carrying a nice off-white head of about a good half-inch. Lots of large bubbles slowly made their way to the top. The liquid itself was nice, crystal clear. The beer had a very slight aroma which briefly reminded me of caraway seeds in rye bread.

The first sip had a very pleasant flavor of yellow grapefruit accompanied by a bit of maltiness. The beer was light to the tongue and went down rather easily. The 60 IBUs of bitterness did not end at the swallow but rather at the back of the tongue, just before the plunge.

I couldn’t get over how the combination of the malts and the bitterness of the hops made for this nice, pleasant grapefruit flavor. I don’t know whether it was the intention of the brewmaster to make a beer that tasted like grapefruit, or if that’s what you get when you get the proper ratio of hops of to malts. I also don’t know if the Belgian yeasts are responsible for this nice, crisp, grapefruity taste or whether it was the type of hops used in the brewing process. Don’t forget this is only the second IPA I’ve ever reviewed and I’m getting over my trepidation of buying and sampling these high hopped IPAs.

Towards the bottom of the first glass, the bitterness remained but became more subdued. The drink morphed into a rather nice, citrusy kind of brew, still tasting like beer all the way down. A subtle sweetness came forward at the front of the tongue. The more I sipped, the more I liked the taste of this beer.

I may not be over my leeriness of IPAs just because of the memories of Celebration Ale, an IPA from Sierra Nevada. As I remember, it was a beer that tasted like a mouthful of rubber bands. But, then again, I was a little wet behind the ears at the time and not that knowledgeable of beer styles. Perhaps now, after brewing beer in the kitchen and knowing all the ingredients and steps involved in the process, I’m starting to appreciate the more esoteric tastes of these “exotic” beers.

In my opinion, Raging Bitch is a beer for a change of pace. For once, try to get away from the ales and stouts and try something light, but with a little taste kick to it. The bitterness of this beer is it’s forte, but it doesn’t dominate the taste. It makes for truly unique flavor that some would consider hard to pull off. This is only a grapefruit beer for the first half glassful. After that it’s a pleasant, tasty beer with a crisp afternote. Your tongue will thank you later for the nice workout.

The SixPackTech ratings for Flying Dog Belgian-Style India Pale Ale are:

Taste: B+ > Another dimension for the tongue.
Smoothness: B > Sips slip silently south.
Drinkability: B- > A coupla more would do just fine, thanks.
Bang for the buck: B- > Under two bucks a bottle is tolerable in this case.
ABV: 8.3% << Keep this in mind.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (Sip) MM. Oh, it’s perfumey. (sip) OOK. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s gotta tang but.. (sip) I don’t like it. It’s like what Avon perfume would taste like. (Ding-Dong! Check the front door; see who’s calling.)

Tour of the Flying Dog Brewery in 5 parts – Yes, Gonzo is a keyword here.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Raging Bitch

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