Beer Review: Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian-Style India Pale Ale

If beer historians are correct, the Indian Pale Ale evolved from the English pale ale style during the days of the British Empire.  A higher alcohol content and an abundant hop addition both acted as preservatives during the long ship journeys from England to India.  Around the same time, Belgian brewers were using wild yeast strains and open fermenting vessels to give their beer spicy, fruity, and sour flavors.  Many breweries have sought to emulate Belgian beer styles – New Belgium has built their craft brewing empire on this pursuit – but few have attempted to combine English and Belgian styles before Flying Dog released their “Belgian-Style” Raging Bitch IPA.

Raging Bitch pours a clear but slightly hazy pale amber with coarse, bubbly foam that dissipates quickly.  Sweet and citrusy hops are immediately evident in the scent, with a strong lemon smell and a hint of honey and brown sugar.  The hops and the Belgian yeast conspire to create a very convincing lemon tartness, so much so that one suspects there might be actual lemon in the beer.  A 60 IBU bite can be more easily attributed to the pungent Warrior, Columbus, and Amarillo hops.  Likewise, the “El Diablo” yeast strain imparts a flavor reminiscent of a strong tripel Belgian ale.  Tying together and balancing these strong flavors is a faint and neutral malt sweetness.  The 8.3% alcohol content is certainly noticeable, but is also subtle enough to be drinkable.

While beer purists from both the Belgian ale and IPA camps might frown upon such stylistic mash-ups such as the Belgian-style IPA or the Black IPA (see Oredigger, 10 Oct. 2010), these risky experimental ales often strike gold and go on to create traditions of their own.  With a flavor that is more than the sum of its parts, Raging Bitch earns an A- grade.  If you like Raging Bitch, check out other strong ales in Flying Dog’s Canis Major series, especially the Gonzo Imperial Porter.

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