What is it with the names of these two Pale Ales that use Belgian yeast? Why do they have to be so contrary? Raging Bitch sounds like a lady to be avoided (I could use names here but I don’t need that kind of heat!), and Verboten is German for “Forbidden.” Both names make it sound like these beers will be hard to warm up to.
As it turns out, one of these pale ales lives up to it’s name and is probably best left on the shelf, while the other is a sheep in wolves clothing.
First up we have Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch IPA, which was created to celebrate the brewery’s 20th anniversary. And what a great gift it is. It’s features the grain bill of an American IPA that is then fermented with Belgian yeast. The result is a 8.3% ABV ale that is bright, sweet and floral, with wonderful tones grapefruit up front, a nice sweet middle, and a bit of sour apple and orange rind on the finish, which is a dry and nicely bittered affair. The alcohol is quite sneaky here, as it’s largely imperceptible, which can be dangerous in a beer this big. I’ve grown weary of Belgian beers, and I find IPA’s trying at times, but these two elements are married together so beautifully in this beer, even I cannot find fault.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Weyerbacher’s Verboten. I had just finished up a Raging Bitch and went to the beer fridge for something else, when my eyes fell upon a bottle of Verboten. I’d had it a few times before, but never really connected with it. Having just enjoyed the Raging Bitch, I thought the Belgian IPA pump was primed and it was the perfect time to fall in love with Weyerbacher’s take on a Belgian Pale Ale. Boy, was I wrong!
Verboten, which used to be called “Zotten,” is a 6% ABV Belgian Pale Ale that is bottle conditioned. It looks good on paper and even better in a glass, with its hazy golden hue catching the light just right in my stemless wine vessel. The nose was a bit of fruit, a bit of yeast and maybe (forgive me if this sounds fancy) a little fresh cut hay in the mix. That’s okay, because I don’t mind a little of the barnyard funk that can come with some Belgian ales.
But what I do mind is metallic funk – the taste that put me off Belgian beers in the first place. And Verboten (or as I should say Verbo”tin”) has it in spades. After one good pull on the beer, it was as if I had licked a 9 volt battery, the taste of metal was so prominent on my palate. I tried a few more sips before I gave up. I switched to filtered water in order to cleanse my palate, and the metallic esters clung so powerfully that all I could taste was the pipe that delivered the water before it was filtered. That’s a pretty powerful funk.
So in the battle of the Belgian IPA’s, there’s really no contest. Raging Bitch is a delightful beer that really showcases what Flying Dog can do when they decide to go big (which isn’t often enough in my book) and Verboten pushes all of my buttons, but in the wrong way.
As many of you know, Weyerbacher brews some of my favorite beers, and I’m a fan of most everything they do. But I’m a bit of a sissy when it comes to Belgian beers with metallic esters, and so Verboten will be “Forbidden” in my beer fridge from now on.
Instead, I’ll be cuddling up with a Raging Bitch, which won’t be the first time, Just ask my buddies from college. 😉