Flying Dog: International Arms Race (USA: Spice and Herb Ale: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy amber with lots of orange to red bits within in. Fizzes up but doesn’t settle into a head. Quite a bit of carbonation.

Nose: Squeezed orange and ginseng. Herbal and minty. Ginger root. Sour grapes.

Body:  Marmalade. Bitter but sweet. Grapefruit juice. Herbal bitterness, maybe dill.

Finish; Good bitterness and greenery. Marmalade again. Tart pineapple.

Conclusion: Despite my Brewdog bias I have to say, in the international arms race Flying Dog have taken the crown.

Unlike Brewdog who, against type, went much closer to the traditional interpretation of the unhopped beers, Flying Dog have gone for this fruity, solidly bitter and fresh grapefruit in an American style solidly herbal beer.

Marmalade is definitely the base flavour, and brings recollection of Dalmore’s whisky range to mind. This beer, again in contrast to the Brewdog version, does at least bear a passing resemblance to the IPA style. Well if you squint a bit anyway.  The bitterness is solid, and the freshness tends towards the pineapple and grapefruit notes of a lot of American hops. Heck even the marmalade isn’t a million miles away from the heavy Apricot hop IPAs that seem all the rage in the USA.

That said it is still definitely its own thing, herbal and fresh with a shit ton of bits in it. Frankly I am impressed. It isn’t really an IPA, but there are enough calls to the style that I’m satisfied with this zero hop interpretation.

Refreshing, a call-back to traditional ales, bitter and flavoursome. By its nature it is rough edged, definitely an unpolished gem, but a gem nonetheless and one with charm.

A definite winner of the arms race.

Background: Drank the Brewdog version of this a short while back, and as explained there these two beers were created as part of a competition to create and IPA style beer but without using any hops. This version uses bay leaves, rosemary, juniper, spearmint, elderflower and orange peel instead. Flying Dog are pretty easy to get this side of the pond, but for some reason I’ve never got around to doing a tasting note on one of them (Edit: I totally forgot, Snakedog IPA. Ok. Nearly never then.)