Flying Dog just recently released a new beer: International Arms Race Zero IBU IPA. This beer was a collaboration competition with BrewDog a craft brewery from Fraserburgh, Scotland. They challenged each other to make an India pale ale without hops. For those of you who are not total beer geeks making an IPA without hops is like making a brownie without chocolate. The hops give the IPA its distinctive bitterness. The two breweries agreed on a list of ingredients to substitute for the hops: spearmint, bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berries, and elderflower. Each brewery made their own version and conducted a taste-off in August at several drinking establishments in the United Kingdom. Flying Dog won by a reported 3-2 margin.
Now unfortunately I did not have any of BrewDog’s to compare it with, but I picked up a six-pack of Flying Dog’s version for $10.99 and gave it a try. It poured a rich coppery-red color with an interesting fruity (almost patchouli) nose. Upon drinking it had a delicate malty sweetness with strong flavors of herbs. I got a bergamot (think Earl Grey tea) flavor with a hint of sage and a strong undercurrent of mint. If you munch elderflowers from the Swiss Alps, or more likely are familiar with St. Germain liquor (thanks bro!), you will pick out some faint elderflower notes as well.
Now despite what the label says it’s not an IPA in my book. However the beer was interesting and very, very drinkable. Due to the strong and unique herbal flavors this would be a difficult beer to pair with food. Also at 7.8% alcohol it’s not a beer you can drink a six-pack of at one sitting. However, for a leisurely sipping beer it is a great choice and really something different. I’d love to try BrewDog’s version.
UPDATE: Check out Trout’s comment below. Technically this type of beer is known as a gruit.