Some beers are all gimmicks. I suppose that I don’t mind a beer that’s all about gimmicks if it can back it up with flavor. The particular gimmick behind International Arms Race is that it borders on a collaboration competition. For this particular brew, Flying Dog got together with BrewDog out of Scotland got together to put together a recipe. While they created the recipe for the beer they wanted to brew, they then walked away and decided to see who could do it best. They brewed their beers and Brewmaster Matt Brophy headed out to Europe for the competition. The competition went down with customers at five different locations across Scotland and England. They had the tasting all night long and, when the votes were tallied, it turned out BrewDog had taken two of the bars while Flying Dog took the other two. The final tasting was a tight race, but in the end, Flying Dog took the win over BrewDog. A great victory, I suppose, for the American craft beer industry.
The entire title of this brew was really confusing to me. They titled the beer a zero IBU IPA. That’s probably the biggest thing that got me to actually buy the beer. I figured the beer would be an IPA which I love, but I also was intrigued what it would mean by zero IBU. Well, in doing a little more research, it would seem that this is basically not an IPA at all. Both my Untapped and beer advocate called this beer a Scottish Gruit or Ancient Herbed Ale. Beer Advocate states that a gruit is, “mainly a concoction of : sweet gale (Myrica gale), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and wild rosemary (Ledum palustre). Other herbs, spices, and berries might be used to create interesting and pleasant aroma and flavor of green- and herbal-tea”. Upon learning this beer was a gruit, I wouldn’t exactly call my mood excited. I seem to remember doing a gruit earlier this year; however, I decided to check out what Flying Dog said about it on their site. They didn’t have the beer on their main page, but you could find a little information on their blog write up about their win. They describe their recipe as such, “hops were banned from the battlefield. Instead varying amounts of spearmint, bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berries, and elderflower were used to impart bitterness.” I guess they thought they could get the same effect out of these ingredients that they would get out of hops. Being a big fan of hops, I became frightened by the prospect of consuming this, but I was hopeful I would be pleasantly surprised.
This one pours one of the stranger colors I’ve seen in a little bit. It has a fairly bright reddish orange color to it. The best comparison would be to the cranberry ginger ale my wife loves to keep on hand in our fridge. There is a really thin white head that develops on top of the beer which manages to dissipate and disappear really quickly. There is zero lacing here, and you have basically no sticky residue either. The beer is slightly hazy overall; however, you can clearly see that there is no visible carbonation. You can simply see a little activity when you agitate the liquid in the glass.
The aroma is somewhat hard to nail down to one singular scent. There is an aroma of plums and figs, as well as, some of the obvious spices I read about in my research. The nose doesn’t really single out any of the scents, but they combine into a smell you’d find coming from your spice cabinet. The sweet malts are there, although they are certainly rather muted. There are some light fruity smells and some tang here as well. It smells rather clean; however, I find something somewhat off-putting on the nose.
I really don’t remember what the last gruit tasted like, but I know this one didn’t impress me. The light sweet malts kick off the brew; however, they really don’t hang on long before the remaining flavors take over. There is some light fruit flavoring that comes in with some interesting spice there as well. It’s hard to place what the spice is, but I tend to think it tastes like the bitters you put in cocktails. It’s something like Angostura bitters or something. The spearmint and rosemary seem to individualize themselves slightly right in the middle. You get some rather strong grapefruit flavors that come in followed by even more of the spice. It does finish clean, but there is a strange little fruit kick up at the end .
The beer is basically light and easy drinking the whole way through; however, some of the flavors just don’t work that well to me. I’m certainly not a big fan of the spearmint flavoring or the Angostura bitters flavor. There is some great carbonation throughout most of it, but it does seem to get a little syrupy at the end.
I was thinking about giving this beer a D; however, I have to give it the full failure. Beer is certainly based on opinion and, in my opinion, I’ll never choose to drink this one again. I like a lot of stuff that comes out of Flying Dog, but I can honestly say this might be the first beer I’d feel fine with avoiding. Give it a try if you’re curious, but you’ve been warned.
Teacher Grade: F