Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Horn Dog Barley Wine Style Ale

Flying Dog Brewery
Denver, CO

Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 10.5%

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

Pair With:
As many of you may know, Nigel often rambles to varying degrees about absolutely nothing at the beginning of his reviews, usually using the name of the beer, brewery, or its hometown to launch into a meaningless rant about random things. My latest review is for Flying Dog Brewery’s Horn Dog Barley Wine Style Ale. Dear lord, this thing is gonna write itself! This will be the easiest writing project I’ve had since I quit my job as former Texas Governor George W. Bush’s speechwriter.

So, where am I gonna go with my opening comments? More Michael Vick dogfighting jokes? Nope—already been done, though I would like to add another shameless plug for my cowfighting venture, Bad Newz Cowz, which I mentioned in a previous review (visit for more information, and hope to god it’s not a porn site featuring fat chicks). Am I gonna prattle on about the fact that Flying Dog Brewery is in Denver, home of the Broncos, whose Super Bowl titles in the late ’90s are under review because their starting quarterback and tight end looked suspiciously like the horse depicted on their helmets, and their middle linebacker did enough ’roids to make Barry Bonds blush? Nah, that’s also too easy, plus Nigel considers Mr. Elway to be perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history (Joe Montana may have something to say about that) despite his equine heritage. Am I gonna write a review loaded with sexual innuendo and fart jokes? Nope—those childish attempts at humor are far too low-brow for a proper English Gentleman such as yours truly. I think I may switch it up and just write a plain ol’ review, dammit.

I must admit, Flying Dog Brewery has grown on Nigel recently. I used to consider this one of the weaker craft breweries that distributed in the Midwest, as many of their year-round brews seemed blah when compared to the competition. My respect for Flying Dog went up tremendously after tasting the phenomenal Gonzo Imperial Porter, which is hands down the finest Porter I’ve ever had in my life (its already been properly reviewed by both Baby-Boy and Franz, so I will refrain from three-peating). Flying Dog grew even higher on the ol’ respect meter when I discovered Horn Dog Barley Wine Style Ale a few weeks ago at a local good beer retailer, packaged in the same 4-pack style that Gonzo comes in. Granted, this isn’t quite on the level of Gonzo, but in my opinion, any craft brewery that attempts a barley wine and doesn’t totally butcher it is certainly worthy of massive amounts of praise. The barley wine is a complex and challenging style, and if not brewed properly, it can turn into a nightmare. While no barley wine will ever compare to Nigel’s holiest of holies, Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot, Flying Dog’s version is certainly worthy of praise.

I typically have two quibbles with barley wines: they’re either too alcoholic, with that nasty sting that burns the tongue, or they’re too sweet, loaded with so much thick, syrupy, sugary malt that any self-respecting pancake would run for the hills, hoping to find shelter in the comforting arms of Aunt Jemima. What I liked so much about Bigfoot was that it had all the qualities of a fine barley wine, but also was loaded with hops, which made for the perfect brew. Bigfoot is an example of an American barley wine, which are much, much heavier on the hops than English barley wines, which are known for their thick, rich sweetness. It doesn’t matter if it’s English or American, any barley wine runs the risk of being overpowered by alcohol, thus ruining what should be a quality brew. As a hophead extraordinaire, Nigel prefers the American version, but I can definitely get down with a lighter-hopped barley wine, as long as it emphasizes all the proper qualities of the style without overdoing it, and as long as it’s not so overloaded with alcohol that it’ll start on fire if I sneeze on it.

Horn Dog is a great example of a fine English-style barley wine. Very sweet, sugary, and thick, Horn Dog also has a nice hint of hops and, surprisingly, virtually no hint of alcohol. I let this warm up for about 25 minutes after pulling it out of the fridge, trying to get it to the recommended serving temp of 50-60°. Poured into a snifter-style glass, Horn Dog comes out fairly flat, as a barley wine should, with a light, creamy head on the top that slowly dissipates, leaving a surprisingly nice trace along the side of the glass throughout the drink (this last sentence may or may not have been loaded with sexual innuendo). A large amount of sediment floats in the glass throughout, as this is clearly an unfiltered brew. A deep burgundy color, Horn Dog has a noticeable sweet aroma to it. Not sure how to pinpoint the various aromas, as it is a plethora of both fruit and sugary malts coming at you. Ultimately, I would best describe the aroma as that of a fine brandy. A pleasing scent, indeed.

The taste is incredibly sweet, perhaps even sweeter than Sir Nigel when he’s wooing a fair young maiden (not likely, however). Anyone who worships at the altar of sugary malt will be in heaven with this brew. It’s ultra-thick, with a syrupy feel that coats the tongue instantly. Overpowering flavors of caramel, toffee, and molasses explode on contact, with a nice hint of floral hops and fruity tartness to help offset the onslaught of sugar. This brew comes dangerously close to crossing over into the “too sweet” barley wine category, but there are enough hops and other flavors to offset the massive sweetness and salvage a fine brew. Horn Dog is extremely thick, so it should be enjoyed at a slow pace, and at 10.5 percent ABV, it’s not for the faint of heart. It goes down smooth for a barley wine, though it does have a noticeable, strong aftertaste. This could be dangerous, as the massive amounts of alcohol are virtually undetectable in the flavor or aroma, although it does have that “warming” feeling that should make you realize that it’s hitting you pretty hard. All in all, a solid attempt at the difficult barley wine by Flying Dog, and another step toward gaining respectability in Nigel’s book by this Rocky Mountain brewer. Don’t be afraid to order a Horn Dog should you see it at the local pub, but please, ladies and gentlemen—try and be mature about it.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on August 11, 2007.
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