Horn Dog: Barley Wine Style Ale

Looking for a unique style of beer that’s aged like a fine wine and will knock you on your ass? Horn Dog is a Flying Dog brew based on a barley wine style ale. It’s an aged beer, a minimum of three months before being packaged, and wields a 10.4% alcohol by volume (ABV).

This 2004 Silver Medal Winner is potent in punch, flavor and attacks all your senses within seconds of sipping. Pour slowly into a glass and you’ll get a very thin white head and a very dark colored beer. Holding it up to the light yields odd results, a dark and cloudy mahogany colored beer. Not your typical look upon first inspection but, after all, it’s a barley wine style ale.

A barley wine has similar properties to wine in its sheer strength but its made with grain, not fruit, so we’re talking about a real beer. Flying Dog has taken to the traditional style recipe with Horn Dog, unlike some United States based barley wines. It’s well balanced with its sweets and bitters and does not have a harsh bite like some US based recipes.

Don’t get me wrong, this beer is bubbling with hoppy goodness, but their so well balanced it won’t overpower the pallet. I don’t find it as fruity as some barley wines, only hinting at a starting fruit with hop finish. The carbonation is constant, streaming from the bottom of the glass if you can see it under the cloak of cloudy mahogany. The beer is extremely smooth, mimicking the likes of a good red wine, and has a great firm mouth feel.

Although the bottle is bursting with malts they do not overtake you like a brown ale would, perhaps because of the complex nature of the style, there are so many other flavors, bitters and sweets that you’re not torn in any one direction. Unlike some beers that I’ve had with great balance, Horn Dog has its own unique character and taste. It doesn’t taste like “other beers,” something I’ve had an issue with in some beers which were good but not earth shattering.

Horn Dog takes an old English style and kicks it up a notch but stays traditional to the European roots. I highly suggest expanding your horizons and giving this barley wine a pour. Just remember, it’s 10.4% ABV, be careful and sip slowly!