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Beer Reviews

Collaborator Doppelbock

Flying Dog Brewery
Denver, CO
USA
http://www.flyingdogales.com

Style: Doppelbock
ABV: 8.3%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)


Comments:
Before I pull my champagne-style bottle of Flying Dog’s Collaborator Doppelbock out of the fridge (that would be the regular fridge, not the beer fridge, as the bottle is too large for the latter), I want to give it an enthusiastic five mugs. It’s not necessarily five mugs for the beer itself, since I haven’t yet tried it, but for the initiative. The idea of an open-source beer is brilliant in my opinion, and regardless of whether or not the end result lives up to expectations, I certainly hope this is not the last we see of it. Kudos to Flying Dog for executing a great idea.

Flying Dog’s Open Source Beer Project began in early 2007 with the goal of giving amateur brewers the ability to provide Flying Dog’s brewmasters with input in order to create a unique, tasty brew. I was made aware of the Open Source Project in August after receiving an e-mail from the folks at Flying Dog. After browsing the web site (opensourcebeerproject.com) and reading the press release, I was immediately enamored with the idea. While I have yet to enter the wonderful world of homebrewing and thus am not an amateur brewer myself, I could still relate to the concept. You see, Nigel loves to cook and likes to take certain recipes, some of them quite simple, and experiment with all sorts of different fresh ingredients, spices, etc. to create something new and unique. I could see myself offering stir fry tips or chili recipes to some of the country’s best known chefs and being given the ability to tinker with their masterful recipes, and that seemed like a supremely cool idea to me (don’t laugh … I’m comfortable with who I am).

Since Collaborator Doppelbock falls under the Wild Dog label, a special series that includes the well-received limited edition offerings of Colorado Saison, Weizenbock, Barrel-Aged Horn Dog, and Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter (all of which come in the same giant corked bottle), it has some lofty expectations to meet. The beer began as a simple doppelbock recipe, with Flying Dog then seeking out public input on everything from the malt, hops, and yeast used to the actual brewing process itself, making this a true collaboration from beginning to end (and the first ever open-source beer to receive widespread public distribution). The resulting recipe is heavy on Munich malts (75 percent Type I, 19 percent Type II) and American hops (mainly Warrior and Cascade/Mt. Hood), as well as Wyeast; the complete recipe is listed on the Open Source Project website. While those ingredients would seem perfect for a doppelbock (honestly, what better way for an American craft brewer to make a traditional German beer than by combining the best of both worlds?), ultimately it boils down to taste. While I can’t criticize the concept regardless of the outcome of the beer, it would make it that much more brilliant if this is a doppelbock extraordinaire.

Measuring at 8.3 percent ABV and 30 on the IBU meter, Collaborator has impressive stats, which means, well … nothing (I just like to report what I see). Bottle-conditioned after a light filtration, I have been unable to confirm that it was cellared or aged in whiskey barrels as some websites have claimed (no mention of it on the official web site or in the recipe). It’s certainly an impressive bottle, very champagne-like with a contour design and cork-under-wire that opens with a mild pop (it’s a dopplebock, so it’s not supposed to be very carbonated). A nice amount of haze billows out of the top, somewhat surprising given the fact that there’s about 3 inches of empty space in the neck before you get to the beer. While it’s not terribly aromatic upon the pop of the cork, I was hoping that would change with the pour.

The pour is what you’d expect for a doppelbock: a mild creamy head of about a half inch or so quickly dissipates, leaving a bit of lace along the edges throughout the drink. A brilliant ruby red color, it looks like it has the potential to be a great doppel. Again, however, the aroma is disappointing. I had to take a few big whiffs to finally detect a nice—though weak—aroma of malt with a tinge of roasted nuttiness. Dark fruits of raisin and fig are also present, as is a tinge of yeasty earthiness and a touch of alcohol. It’s not a bad aroma, it’s just a bit hard to detect.

The taste is nice; it’s a solid doppelbock, but it won’t blow you away. Like the aroma, the flavor is a bit more tempered than I had initially expected, although it is well-balanced and enjoyable. Initial flavors of sweet, somewhat syrupy caramel and toffee malt combine with a bit of yeasty earthiness. A grassy tinge is also detectable and is balanced with hints of dark fruits (mainly raisin), as well as a bit of alcoholic zip. While the recipe proves that a variety of American hops were used, they aren’t really detectable in the flavor (this is typical for a dark, malty style like a doppelbock); the only hint comes from the occasional sensation of lighter, citrusy fruits that come through very, very faintly at various times during the session. Medium bodied, it’s not the thickest or sweetest doppelbock you’ll ever have, but it still maintains the necessary characteristics to make it clear what style you’re drinking. Collaborator goes down smooth with a mild aftertaste, and if it came in a four-pack, it could actually be considered a session brew. The ABV is tolerable and Collaborator doesn’t blow you away with too many strong flavors, but it’s only available in the 750ml size with a hefty price tag (I’ve seen it anywhere from $12-15), so it’s not something you’ll likely be drinking on a regular basis.

All in all, I’m a bit torn. While I love the idea, the resulting beer is good, but not great. I feel like the initial three mug rating I was going to go with would make it seem as though it’s average, and I’d place it a notch above average. It’s not the best doppelbock you’ll ever have, but it is very good, and the unique implementation of it solidifies it as a four mugger. I certainly hope this isn’t the last we see of open source brews, and I know that despite a decent initial effort, they can be improved on.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on January 22, 2008.
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