Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Review: Flying Dog's "The Fear" Imperial Pumpkin Ale
This may come as a surprise to some, but this is the first time I have ever tried a brew from Maryland-based Flying Dog Brewery. Some will guffaw and ask themselves, upon reading that statement, why I haven't tried their acclaimed IPAs, Raging Bitch and The Truth. To be honest, it does have a bit to do with their label designs. They're all blotchy and angsty-looking. I always see Flying Dog sixers in stores, but never venture into investing in one for fear that the label is all hype and the beer inside has no bite.
But I changed my mind when I recently overheard a sales clerk at the grocery store I work at suggesting pumpkin beers to two young women. He recommended Flying Dog's "The Fear", and gave a few notes on it. I decided that I'd pick up a six pack of the stuff after my shift. So I did, and now I sit with a snifter full of this imperial pumpkin ale, ready to give you my tasting notes.
I must say that I was surprised by how this beer looked. I understood that it might be a bit darker than the average light orange/amber pumpkin brew because it is an imperial pumpkin ale, but it is dark and opaque! The color can be said to be a deep, deep amber, almost like worn out, brownish copper. The tan head pours a rich, creamy finger's worth and settles to a nice cap that sits atop the beer and doesn't entirely dissipate. There isn't a ton of carbonation, but I think its color and head make up for it.
Upon first smelling The Fear, I picked up on the traditional pumpkin ale spices. They're strong, and very pleasant. Deeper in the aroma is the smell of a dark, nutty malt. I picked up traces of chocolate as well, which surprised me. Chocolate in a pumpkin beer? Could this brewery be so bold? Overall, this beer has a deep, malty, and spicy aroma which is delightful.
It opens up with delicious cinnamon and nutmeg spices, then gives way to some of the deeper elements in the brew. Roasty, nutty malts tantalized my tastebuds. There is a bit of a bready malt in there too. To balance out the brew, there are traces of sweet caramel. All of these malts are great, but I do kind of miss the actual taste of pumpkin. I have come to the conclusion that many brewers tend to use the combination of spices used in pumpkin pie - cinnamon and nutmeg, primarily - to create the flavor of pumpkin, but I just get tickled pink when I can actually taste pumpkin malt in a pumpkin beer. For all the flavor of this beer, I didn't sense any pumpkin. And for that, I have to dock points. Don't take it the wrong way, though; this beer still has great flavor!
This brew has a nice body to it: rich and creamy, yet roasty and dark. The wheat malt helps fuel the body of this beer to make it thoroughly present on the palate.
The Fear doesn't have much of a finish. It leaves behind traces of spice, which is good given the lack of pumpkin malt I picked up, and some nuttiness. But its presence upon the finish doesn't stretch much beyond the spices.
Total Score: 76/100
Flying Dog has definitely caught my attention with this beer. Although it lacked the full seasonal taste I was looking for, The Fear is still a rich dark pumpkin ale with huge malty flavor and a very nice appearance. I'd definitely suggest putting a couple bottles in your next mixed six-pack, or even picking up a whole six pack of it alone. I should get out and try more Flying Dog...
Until next time, cheers!