More Flying Dog-related fun at The Black Sheep and Against the Grain lately. The former had the Red Ale from FD's Brewhouse Rarities series. At 6.7% ABV this hazy ochre beer wields a bit more heft than your typical American amber ale and piles on the dark malt sugars too with a serious amount of toffee in the foretaste. It's nicely countered with some lovely fresh nectarine and mandarin hopping and the overall package tastes pleasantly like red liquorice bootlaces, or my memory of them, at any rate.
Over at the sister pub I finally found Flying Dog Single Hop Chinook Imperial IPA the latest in the series, following on from Citra and Nelson Sauvin. 10% ABV like the others, and not actually all that big in the hop department. Toffee, once again, was my first impression, and only after a few sips did a kind of spicy bitterness creep into the mix. I use Chinook a lot in my own brewing as a bittering hop but have little experience of actually tasting it. While it's certainly an interesting flavour profile, I think the sweet malt element in this particular application could have done with being dialled down a couple of notches to let those hops play a bigger role.
Back at home a couple more American beers brought over by friends. Reuben supplied a Smoke Jumper, a smoked imperial porter -- the first of such I've ever met -- by Left Hand. It suffers hugely from the great drawback of smoked beers: kipperiness. It's an unpleasant stale sort of smoke smell that I tend to get when the malt is mixed in with non-smoked malts and other flavour sources which dilute and interfere with it. After the fish course there's a metallic tang and quite a burnt, acrid bitterness. A beer dedicated to fire fighters which recreates the harsh experience of being one, it seems. I've found Left Hand to be a brewery of more misses than hits and Smoke Jumper did nothing to shift that balance for me.
Also at the table, supplied by Richard, was Southern Tier's Imperial Choklat Stout. Cryptic spelling aside, there's no mistaking the chocolate in here: the aroma is rich hot fudge sauce and there's no escaping the cocoa on tasting either. But it's not just chocolate in the flavour, it's deeper than that: I got some lavender and rosewater, calling to mind Turkish delight bars, and even some cherry liqueur, so pretty much everything I like being done with chocolate is in here. It's sublime; a creation worthy of Wonka.
Four interesting and quite experimental beers there, indicating that while not every mix of tastes will suit all palates, the rewards for playing about with ingredients can be considerable.