Spicy Beers, Country Music and Other Things I Thought I Hated

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Spicy Beers, Country Music and Other Things I Thought I Hated

I’m a man, so I’m used to being wrong. It happens like, every single day. Multiple times a day, if I’m being honest. I’m wrong about the kind of waffles my kids want for breakfast, about the restaurant my wife wants to eat at for dinner. I’m wrong about the shows I can let my kids watch, about the kind of jokes I can type in an email before hitting “reply all.” I’m even wrong about the kind of music I like. I’ve spent the last 30-some years thinking I didn’t like country music, then I heard Sturgill Simpson and I’ll be damned, turns out I like country music. Son of a bitch.

Same thing happened with spicy beers recently. I always thought I didn’t like spicy beers, because in my opinion, the spice typically suppresses any other flavor within the beer and comes off as a stupid parlor trick. A novelty for dudes who think choking down a ghost pepper makes them more manly. Why would I want to drink a beer that I have to chase with a glass of milk? Ballast Point’s Habanero Sculpin is the perfect example. I love pretty much every other beer in the Sculpin variant family, but the Habanero? It’s like sucking on a slightly fruity matchstick. So, no, I don’t like spicy beers.

And then Flying Dog sent us a couple of beers from their Heat series, and once again, I was proven wrong. Sure, the beers are spicy, but the heat isn’t a trick; it’s a compliment to the other flavors within the beer. Maybe I do like spicy beers? Maybe I’ve been wrong about a lot of things I thought I didn’t like? Like the Chicken Dance at weddings and tempeh.

Anyway, onto the Flying Dog beers…

Oaked Chipotle Ale

Chipotle is a sweeter pepper to begin with, so I expected this beer to offer something more than just heat. It pours dark brown with a hint of cherry around the edges, and the nose is full of wood and acidic notes. The beer has a thin, but slightly chalky mouthfeel. There are notes of smoke and roasted chocolate, and some bittersweet cherry in the corners of the sip that adds a bright, refreshing element to the spice. And there is spice. The chipotle mingles with the fruit, wood and smoky elements. Let me repeat that, the spice mingles with the other flavors; it doesn’t dominate. That’s the key with this beer; it all works together in unison. And Oaked Chipotle Ale was nothing compared to the other spicy beer Flying Dog sent.

Brewery: Flying Dog
City: Frederick, Md.
Style: Spiced ale
Availability: Limited, 12-ounce bottles

Rating: 79

Fever Dream Mango Habanero IPA

Like all great IPAs, Fever Dream has a really pungent, enticing nose—more sweet than spicy, which was promising, considering that I’ve been burned by habanero beers before. The nose offered some solid foreshadowing, as the mango takes control of the sip, coming on strong on the front end with the spice playing second fiddle. There’s some heat on the backend, but nothing painful. Just a wave of spice as the sip disappears on your tongue. A hefty, malt backbone stands up to the fruity sweetness and spice. The heat compounds a little as you make your way through the bottle, but it never reaches the point where I need to reach for a glass of water for a chaser.

Ultimately, Fever Dream is a solid citrus-forward IPA with just a bit of spice on the backend to add a layer of complexity. Of all of the spicy beers I’ve tried recently, this is probably my favorite.

Brewery: Flying Dog
City: Frederick, Md.
Style: Spiced, and fruit IPA
Availability: Year round, 12-ounce bottles

Rating: 87