It should be no news to anyone who likes my blog that I really appreciate excellent branding and novel packaging when it comes to beer (or wine). Identity after all, should not be over looked or under valued when attempting to stand out in a sea of beers on a liquor store shelf. Yes, it’s always the “quality of product” that keeps them coming back, but how many of us have picked up a bottle of beer simply because there was something compelling about the name or label. So it’s with that thought in my mind that I turn to the next beer in my “beers I drink a lot of” series – Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch.
The first key element to product branding in my mind is the name. A brewery’s name should capture a feel or essence that the owner is trying to convey about the brewery and the beers they’re going to produce , or at the very least have a cool story behind it. George Stranahan is the man behind this cool story. Opening the brewpub (they wouldn’t go full brewery status until 1994) in 1990 George knew that he was going to call it “Flying Dog” from the very beginning. The name stemmed from a mountain climbing trip in 1983 when George and 12 others traveled to Pakistan to attempt a climb up the notorious K2. Luckily for George and the others, the trip was without major incident except for the team running out of booze on day 17 of what was scheduled to be a 35-day trip.
Once back at the Hotel the team, eager to dispel their “dryness”, sat down for some drinks when George caught sight of a huge oil painting of a dog. The dog appeared to have left the ground for some reason, and the phrase “flying dog” was forever etched into Georges consciousness.
Having a killer name to fall back on, the second item that makes good product branding is the label. To really make his product stand out, George enlisted renowned artist Ralph Steadman (probably best known for his work with author Hunter S. Thompson) in 1996. Bringing his recognizable style to the brewery’s dog themed labels, Steadman has succeeded in giving Flying Dog a truly unique identity that you can spot on the shelves from aisles away.
But like I’ve always said, all that goes for naught if the beer is shit. Let’s taste.
THEM: Raging Bitch is a hybrid Belgian style IPA. The beer developed from playing around with the white beer yeast they use in there Woody Creek White, and a hopped up version of their Snake Dog IPA wort. The grain bill is simple, 6% 60L caramel and the rest pale 2-row. The beer is bittered with Warrior to ~65 IBU. Columbus and Amarillo hops are used towards end boil for flavor and aroma. The finished wort is fermented to 8.3% ABV with their El Diablo yeast. The beer was brewed in 2010 to celebrate the brewery’s 20th Anniversary and has been a regular offering ever since.
ME: Raging Bitch pours a light orange color with a quarter inch head of fine bubbles. When you tilt the glass from side to side, the head leaves a fine film of lace on the glass. The aroma contains hints floral hops, spice and Belgian yeast. The flavor is pretty much more of the same with a start of malt in the front which turns into a medley of grapefruit, pepper spice, very light floral hop and more Belgian yeast. The middle has a bit of a tingle due to it from the carbonation that gives the beer a nice refreshing and then finishes with a lingering spicy bitterness.
I’ve loved this beer since my first sip and when I decided to review it I bought a whole six pack to enjoy over the weekend. Some of you might have noticed that I’ve managed to go the whole review without some adolescent comment over the beer’s provocative name. Knowing I’ll disappoint some of my readers if I do not, I’ll leave you with this. I’d like to try a half-and-half with this beer and Stone’s Arrogant Bastard. The name for this concoction would be my father’s favorite colorful phrase when ever something didn’t go as he intended (think wrench slipping off of a bolt in a VW bug engine resulting in what we used to call “a three knuckle buster” – aka, The “Bitch, Bastard!”
Time for another beer….