Brewing in a winter wonderland
A Review of Imperial Hefeweizen by Flying Dog Brewing Co.
Posted on 11/20/2014 by Chops
As the craft beer movement soldiers on, its wake becomes filled with an array of sub-interests. At first it was imperial versions, then seasonal selections, then barrel-aging, the list goes on and on. Hell, I've even seen beer soap. One big sub-interest is the concept of food pairings, much like they do with fine wine. With so much variety and nuance in today's craft beer culture, it's only natural that certain beers will compliment certain flavors. As a result, it's now quite common to see beer-themed dinners.

The Flying Dog Brewing Company out of Frederick, Maryland knows this interest all too well. They host beer dinners all the time and even use their beers in cooking recipes (mmm... Mango Habanero IPA Chicken Wings). But recently, they decided to raise the pairing bar even higher. They introduced a selection of new holiday beers that are meant to be paired with cookies from the Baltimore-based Otterbein's Bakery. Even the bottle instructs the drinker as to what specific cookie the beer should be paired with. It's one of those brilliant ideas that you cannot help but squint your eyes at and mumble, ''Well played Flying Dog, well played.''

Up first in this delectable experiment was the Imperial Hefeweizen, paired with Otterbein's sugar cookies.

In the glass, this beer had a cloudy deep orange coloration. It came with a big frothy white head that had great retention. On the nose, I was greeted by that classic weizen combination of ripe bananas and orange citrus. Rounding out the mix were some spicy notes and a slight alcohol nip. Considering that this was an imperial version of a typically lighter brew, every note was significantly amplified. There was an aggressiveness to this beer that really teased the nostrils. I was quite intrigued and eagerly anticipated that first sip.

Wow, this beer came out swinging for the fences. Granted, this wasn't an Imperial IPA, but given the basic expectations from a baseline hefeweizen, this beer was a monster. All the primary aromatic notes were large and in charge. I found huge bursts of bananas, orange citrus, spicy bread, and alcohol. My taste buds weren't allowed to find much more, just a very light hop profile. The beer had a solid medium body that started off smooth, quickly transformed into a tangy middle ground, then exited dry with a spicy fruity aftertaste.

The cookie pairing is where things got really interesting. As a stand alone beer, the Flying Dog Imperial Hefeweizen was rich and delicious, but also sharp and needling for the style. The sugar cookies completely removed the beer's edginess to create a pillow-like personality. It was a really cool trick that significantly improved the experience. The second I tasted a nip of alcohol, I would take a nibble of sugar cookie and any sharpness would neutralize. Very cool.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this beer-cookie pairing. Flying Dog's Imperial Hefeweizen is a rich and tasty brew that I can recommend to any and all beer fans. I only caution novices because that 7.8% ABV can sneak up on you in a hurry. Otterbein's sugar cookies were a delightful treat and perfectly complimented the strong weizen characters.

That's one down in Flying Dog's cookie pairing series and I have three more to go. If the rest are half as good as this one, then I can officially chalk up this holiday beer season as a win.

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Imperial Hefeweizen by Flying Dog Brewing Co.
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