Fearful Symmetries

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29 June, 2016

Buy the beer, take the ride: Numero Uno by Flying Dog Brewery



Preparing for this review has been a real learning experience. Firstly, I've always thought that Flying Dog's labels looked like they were drawn by the guy who did illustrations for Hunter S. Thompson's books and sure as shit, I discovered, they were. But let me step back for a moment and admit that I can't honestly say I've had a Flying Dog brew prior to this one. My guess is that I have at some point but that it has been a while and I don't recall the quaffing. While I don't know when Flying Dog began distributing in Wisconsin, the brewery has been around for a long time. Well, as microbreweries go.

Flying Dog began as a brewpub opened by George Stranahan in Woody Creek, Colorado (sound familiar?) in 1990. The name came from an adventure Stranahan had back in 1983 when he and some friends attempted to climb K2. It failed (they "totally ran out of booze") and the crew retreated back to a hotel which featured a large painting of a flying dog that captured Stranahan's attention. The brewpub eventually grew into a full-fledged brewery in 1994 which opened in Denver. The Denver facility couldn't accommodate the growth they were experiencing so another move was made, this time to Frederick, Maryland in 2008.

Stranahan had become friends with Thompson, a denizen of Woody Creek, prior to opening the brewpub as they had shared interests in "explosives, high-powered weapons, politics, football, whiskey, and beer." Thompson would go on to introduce Stranahan to Ralph Steadman, the man whose portraiture of Raoul Duke and a certain Samoan attorney is legendary. Steadman began applying his signature style to Flying Dog's labels in 1995 and has apparently been doing so ever since.

I had no idea Flying Dog had such a gonzo pedigree.

Numero Uno is an agave cerveza. Agave is well-known as being the taproot of tequila but the sap of the succulent native of the Americas is also used to make agave nectar (or syrup), a potent sweetener, which is used here. I don't recall having tasted agave nectar before so this was going to be interesting. Numero Uno's recipe also includes lime zest.

One thing that attracted me to Numero Uno was that, being a flavored lager, it was a relative rarity. While not as uncommon as a Lichtenhainer, for example, lagers tend to be treated as "classic" styles – something simpler and more traditional that brewers slap together when they want to take a break from a prolonged bout of concocting novel ales with THX1138 hops, a fruit found only on Guam, krill, and yeast from the brewmaster's beard after having performed cunnilingus on his significant other.

This cerveza interested me not only because of its novelty but also because I didn't see the words "natural flavors/flavoring" on the label. After drinking some unfortunate radlers with those very words on their labels in type of varying sizes, I was happy with their absence. I suppose another factor was a simple desire to try Flying Dog and I don't often see lagers by them.

Numero Uno poured a bright yellow which was clear as day. Sadly, the head was small and the loose white foam dissipated rather quickly. I had a fairly clean glass so there were few bubbles clinging to the side and more heading up from the bottom.

The cerveza had surprisingly little aroma. In fact, it was slightly disturbing. There was a mild graininess and what I take to have been the agave which I can only describe as being like botanical honey.

Before taking my first sip I pondered whether this would a Mexican-style brew or if the word "cerveza" was simply being used because of the tropical/desert ingredients. I suppose it was the former as I could clearly taste maize and a lot of it. The lime zest was in the background though not hidden and it added a little zestiness. There was some sweetness which I presume was the agave. Although a very sweet nectar, this cerveza was too low in alcohol (4.9% A.B.V.) for all of the sugars to have been eaten by the yeast. That was my hypothesis, anyway. The agave added a honey-like flavor but it was less floral/fruity and instead a brighter, more botanical/cactusy taste.

That corn flavor and the zesty lime lingered onto the finish. There was no lacing left on my glass.

Numero Uno was a pleasant surprise. The lime zest and agave were not overpowering and they complemented one another very well. It was light and fairly bubbly. I think the agave nectar took the edge off of the lagery crispness and mellowed the overall taste a little bit but the cerveza still had that clean lager flavor for the most part. I drank some of this last Saturday outside in the 90° heat and it was fantastic. No big flavors to impede its refreshment capabilities.

Junk food pairing: Get yourself a bag of Lay's Limón potato chips or, for a sweet treat, bust open a box of Little Debbie Zebra Cake Rolls.

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|| Palmer, 10:46 AM

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