Friends, this beer wins Summer 2014. Hands. Down. When Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Maryland bottled a new summer seasonal this year they struck at the hearts, minds, and stomachs of the residents in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Though I still hold on strongly to my New England roots, the Chesapeake Bay is really the second best place there is.
But wait you say – it is late August, pumpkin beer is out in full force, why bother focusing on a summer seasonal at this late date? Well the answer is simple – crabs. When you buy blue crabs you buy them based on the point-to-point shell size. But the shells don’t grow continuously, crabs “size up” in the spring when they molt their shell and grow a new one (hence why spring/early summer is soft shell crab season). Once the shell hardens, the crab needs to grow into their new home, so an early summer crab is going to be “light” – lots of picking for little reward. But towards the end of August and into September the crabs are at their fattest (and people start thinking of fall foods, so prices drop too). So folks – the season for crab feasts is NOW.
Order up a few duz, and while you’re out look through the cold cases for a six or two of Dead Rise. I’ll tell you why below.
Flying Dog, despite originally hailing from the great state of Colorado, knows the Old Line State. To me it is clear that their understanding goes beyond marketing studies – they know the difference between a Jimmie and a Sook, they know of the proud Chesapeake Bay heritage, they’ve been downey ohshin, and they know when to emphasize the “O” in the Star Spangled Banner. And I appreciate that.
Combining 75 years of history with Old Bay, and hundreds of years of history from Chesapeake Bay watermen is a pretty neat thing. Adding to the “make me wanna buy it NOW” feelings are the great name – a deadrise boat is a traditional working vessel commonly found in the Chesapeake for crabbing, oystering or fishing. With a sharp V-shaped bow designed to efficiently cut through chop, and a hull that tapers to a very shallow V to promote stability and provide accessibility in shallow waters – all welcomed traits in bay waters. To top it off, a portion of the proceeds from the beer go to True Blue, a charity dedicated to helping the struggling fisheries industry and to promoting sustainable harvesting of true Maryland blue crabs. Jeez – buy your marketing/branding folks a beer, they earned it!
Great branding means nothing without great taste, and Dead Rise is a winner in this department as well. Yeah, a lot of people are put off by the concept of Old Bay in beer – particularly those northerners who don’t understand how everything is made better with a dash of his heavenly offering. On your pizza, popcorn, or wings, as a rub on steak or seafood, around the rim of your Bloody Mary – the zesty pop of spice beats out nearly every other regional sauce or rub. Take a sip of a cold Dead Rise and the taste of Old Bay is immediately familiar, but not overpowering. Give a smell, you’ll start wondering when the steamer pot is ready for feasting. Dead Rise conjures warm summer nights, gathered around a table, mallets hammering away to reveal plump morsels of sweet blue crab. And there is absolutely nothing you can’t like about that.
But lets not forget it is a pretty nice pale ale as well. Hops are patient, lingering in the background – you’ll notice they are there if you take your time between sips as they cut away at the tongue coating Old Bay flavors. The nice medium malt character rounds out the beer with a touch of sweetness. The Old Bay flavor is king, but without the rest of the parts working in harmony it could be a dud of a beer. Fortunately for us, that’s not the case. In fact, demand was so high that Flying Dog sold out of what they predicted as a 5 month supply in 8 days. So for 5 weeks this summer the brewery dedicated 65% of its capacity to this single beer.
Damn. Go get some.