January 26, 2009

Review: Flying Dog Brewing Tasting Room

The folks and myself made our way west to lovely Frederick, Md. Saturday to revisit the Flying Dog Brewery and tasting room. Flying Dog relocated to Maryland from its home base in Colorado several years ago, acquiring and sharing its current facility with Wild Goose Brewing.

Flying Dog is open on Saturdays from 130-4 PM, with tours at 2 and 3. We skipped the tour this time, but its usually lively and casual and recommended if you have the time and haven't done it before. Flying Dog also has a small gift shop to pick up glasses, shirts, clean growlers and so on.

The tasting room was the focus for us this time. Most of their regular lineup was pouring, except they had subbed the Kerberos Tripel for an offering from their Wild Dog series, Dog Schwarz. That Dog Schwarz, bytheway, was quite smokey. I was expecting something a bit more sweet and subdued, but this came out like a smoked/rauch beer, such as Alaskan Brewing's Smoked Porter or the famous German smoked beers from Schlenkerla in Bamberg.

Additionally, they had a full line of Wild Goose taps including their winter seasonal Snow Goose and their fall seasonal pumpkin beer. Flying Dog also had a cask although it wasn't pouring, and a "nitro blend" with their Horn Dog Barley Wine and something else mixed in there. For those unfamiliar, a nitro tap is what something like Guinness usually (always) is poured from, it seems to soften the beer and creates that cascading effect which is so visually enticing. The reason I was excited to go, however, was the day-of availability of their spring seasonal offering, the Garde Dog modeled after the French Biere De Garde style beers.

The tasting room inevitably ends up a very lively place packed with people, but Flying Dog has wisely done some things to tone it down a tad. The last time I was there, you could purchase a glass for $5 and there would be pretty much unlimited half-pours. Now, all the glasses are marked with a 6 oz line and you are handed (6) fanned bottlecaps upon entry to redeem for tasters. What you choose to do with them is your discretion.

I targeted the Garde Dog but was told they were out. Stunning. However, about an hour later I found them pouring from the Garde Dog tap, so I guess another keg had been put on, which didn't last long either. I had it from a bottle once last year and enjoyed it, but like many beers this came across much more lively and fresh on tap, even at just over six ounces. It was spicey and earthy, pale in color but not so floral or funky as some saisons but in a similar general range of flavor to it. I was hooked.

Equally impressive, and to my surprise, was their Doggie Style classic pale ale. I've generally passed over this beer, but several ounces in it woke me up a bit. The flavor was solid, but what really hit me was the aroma. It reminded me of some of the great IPA's and pale ales I had been enjoying recently in San Diego. Checking their literature, Flying Dog named the hops: Northern Brewer and Cascade. It was described as having a "powerful Cascade hop aroma with a sweet caramel body and a distinct hop bite. Dry hopped during fermentation with a shitload of Cascade hops".

Which prompted me to text my friend Steve, Anchorman style, "I love Cascade". I love Cascade!

Only now have I begun paying attention to hopping and the details behind beers, so apologies for sounding like a novice at times even a year into this Baltimore Beer Guy thing. I don't homebrew although I am looking into that. However I did work with Steve to make a Belgian Pale Ale on my recent trip to California, more details about that later in another entry. But back to Flying Dog.

Everything else there was fun, obviously we didn't try every beer, but got around to most of Flying Dog's offerings and a few from Wild Goose, which tends to be a bit conservative in flavor for me. They're modeled more after British ales and lagers, so are more subdued and classic in temperament.

It is also worth mentioning Flying Dog offers growler fills. They sell growlers in the store, but many people there had brought their own various growlers to take home the good stuff. Near the entrance to the tasting room there is a beer fridge where guests can get take-home 4, 6 and 12 packs of whatever Flying Dog's put in the fridge. As mentioned here a few days ago they also have 12-packs of the 7-oz "pony" bottles, that are available. I saw one customer also had a 750ml bottle of the Dog Schwarz ready to go.

This being winter, everyone was crammed inside, but in warmer times there's a patio that I've read employees will sometimes crank out the BBQ, and people can generally relax just outside the tasting room. The patio covering was draped with hop vines last time I was there, but was empty this time. Hopefully those make a return.

Coming up ... a review of Growlers (Gaithersburg, Md.)

Pictured above: two nice ladies we met at the tasting room, Deborah and Barb; Baltimore Beer Guy feeding the goose


Steve said...

Finally pictures! You need to take your parents with you more often so we can get some photos to go along with all this writing. Some of us are only visual learners.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Not to be one to brag about seniority, but I remember back when Wild Goose didn't even have a tasting room--if you found the unmarked door and showed up, you were rewarded with a bottle out of the staff refrigerator. Of course, that was back in the days when they were in the old abandoned oyster cannery in Cambridge..... in 1989 or thereabouts!

BeerGuy said...

Seniority? I call that great background, glad to hear stuff like that.