Beer Review: Flying Dog-BrewDog International Arms Race (US Version)

A bitter beer with zero hops? We're intrigued

The collaboration beer between Flying Dog and BrewDog.

Frederick, Md.’s Flying Dog Brewery recently teamed up with one of the most extreme breweries in the world, Scotland’s BrewDog, to create a truly unique collaboration, called International Arms Race. Both breweries have a penchant for pushing the envelope (BrewDog has released a 55 percent ABV beer called End of History, for example) and this beer is no different, though it does have a surprise or two in store.

Instead of going for an insanely hopped IPA, a trend both companies had previously embraced, the cross-Atlantic brewers decided to put their talents and competitive spirit to work to create a highly bitter beer that came in with a rating of zero IBUs (International Bitterness Units) using zero hops. To make the competition like an actual arms race, the brewers didn’t work together on the beer, but simply each followed the same recipe. For this review, I tasted Flying Dog’s version.

Poured from a 12-ounce bottle, International Arms Race is a rich amber color with an almost non-existent head. Appearance leads you to believe carbonation is low, but a few sips show that this is not the case, there is plenty of bubbly pop (and alcohol content is around 7.5 percent ABV). After those few sips, you also immediately register a lack of any hops flavor. There is a different type of bitterness, but there’s no mistaking the fact that hops are nowhere to be found. For flavor, the brewers used combinations of spearmint, bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berries, and elderflower — an herbal mix like that used in ancient times to make gruit ale. The result is a unique and successful brew, albeit one with a very unexpected profile.

Though this beer may not please hopheads, it was a worthy experiment from BrewDog and Flying Dog (and I am curious to try the U.K. version). The brew is definitely worth a try at least once, especially if you enjoy beers that defy your expectations and provide a totally new drinking experience.

— Mike Lorenz, The Drink Nation

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