I was first introduced to Flying Dog Brewery's Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA at Petrol Station. The bartender had been talking up a bunch of double IPAs, but changed gears slightly when I mentioned that I'm not the biggest hop-hound in the world. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate a good India Pale, but sometimes feel that breweries (and drinkers) take a more-is-more approach to the style, simply adding more and more hops until that's about all you can taste. I would much rather drink a beer that offers balance than one that seems like it's attacking your palate, and that's why the Bitch was perfect for me.
I loved it so much there that I went right out and bought a six-pack to enjoy at home. The beer pours a clear amber that turns to lustrous reddish gold in the light, with a creamy, off-white head that quickly settles to a scant quarter-inch and leaves delicate lacing. It's a lovely beer to look at, with an unexpected clarity for the style, which tends toward cloudiness.
The aroma takes most of its cues from the Belgian aspects, with yeasty esters coming through most clearly. Bubblegum notes linger, making me recall opening packs of Topps baseball cards as a kid, and a slight breadiness sits just under the surface, while some hoppy spice and floral notes waft through in the background, recalling roses and coriander. There's also something I can't quite place, sort of like hot plastic, though not as overpowering or offensive as that sounds. Help me out here, beer geeks; is that phenols at play?
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At first sip, the hops come on strong, with a zinging bitterness that tugs at the sides of the tongue and follows down the back of the throat. It's balanced by the repeating floral and spicy notes, with refreshing hints of citrus livening things up even more. After that initial dose of hops, the yeast has its turn, with more bubblegum augmented by cloves for a slightly sharper taste. The malt contributes hints of caramel that come through more on the soft palate, the aromatic rather than taste end of the flavor phenomenon.
At 8.3 percent ABV, this beer has some heft, and that alcohol does show through a bit toward the end, helping the beer hint at sweetness rather than actually becoming sweet. It actually finishes quite dry, with a refreshing bitterness at the end, bringing things right back around via that hoppy punch.
Raging Bitch is extremely well balanced between bitter, aromatic hops and the sweeter influence of Belgian yeast. It doesn't taste like a Belgian, but it doesn't taste like your typical hop-monster American IPA, either, though it definitely leans more in that direction than it does toward the Trippels it hints at. It's kind of like the Don Quixote of IPAs, with a Belgian Sancho Panza acting as foil. The hops are heavy, but the yeast keeps them from constantly attacking windmills.