Now this is an interesting one. In a battle of the international (brew) dogs, it was decided that the UK’s very own Brewdog would go head to head against Maryland’s Flying Dog. The challenge: to brew the same IPA and then let the public decide which was best. The twist here is that they wouldn’t use hops.
Yes, two famous hop-led breweries producing a hopless IPA. Clever, eh? Instead they had to use spearmint, bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berries, and elderflower to impart bitterness. In a tightly fought series of blind tastings, the Flying Dog version emerged as the winner.
It’s 7.5% and comes in a 12oz bottle. It poured amber with good carbonation and an initial decent looking head that disappeared incredibly quickly. I got some bubblegum (spearmint?) and quite a bit of floral (elderflower?) notes in the aroma.
Taste wise, there is the usual solid malt backbone that you would expect from an IPA. Beyond that the overall impression is herbal. The unusual ingredients have been used to good effect to produce a dry finish that is similar to, but distinct from, hop infused bitterness.
Somewhat surprisingly, I found myself liking this beer. It’s something of a palate cleanser: the alcohol is well hidden and the various herbs and berries combine well to prick the old taste buds. It’s not going to replace the traditional hop-led IPA in my affections, but it’s a solid performer.