Flying Dog Holiday Collection – Beer & Cookies!

Pumpkin season is over, let us rejoice by bringing in the holiday beers. Holiday beers are truly some of my favorite beers of the year. My love for holiday beer is relatively new, at least when you compare it to another holiday passion. Cookies!

When I was a kid, my mother would spend, what felt like months at the time, baking batch after batch of cookies. Our kitchen was filled with cooling racks of many varieties of sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin, macaroons, and gingerbread cookies. When I heard Flying Dog was releasing holiday beers to be paired with Otterbein’s Cookies I was pretty excited.

If you aren’t familiar with Otterbein’s Cookies, it’s because you aren’t from Maryland. The 5 generational family business has been a part of the Baltimore culture since 1881. They can be found in any area grocery store in their signature red and white bags. But for some reason it took 133 years for someone to pair them with beer. Thank you Flying Dog.

Over the course of two nights my wife and I took on the burden of tasting beer and cookies. The original plan was to taste all of them in one sitting. We were splitting 12oz beers, so it would be equivalent to having 2 beers. No problem right? Not so fast. It wasn’t the beer or alcohol that did us in, it was the cookies. But I’ll follow up on that later. Let’s talk some more about the beer.

FlyingDog_HolidayPack_frontPacked in the red and white checked Otterbein themed box are 4 varieties of holiday goodness.

  • Imperial Hefeweizen
  • Oatmeal Raisin Stout
  • Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch-Style Ale
  • Roasted Peanut Brown Ale

When looking over the selection I was really excited about 3 of the 4. And what seems to happen with Flying Dog beers and me recently, it’s the beer I think I won’t like that I end up liking the most. Those of you that know me, and my beer likes might have recognized that the Hefeweizen would be the beer I’d peg as the disappointment in this group.

And I couldn’t be more wrong. The Imperial Hefeweizen was the gem of this collection. It is kind of hard to describe the joy that this beer brought me. It had many characteristics of a Belgian Tripel, but wrapped in a big hug from Santa himself. The wheat infused beer was soft, luxurious, and warm with huge notes of banana and tropical fruit. Pairing it with Otterbein’s Sugar Cookies added to the richness of the beer, and yet didn’t complicate the flavors with additional spice. Both the cookies and the beer were delicious, and could stand on their own. But they also complimented each other quite well. Both the cookie and beer had very strong lingering finishes that did a great job at continuing the flavors long after your bite or sip was complete.

The next beer I poured was the Roasted Peanut Brown Ale. Upon pouring this notes of peanuts were very strong in the air. The nose on this beer was wonderful. I didn’t think that the nose transferred that well into the taste of the beer, but it was certainly a solid brown ale. This beer was paired with Otterbein’s Chocoate Chip Cookie. The intention here was to create the classic you got chocolate in my peanut butter combination. It succeeded, to a point. The unfortunate part with this pairing is while the beer and the cookies are great on their own. When the cookie is paired with the beer it is so rich and buttery that it seems to overpower the beer. I am not going to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. I just found this beer couldn’t stand up to its pairing.

Next up was the Oatmeal Raisin Stout. This was my favorite pairing. This is interesting, since neither the cookie nor the beer was my favorite, but together they created a great combination. If you’ve had any of the Dogfish Head Raisin concoctions you know that the raisin flavor is pretty mild. Raisins tend to add some dark fruit flavors with just a touch of astringency. This was no exception. But when paired with the delicious Otterbein’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, it adds the holiday spice to elevate both the beer and the cookie. The roast of the stout plays will with these flavors. A remarkable pair that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Finally I tried the Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch-Style Ale. This was paired with Gingerbread Cookies. This cookie was the cookie I least looked forward to. I’m just not a Gingerbread fan. But once again I was pleasantly surprised. It still wasn’t my favorite cookie of the bunch, but I did really enjoy it. This cookie was also the least sweet of the group which really helped bring out the malt flavors in the beer, and in no way overshadowed it. The beer had a great malt and hazelnut nose, which extended to the taste with a pleasant malt backbone and sweet vanilla from the oak. Not so much to make it cloying, but enough to sweeten the cookie just a bit.

As I alluded to at the beginning, I felt the cookies did us in. We got in 3 of the beers the first night before stopping just shy of diabetic coma. Although had I known the Gingerbread cookie was going to be least sweet of the bunch I may have pushed forward. This is an enjoyable pack for pairing with great holiday cookies. The only shortcomings I saw was that many of the cookies were so sweet and rich, with so much butter it made it difficult for the beer to stand up. The solution I guess would either be to increase the alcohol content in the beer, or make the cookies a little less rich. Since neither are going to happen, at least this year, I recommend small bites. These are really pretty minor criticisms, as I thoroughly enjoyed this journey of holiday decadence.

These are flying off the shelves pretty fast. So if you can’t find it in your local beer store, check out one of the pairing events Flying Dog is holding. Click here.