Special Tasting Notes: Flying Dog Barrel Aged Horn Dog

Posted on 02.08.08 8:35PM under Barley Wine, Free Beer, Tasting

Flying Dog Barrel Aged Horn DogThis is the second of the free beer series I got from the generous Flying Dog brewery.

Horn Dog is Flying Dog’s barley wine. I have written about it here before. To summarize, it is a really good American Barley Wine. I found the hops to be a little more forward than some more traditional English-style Barley Wines. Fortunately, I’m American, so I like the big American twist on beer. Thinking back, and comparing to something like Bigfoot, it isn’t very hoppy, but compared to others in the genre, it is pretty hoppy. Overall I liked it a lot.

Matt Brophy, the Flying Dog head brewer, went ahead and made a special version of the Horn Dog, and aged it in oak barrels fresh from the whiskey farm (presumably the one next door at Stranahan’s). Then they even made special labels and everything and started spreading it around. I was totally happy and honored to receive one of these. I’d read about them, but didn’t think I’d ever have one. Now that I have, I am planning my next brew that I can age on some whiskey-soaked oak. Maybe I should do a Barrel Aged Horn Dog clone…

Barrel Aged Horn Dog Ring of BubblesMy bottle seemed to be a little compromised. There was a little ring of coarse bubbles around the surface of the beer inside the bottle. You can kind of see it in the photo. I thought maybe it was shipping mess, but it still wasn’t cleared up by today. Then I noticed that the cap was sort of dinged. Popping it open revealed no zip of escaping CO2. The pour didn’t cause more than ten bubbles – probably those same ones I could see inside the bottle. Fortunately, I am used to beer without bubbles, from sampling homebrew at bottling time so often. But from what I’ve seen, most others get this beer with standard bubbles in it. Darn UPS…

Fortunately, even without bubbles, this beer was awesome. Again, let me say that I was not swayed by the freeness of the beer. If it weren’t good, I couldn’t sit here and lie to you. I almost feel like I have to post a bad review of a popular beer here to prove it. But really, I try to present the benefits and drawbacks evenly as the beer reveals them. So here goes…
The aroma is just overwhelmingly like spirits. Is it bourbon or whiskey? I never really knew the difference, but I further determined it to be a vanilla-oriented aroma. And I also then noticed that the bottle goes ahead and tells me (“this is the dog talking, now”) that it’s oak whiskey barrels. So I guess that’s what oak whiskey barrels smell like. Forget all about any barley wine raisin or whatever aromas. This is all wood. A good 350-yard drive, too.

The appearance isn’t great. The color is a nice dark dark brown. That’s two darks on purpose. But without any bubbles, it’s not as pretty as I’d like. It has that murky look that barley wines seem to intend to have, but I am not a fan of murky waters. Even when they smell and taste like this. I don’t know if the no-carb thing is some sort of Atkins dieter appeal, or from the dinged-bottle-cap-ring-of-bubbles thing, but I like at least a few bubbles, even if all the CO2 is in suspension, and not highly expressed as head. But I do like good head, too. (Sorry, just couldn’t resist.) Fortunately, the appearance is basically tertiary or even quaternary (is that the right word, BobbyO?) to the experience, so not too big a deal.

The taste is just as great as the aroma. Now it isn’t your daddy’s barley wine. This thing is mad oak/whiskey/vanilla/yum yum goodness. Intense is the word. It is very warming as it goes down, from the first sip. That of course fades, perhaps as my throat and other digestive organs along the way became numb from the pure ecstasy of the whole thing. Hops bring a bitterness in the middle, and are accentuated by an alcohol burn/bitterness. There’s even a little oxidation in there, in a good way. Makes it seem somehow more authentic. Don’t ask me. I just write what the brain tells me to. The finish was dry and even a little chalky. But overall it was big, strong, firm, and solid. If there was some CO2 in there, it would be even better. I was wanting for the prickle of bubbles, and a little lifting sensation on the tongue, but even without it, this was great.

This is a beautiful contemplative sipper. Perfect for the churchy beer meetings they’re talking about in the latest Yankee Brew News. I tried it with my red meat sauce and pasta dinner, but the woody beer totally dominated the sauce. Most Barley Wines pair perfectly with this meat sauce. But I could tell what would be best. After I wolfed down the food, I got myself a bowl of Green & Black’s Vanilla Ice Cream, and tried a small combined-in-the-mouth beer-and-ice-cream match. Heaven. So I poured an appropriate amount of beer into the bowl of ice cream, mixed thoroughly, and allowed it to warm up to fully combine, like coffee and creamer. What a perfect match. If you ever have a chance to drink this beer, get some vanilla ice cream. I don’t care if it’s 30 degrees (that’s less than 0 – freakin’ freezing! – for you non-Fahrenheit people) the Barrel Aged Horn Dog will warm you right up.

I am so thankful to Flying Dog for sending me this dreamy and rare concoction. I can only hope that it becomes commercially available soon. And that when it is, there are bubbles in there. My BeerAdvocate review ends up in an A-, which is about right. I bet with CO2, it’s an A all the way. Flying Dog, you must make more of this!

Read Comments

  1. Posted by BobbyO on 02.08.08 10:55 PM

    3 entries found.

    Main Entry:
    \ˈkwä-tə(r)-ˌner-ē, kwə-ˈtər-nə-rē\
    Latin quaternarius, from quaterni four each

    1a. of, relating to, or consisting of four units or members
    1b. of, relating to, or being a number system with a base of four
    2. of, relating to, or being the geological period from the end of the Tertiary to the present time or the corresponding system of rocks — see geologic time table
    3. consisting of, containing, or being an atom bonded to four other atoms

  2. Posted by Keith Brainard on 02.09.08 8:28 AM

    Well I am still not sure. What I meant by “quaternary” was of fourth-rate importance, after taste, aroma, and mouthfeel. I might not even be right in use of Tertiary.

    I always thought of it as primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary, etc. as designations of descending importance…

  3. Posted by BobbyO on 02.09.08 9:44 AM

    You’re correct in your use of quaternary, although it’s an awfully highfalutin’ way of saying what you meant; of course I approve. Although it would’ve been really cool if you had used that word to mean that you thought that the beer looked like young rocks… or like some chemical compound with four bonds. “Nice head, moderate clarity, medium amber hue, with hints of feldspar and methane.” You know, the more that I think about it, the more I like the idea of using rocks as a basis for color or appearance standards. Lord knows I’ve had some beers that tasted like wet rocks.