Beer Notebook: Flying Dog’s Easy IPA

IPAs are tricky. It’s easy to overload an India Pale Ale with enough hops to sink a clipper bound for Calcutta, and many a microbrewer has inflicted a resinous, piney, viscous liquid on unsuspecting fans of the style. But too much restraint with the hops leaves a confirmed hops-head such as myself wanting more. So when a brewer manages to find that balance, I tend to go back to that IPA over and over.

Easy IPA

But, traditionally, the IPA tends towards the stronger side, and as the calendar turns to summer, a lighter, more sessionable quaff is demanded. Session IPAs have been around for awhile on the American brewing scene, and when my former session IPA standby, 21st Amendment’s Bitter American, ceased production in 2015, replaced by the fine-but-not-amazing Down to Earth, I figured it would just be a matter of time before I found a good replacement. Little did I know it would take about a year.

Finally, I found a very drinkable session IPA, Easy IPA, from a most unlikely source: Frederick, Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery. I say unlikely because I’ve always found Flying Dog’s beers to be inventive and interesting and usually good for one bottle as an experience. One look at their Dead Rise Summer Ale, with Old Bay seasoning, sort of proves the point. I’ve seldom gone back to a Flying Dog beer after the first bottle.

Easy IPA, on the other hand, does what it says on the tin (and also on the bottle, as it’s available in both formats)—just an easy drinking IPA, with a rush of hops on the palate that quickly fades while retaining an overall pleasant bitterness. Only a subtle floral aroma comes off the head, and it provides a more quenching taste than the usual IPA. The hops are pronounced but non-aggressive in character, clocking in at 50 IBU, making Easy IPA a welcome companion on a summer afternoon. And at 4.7% ABV, it’s a companion you can keep around for a bit. Certainly, Easy IPA stands as the best beer in Flying Dog’s stable.

I’d still choose Bitter American over Easy IPA, but since I can’t anymore, I find that Easy IPA is an, ah, easy choice for my standard session IPA.

Beer Notebook: Flying Dog’s Dead Rise Summer Ale

Flying Dog Dead Rise Summer Ale

Spices in beer don’t typically impress me. I’m not looking to a beer for coriander or clove, and I’ll take just about any style over a wheat beer. But when I heard that Flying Dog, out of Frederick, Maryland, had teamed up with the folks behind Old Bay Seasoning to create Dead Rise Summer Ale, well, I needed to sample this unlikely pairing.

For those not in the natural habitat of Old Bay Seasoning, imagine a salty paprika mixture, rust red in color, typically sprinkled on crabs with abandon and rather tasty on popcorn as well. It’s a bold taste, pronounced but not spicy-hot, one that can dominate, so to pair it with a drinkable beer is a testament to the brewer’s art.

Termed a summer ale, Dead Rise is a wheat beer with a characteristic clove and banana aroma tinged with just a hint of paprika. It drinks quite smoothly, again apropos of a wheat beer, and the effect of a quaff is not unlike eating Utz’s “Crab” Chips, which are coated in a similar spice mixture, the bready nature of the wheat beer capturing the flavor profile of the chips. Which is not to say that drinking Dead Rise is like drinking potato chips—it’s a quite drinkable beer with a very slight paprika aftertaste on the palate. The Old Bay Seasoning sneaks up on you rather than forcing its presence onto the scene.

I had hoped for an unfiltered beer, with succulent paprika sediment, but alas, this is a filtered brew. At 5.6% ABV and restricted to the summer season, Dead Rise would make a nice accompaniment to a cook out. Given my general aversion to wheat beers, I’m not likely to pick up another six pack of this beer, but it’s another bold experiment from Flying Dog that does what it says on the tin…er, bottle.