On a long Sunday a couple of months ago, my girlfriend Maggie and I had an idea to try a few beers in a blind taste test and give them a score between 1 and 5. What a great plan this was!
In our initial test run, Maggie and I covered the labels of four beers from 5 Rabbit Brewery out of Bedford Park, Illinois. We made the mistake of not eating anything to cleanse our palette between tastes, and I believe this caused each beer to taste worse than the last. We both ended up liking 5 Lizard (a wheat beer) the best. Overall, I think we were a little underwhelmed by the offerings. However, we would not be deterred from continuing our research.
In our second attempt last Saturday (and the first one I am posting about), we decided to try the offerings from Flying Dog Brewery out of Frederick, Maryland. Flying Dog began as a brewpub in Aspen, Colorado in 1990, and continued to evolve under the guidance of founder George Stranahan (PhD!) into a full-fledged brewery in Denver by 1994. They have since moved their brewing operations to Maryland, and are currently led by CEO Jim Caruso, who looks quite a bit like Jim Koch of Samuel Adams fame.
Flying Dog has ten year-round and nine seasonal beers in their arsenal, but we’re not alcoholics (at least that’s what we tell ourselves), so we decided to purchase just six beers to try: Woody Creek (Belgian style white), Gonzo (Imperial porter), Doggie Style (classic pale ale), In-Heat Wheat (hefeweizen), Old Scratch (amber lager) and Raging Bitch (Belgian style IPA). As I said before, we graded each beer on a scale of 1-5, but made sure to write down our scores before sharing our thoughts, so as to not influence each other’s opinions. What follows is our scores and thoughts for each of the six beers we tested.
Belgian Style White – 4.8% ABV
Both Maggie and I agreed that Woody Creek was a pretty swell beer. Now would be a good time to point out that our beer vocabularies are pretty limited. This beer was the only seasonal we tried, and it was quite refreshing. It reminded me a bit of Allagash White, which is a favorite of both of ours.
Score: 8.5/10 (Andy: 4.5/5, Maggie: 4/5)
Imperial Porter – 9.2% ABV
One of the flaws of our taste test strategy of covering the labels is that you can still pretty easily tell when a porter is a porter when you pour it. With that said, Gonzo is a pretty good porter! It also scored the highest out of any of the beers we tried. Maggie referred to it as “Winter bliss” and I completely agree. It was very smooth and delicious.
Score: 9/10 (Andy: 4.5/5, Maggie: 4.5/5)
Classic Pale Ale – 5.5% ABV
Both of us were lukewarm on Doggie Style. Maggie commented that it was very “hoppy,” which is generally not what she looks for in a beer. I personally thought the smell of the beer was a bit off-putting (cigarettes?), but hey, this isn’t a smell test. Side note: we should try deaf smell tests next.
Score: 6/10 (Andy: 3/5, Maggie: 3/5)
Hefeweizen – 4.7% ABV
Another high-scoring brew, especially with Maggie. We both found it easy to drink (too easy?) and very refreshing. Truthfully, this was the first beer we tested, and because of that, I may have scored it a little lower than I would have had it been tested later in our research.
Score: 8.5/10 (Andy: 3.5/5, Maggie: 5/5)
Amber Lager – 5.5% ABV
Another 8.5! We’re going to have to be a little less kind in future reviews. Old Scratch has good body and definitely some sweetness, but we both agreed that it really succeeded by having absolutely no aftertaste. Especially in a taste test, the lack of a sweet (or bitter) aftertaste is greatly appreciated.
Score: 8.5/10 (Andy: 4/5, Maggie: 4.5/5)
Belgian Style IPA – 8.3% ABV
We did not care much for Raging Bitch. Maggie usually does not like IPAs, so they won’t often score high with her. For me, the aftertaste was unbearable. In fact, we took about a 15-minute break after drinking this beer just so we could get the taste out of our mouths. Maggie referred to it as “metallic,” which actually seems pretty kind to me.
Score: 4.5/10 (Andy: 2/5, Maggie: 2.5/5)
That does it for our first official blind taste test. Overall, Flying Dog brews several very good beers, and at some point, I think we’d like to try the rest of their lineup. Which brewery should we try next?