Brewing All Stars #3: Flying Dog Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale
Date: July 18 , 2019 — This post is in progress. Return soon for it. In the meantime, click “more reviews” below to see our most recent “Beer of the Day” posts.
The Story— We’ve said all we need to about Flying Dog, “the brewery we hate to love;” except a reminder that the reason we keep returning to them is that they brew really well. In a beer market increasingly divided between small garage type breweries and big aggressive marketers Flying Dog is just big enough, we believe, to survive whatever is happening right now. Whether it does so independently (bye bye Dogfish Head) remains to be seen.
This beer isn’t their best seller, but its a steady player in a portfolio that has enabled Flying Dog to earn its position as the 38th largest brewery in the US — just ahead of stalwarts Troëgs and Rogue.
You want a local Maryland beer? What would that mean?!? Of course there were brewers in colonial times making fairly disgusting beer (though maybe some would do well today as “sours”). Baltimore’s iconic Natty Boh was certainly local, and helped make a minor league sized city play major league baseball for years, but the beer was pale yellow stuff that was as much Cream City (Milwaukee) as Charm City.
But there is a product that is unquestionably linked to Maryland. A German immigrant fleeing Nazi Germany in 1937 with only a spice grinder spent a week working for McCormick’s spice company before opening his own Baltimore Spice Company to supply local markets. His blend of 15 ingredients took on the name of the defunct Chesapeake steamship line called Old Bay and soared. McCormick bought the rights in 1990 and has spread distribution beyond Maryland borders. It’s also found its way into everything from popcorn to ice cream.
In 2014 flying Dog created Dead Rise beer beer to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first batch of Old Bay. It’s a god ale– just short of amber– that uses real Old Bay and lemon to achieve a remarkably inviting taste. We’ve rarely had a second, but we’ve never failed to finish the first.
It could be a gimmick, and maybe it sort of was, but it’s actually something of an American — actually Maryland– gruit, and tastier than lots of gruit recreations from other breweries with weaker claims to “local” spice mixes. We grab a few of these every Keys season at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick. It seems just right to go with a very local minor league baseball team.
The Beer-It always surprises me that it takes a second sip to really pick up the Old Bay, which could have been, but wasn’t, overused. the spices then hit, but back off again with habituation if you have a few of them. three of four of them are more pleasant than the drumbeat of the British Golding hops which never back off. As an American gruit it works – salty, peppery, but spicy with some hops and wheat showing as it drinks.
Value —Very good. Flying Dog is big enough not to rely on high individual bottle prices. They’re attempts to achieve volume ensure reasonable pricing.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.
It’s All-Star season. MLB has finished theirs, but it seems like a new sport is showcasing exceptional talent almost every day. So we’ll be presenting our own all-star brewing line up. We don’t claim to present– or even know– what the best beers in America are, but out of the hundred or so that we taste every month, some are indeed special. For the second couple of weeks in July, we’ll share some recent standouts in a very crowded craft beer field. .
We’re often asked to share our tasting notes on over 33,000 beers; this blog is in answer to those requests. Not all our notes, though. The great beer writer Michael Jackson admirably followed the Thumper Rule, and we’ll try to do the same. (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”) All the beers we post are from the top half of our ratings and most are from the top quarter. Of greater value, we think, are the stories behind the beers, and we try to give you enough about the brewery, the style and the places to find great beer to help you on your own beer journeys. At CulturAle Press we try to write books and publish posts that will help you “Drink Well and Travel Safely.”
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