No Corporate Beer: Sweet & Smoky Stout

This is No Corporate Beer, Decibel’s semi-new beer-spotting, consumer guide where we drink a beer and then review it. Now that we’ve accomplished the drinking part of the equation, we present the review part below. 

Beer: Sweet & Smoky Stout
Brewery: Flying Dog
Style: Smoked Beer
7.1% ABV / 45 IBU

Five years ago, cracking open a Flying Dog beer was like winning the lottery. Not a PowerBall jackpot, but a more-than-modest return on your investment. Basically, Ralph Steadman’s gonzo script was an imprimatur of quality; spot the logo and you could be assured of drinking something that was well crafted and equally well considered. Fast forward to 2018 and Flying Dog seems to be a victim of its own success. The pressure to constantly innovate and compete means that the Frederick, MD brewery is putting beers on the shelf that never should’ve made it out of the tap room and pumping out too much product overall.

This year’s “Heat” series – four beers representing diverse styles with higher Scoville ratings than ABV – advanced the brewery’s tireless experiments with incorporating hot peppers into the brewing process. A tip of the hat to Flying Dog Brewmaster Ben Clark for that one. But for every Heat series, there has been a handful of fair-to-middling brews to erase goodwill. Caramel Lager? Ghastly. Snake Oil Black Lager? Decibel mainstay Dan Lake will disagree, but that one was nigh undrinkable. Saw Bones, Flying Dog’s ginger beer collaboration with The National Museum of Civil War Medicine? The South will rise again, but probably from a superior brewery in North Carolina.

So, uh, what to do about Sweet & Smoky Stout, which depressingly tastes like licking an entire bag of charcoal briquettes? This hits none of the pleasure receptors in my brain, only the ones that evoke “meh” responses and promote memories of traffic jams and tax preparation seasons past. As with a lot of beers that feature two very different things in their names, one of those things dominates the other. It’s as if the oatmeal stout gave up on the entire deal and decided to let the annoying smoked beer climb into bed for a pity lay. I would not drink this in a box, with a fox, in a house or with a mouse. I guess there’s probably some scenario where I would consider guzzling this again, but let’s just say that if I was stranded on a deserted island and a crate of this washed up on shore, I’d be pretty fucking bummed.