Doing Battle in the International Arms Race
A Review of International Arms Race by Flying Dog Brewing Co.
Posted on 10/16/2012 by Chops
Don't let anyone ever tell you that the craft beer world isn't exciting. Let me tell you a story. Two breweries, Flying Dog out of the US and BrewDog out of Scotland, decided to go head to head in an international arms race. The challenge: create an IPA without using hops. That loud clunk you just heard? That was your brain gears locking up. Oh, and it gets better. In order to declare a victor, battle events were set up in pubs all over the UK. Customers were offered flights of each brew and asked to select their favorite. After all votes were tallied, Flying Dog was declared the winner. Seriously, how cool is this story? You can read all about it here:

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So going into Flying Dog's version of the International Arms Race Zero-IBU IPA, two thoughts were going through my mind. One, mad props to Flying Dog for representing the US in such epic fashion. And two, WTF is a Zero-IBU IPA? Turns out, they were using ''varying amounts of spearmint, bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berries, and elderflower'' to create hop-like bitterness. Well okay then, let's get started.

In the glass, this wacky concoction has a deep honey golden coloration. It comes with a frothy white head that has decent retention. The aroma is where things start to get interesting. Quick, think of as many herbs and spices as you can for ten seconds. Got them? Yeah, that's only about half of the spices you will find in this beer's aroma. Seriously, it was actually stressful to study this aroma. It's similar in fashion to a spiced pumpkin ale, only infinitely more complex. Coriander, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, clove, nutmeg, it's all there and then some. So going into that first sip, I honestly had no idea what to expect.

Oddly enough, this beer has a very smooth mouthfeel despite all the spicy characters. It has a medium body and is easy to drink. The spices team up to create a more zesty feel rather than bitter, so any resemblance to a standard IPA is completely lost on my palate. Not exactly surprising considering the total lack of hops. The core flavor profile can be summed up as a malty sweet base with a churning cloud of herbs and spices floating on top. To be honest, the spiciness is almost too much to handle, but the flavor is so fascinating that you can't help but soldier on. The finish is decently clean and exits with a spice-infused malty aftertaste.

Overall, Flying Dog's International Arms Race Zero-IBU IPA is a bizarre beer with an eccentric personality. I have absolutely no idea who to recommend this beer to, so I invite all beer fans to try it. It's super strange, but surprisingly tasty. It's easy drinking nature also opens the doors for novices, but I should warn them that this is not an accurate representation of any known beer style. Go into it with an open mind because there is nothing like it (other than the BrewDog version of course).

It's moments like these that excite me as a beer fan. I love when beers have engaging personalities and amusing back stories. International Arms Race is the beer equivalent of a roller coaster, so strap in, throw your hands up, and enjoy the ride. Cheers!

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International Arms Race by Flying Dog Brewing Co.
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