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Beer Reviews

Kerberos

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

Style: Belgian Ale
ABV: 8.5%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)


Comments:
Pair With:
Cue the death metal …

Its time for another review from Flying Dog’s Canis Major series, a Belgian tripel named Kerberos. For those of you wondering, Kerberos is another name for the “hound of Hades,” Cerberus. It’s also the name of a computer protection program, but that isn’t nearly as sexy (leave it to computer nerds to use cool names from Greek mythology to label incredibly dull technological protocol). Kerberos falls right in line with the edgy Flying Dog image and is appropriately illustrated with brilliant label art from Ralph Steadman. Having already covered image in past Flying Dog reviews, I will cease the commentary and crank some Arch Enemy, In Flames, and Lamb of God on the ol’ iTunes to get in the appropriate mood.

Kerberos is Flying Dog’s first foray into the wonderful world of Belgian ales, and I’m excited to see the results of this new Canis Major selection. As I’ve stated previously, though I love Flying Dog overall, the standard brews tend to be fairly average, while Canis Major brews Gonzo Imperial Porter, Horn Dog Barley Wine, and Double Dog Double Pale Ale are absolutely phenomenal. I may not be as snobbish as Eddie Glick when it comes to Belgian-style ales, but I do agree with him that they should be held to a very high standard. Few American craft versions have been able to replicate the brilliance of authentic Belgian ales, though attempts to do so seem to have increased in recent years. Unless the success rate increases soon, Nigel is ready to declare that we leave the Belgians to Belgium.

As I try to do each time I plan on reviewing a new brew, I avoided looking at reviews posted on various craft beer blogs. However, with Kerberos having been out for a couple of months now, I was unable to avoid hearing some buzz, some of which wasn’t terribly positive. My last Flying Dog review was for the biére de garde Garde Dog, which was a disappointment. Combine the general failure of American brewers to create fine Belgian-style ales with so-so buzz and a dud on the previous brew, and things are not setting up well for Kerberos. However, as I’ve stated umpteen times previously, nothing matters but the beer.

Kerberos sports 2-row Pilsener malt along with German Perle, French Strisserspalt, and Saaz hops, making for a brew that checks in at a powerful 8.5 percent ABV with a moderate 27 IBUs. Kerberos pours relatively lifeless into my snifter-style glass. A mild head of less than an inch quickly dissipates, leaving a slight trace at the top of the glass. A nice golden brown hue, Kerberos reveals some fine sedimentation, making it a picturesque but flat example of a Belgian tripel.

Initial aromas are disappointing. While the fruitiness typical of Belgian ales comes through to an extent, there is too much in the way of graininess and generic staleness in the aroma, reminding me of Capital’s Prairie Gold (there are a number of similarities between the two, a bit coincidental since Prairie Gold was my last review). The fruity Belgian yeast and pale malt is joined by a touch of flowery hops and a bit of alcohol, making for an aroma that isn’t awful, but not up to the standards it should be.

The flavor doesn’t approach the level of authentic Belgian ales, but is a decent attempt for an American brewer; it’s not nearly as disappointing as the buzz would suggest. Again, it has many similarities to Prairie Gold (see that review for details), but has more flavor and more characteristics typical of a Belgian ale. An initial bite of banana, clove, and black pepper hits the tongue, followed by the dull earthiness of pale malt. A kiss of hops is present, and their European origin makes them a tad grainier than domestic versions, which plays well with the malt. There is a noticeable zip on the tongue, likely a combination of Belgian yeast strains, spiciness, and alcohol. All in all it’s not a bad Belgian, but it could use a tad more character to give a much needed bump up to the four mug level. Medium in body and a tad rough on the palate, Kerberos is not a session beer in my opinion, though anyone up for a challenge may disagree. A mild aftertaste lingers for a bit and the tongue will feel the tingly effects for a significant period after your last sip.

Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by Kerberos. It’s slightly better than Prairie Gold, and in the upper half of American craft Belgian-style ales in my opinion. While it falls far short of an authentic Belgian, it’s a powerful and refreshing brew on a hot summer day. That having been said, it’s easily the weakest Canis Major selection. Give it a shot should you see it, or pick up one of Flying Dog’s Canis Major mixed four packs and compare it with the rest.

Cheers!

Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on July 14, 2008.
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