Tonight, I picked up a six pack of Flying Dog’s Mint Chocolate Stout.
Beer Packaging: Ralph Steadman—an artist best known for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson—illustrates Flying Dog’s packaging, and it always comes out looking pretty crazy. This particular box features disembodied wings, floating eyeballs, and what looks like a pint glass vomiting up beer. LET’S PARTY.
Beer Style: Per Flying Dog’s website, “Mint Chocolate Stout is a dessert beer you can have more than one of.” Which tempts me to drink 15 immediately after dinner, then explain to my horrified girlfriend, “No, dear, the website said this was OK.”
The Brewery: Flying Dog is based in Frederick, Maryland, and they really like giving tours. When you get to the place, the staff intercepts you at the door and asks if you want to take a tour. Decline, and they’ll make you take a mini-tour anyway; for instance, to get your growler filled, you first go to the bar, drink free samples, say things like, “Gosh, that’s good,” (because anything else would be gauche), and then must go to a separate cash register in a gift-shop area to pay for your growler. Finally, you can return to the bar and have your growler filled. Note that the mini-tour doesn’t unlock full Flying Dog privileges: You can’t buy six packs there unless you take the full tour—though you can drive to the gas station down the street and buy all the Flying Dog six packs you want.
I’m guessing all this has to do with brewery regulations. For instance, Maryland’s 2013 Senate Bill 32 decides how much beer production breweries can sell on-site. Since politicians wrote it, the bill is roughly 700 words instead of these four: “Sell all you want.” The bill, like Flying Dog, apparently wants people to take tours, and incentives brewers to give them in exchange for higher sales limits.
Mint Chocolate Stout in One Text: “Got Flying Dog’s Mint Chocolate Stout. Completely changed my outlook on that brewery.”
Mint Chocolate Stout, Elaborated: Before trying this beer, I viewed visits to Flying Dog more as an excuse to drive through Maryland for an afternoon than as a dedicated beer run—I liked their stuff, but not enough to make a huge effort to get it. Their Mint Chocolate Stout changed that, though: Its body is pleasantly sturdy, and its flavor is more well balanced than any “gimmick” beer I’ve ever had. Often, beers with a nontraditional flavor—mint in this case—either go too hard on the extra flavor, which would’ve made Mint Chocolate Stout taste like mouthwash, or go too soft, which leaves you chasing the flavor. But with this beer, Flying Dog hits a perfect balance between those two extremes. It’s a shame they don’t brew it year-round, because I’d go through a mini-tour any day to buy the stuff.