During a recent excursion to the fine city of Baltimore, Maryland, I stopped for dinner at a local restaurant. While waiting for my table to be prepared, I sat at the bar and noticed an interesting tap handle on the draft line. A wild, Rohrshach inspired splatter painted label that said “Gonzo”. Holy Hunter S. Thompson, I had to try this. It was love at first taste and inspired me to find out more and a little bit of research led me to Flying Dog Brewery. Started in 1990 in Aspen, Colorado with operations since moved to Frederick, Maryland, the history of the brewery is tied closely to the counter culture Gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thomspon, as brewery founder George Stranahan formed a close friendship with him in Colorado circa ’69. Introduced then to Ralph Steadman, Thompson’s signature illustrator proved another fruitful bond as Steadman would add his iconic art to the brewery’s labels. Thoroughly impressed, I kept an eye out and ordered a draft or bottle anytime I saw the Flying Dog name. Finally tracking down the Shock and Awe sampler case, I gathered several other confidantes of discriminating palettes and we proceeded to get silly and jump off boat docks into suspicious river water. Here are the impressions of what was in the case:
- Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout : meh, sounded better in principle, as a stout/porter champion I wasn’t too impressed. Bit of brine from the oysters they brew it with, tasted at times like when I’m dicking around in the ocean with a beer in hand and fall on my ass, letting some sea water in. The complexities of the stout somewhat balance that out but it leaves that brine aftertaste everywhere. Ok if that’s your palette, but for me I’d prefer the stout as it was and to pair it with some seafood instead. Not actually put the seafood in the beer.
- Underdog Atlantic Lager: easy drinking beer as are all lagers, surprising winner of pack and if Underdog is the name, then this beer is Rocky. Really smooth to swallow but not piss water like the Millers of the world, some hop to it which is a shock for a lager, thought I’d be drinking this last but wound up preferring it as did several others in my party.
- SnakeDog India Pale Ale: way too fucking hoppy, better off eating something strong tasting with it such as a punch to the face. Decently high alcohol % so there’s that. Men who like this can fuck off with their pretentious selves, girls who like this can hang with me any day. Anyone who takes that advice seriously should stop drinking immediately.
- DoggieStyle Pale Ale: decent, mellow, leaning towards hoppy, pretty unremarkable as far as pale ales go but does a pretty serviceable job. Although with a name like DoggieStyle, I certainly didn’t remember it nor save it for last. Perhaps Missionary would be an apt rebrand?
Overall for 50$, an uneven sampler. Would have preferred some of the other brews in there, even a seasonal beer like the Woody Creek Belgian White which is my favorite Flying Dog brew or year round offerings like the Raging Bitch Belgian IPA or Gonzo Imperial Porter. Still, something always to be said about the Ralph Steadman art on the bottles, and landing him was a minor coup.