So how was the initial Flying Dog Fresh-Hop Ale?
Well......... different. Different from what I had expected, that is.
Other fresh-hop ales I have encountered featured a strong to almost overpowering fresh-hop character, as if someone had picked several hop cones right off the vine, rolled them between the palms, dropped them in my glass or bottle, poured an IPA, and then wiped their palms on the sides of the glass for good measure. If you're a "hop-head" (the colloquial beer-geek term for those who can never get enough hops in their beer), the experience can be wonderful, If not, the notes of everything from citrus to cabbage can be overpowering.
The Flying Dog Fresh Hop Ale debuted at the Alonso's Baltimore Beer Week Preview Happy Hour was nowhere near as floral and "green" as many other fresh-hop beers I have experienced (including my own homebrewed variations). Part of that is because the beer is very dry and "crisp," with a relatively "thin" backbone or mouthfeel relative to the flavors involved. It had the hop flavors, but that of slightly dried or "sunburnt" hops rather than bright green cones many see growing on vines about this time. I made a trip out to Stillpoint Farms, where the hops in the beer came from, and it was obvious the summer had not been kind to these specific hop vines--a lot of browned edges to the outermost cones of what was left unharvested at the end.
It's got a nice, strong, assertive hop character, and is crisp and almost a bit chalky. But it's definitely American in style, lacking the nuances of a British/English yeast note, the bombastic nose of a "hop bomb" like Victory Hop Wallop, or the citrusy snap of, say, some of Goose Island's hoppier products. Some drinkers at tonight's debut liked the drier notes of Flying Dog's beers over the maltier notes of a bottle of Goose Island Honker's Ale I bought from the bar to compare. Try it for yourself, and decide (and comment below, if you desire).
So maybe I'm spoiled by Selin's Grove's Hop Nouveau, I dunno.
(Disclaimer: The first glass was purchased for me by a Flying Dog representative.)