Flying Dog's Raging Bitch (photo by Josh Durkin)

Flying Dog’s 20th anniversary brew, which debuted last year, was the Raging Bitch Belgian IPA. The tagline? “If you’re lucky, your bitch will look this good after 20 years.”

Ain’t that something.

I left work with sore and a bit shaky in the knees after days of wandering around the store and where I live with bright colored hard plastic shovels and my dad’s old gray and red CB ski jacket and boots made of pads of leather hedon-harlots that soak up everything wet that slops by.

But now? Now I’m reclined on my bed typing this up, with a strange feeling in my knees that I hope means repaired damage, and this beer and a peanut butter and chocolate sandwich. And in the background, “Radio-Inactive” by Blueprint, after the Black Keys’ “Tighten Up” just played.

Well, the tone of the packaging and the quality of beer bring to mind buzzed recollections of Stone Brewery’s line of beers. Stone is the brewery that features a gargoyle on nearly everything they do, and they do fantastic beer. But, the style of the beer is worth noting above all else. Belgian IPAs are growing in popularity. Offhand, the only two I can think of are the Raging Bitch and Stone’s Cali-Belgique, and I’ve tried a third but can’t remember exactly what it was. It might have been from New England Brewery.

At 8.3% abv with this refreshing kind of crisp grapefruit sourness, the Bitch is comprised of El Diablo yeast—which yields the funk of the citrus—Warrior, Columbus, and Amarillo hops, and 60L Chrystal specialty malts, according to Flying Dog’s website. The Warrior hops, first bred by Yakima Chief Ranches, adds relatively smooth bitterness to the beer, while the Amarillo and Columbus hops offers pungent and hoppy-citrus flavors.

I’ve known about the beer for some time, have successfully passed it on to people who love IPAs. According to the Flying Dog website, along with the number of six packs that leave the store I work at, the popularity of the beer keeps rising as the style and the brewery get more fame and publicity.

I first picked up the beer because I immediately recognized that Ralph Steadman did the package art.

The bombastic drawings on the label done by Steadman would catch any eye, prudent or not, which is what Steadman is known from. Steadman, who was commissioned by Flying Dog to Draw the package art for their entire line of beers, is famous for his incredible caricatures, specifically in characterizing political figures. Anyone who has read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, or has seen the movie by Terry Gilliam would immediately recognize his artwork.

But I’m not convinced that the label illustration by Steadman expands upon qualities in the beer.

And I feel like the title “Raging Bitch” somehow doesn’t quite fit the beer. A good name, sure, but this liquid cur is smooth at times, and a bit androgynous. A different way to describe the beer is that it evokes tastes just like you might feel after hearing a couple of strange orators. Try defining the beer that way: George Carlin (the intelligence, the grapefruit, and the lingering flavor) or Lewis Black (the angry bitterness left after the swallow), as well as Amy Poehler (the smooth sweetness) and Betty White (the strange bite).

Probably an unwise move to compare a liquid to comedic and intelligent people, but then again, why not?

Well, if you don’t get a chance to try this beer, or just don’t like Belgian IPAs very much, the whole Flying Dog line is worth tasting.

Their American Pale Ale, the Doggie Style, was rated number 1 by The New York Times in June of last year, and received a beer award and page spread from Maxim in their February 2011 issue. Cute. But I like the wild animal a bit more than their dry-hopped pale ale.

Overall: 8.2 out of 10.

Availability: Released last year as Flying Dog’s 20th anniversary brew, it was just added the beginning of this year to the brewery’s year-round roster. So, find a place that sells beer, and you’ll probably be able to buy or order it.

Appearance: Cinnamon gold.

Taste: I want to say something cliché like “it tastes like a bitch you’d want to party with,” but that’d be crass, ugly and, well, wholly unrealistic.

-Josh

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