Seafood and summer beer is a time-tested pairing, as typical to hot-and-humid days as bathing suits and beach umbrellas. But even the most ardent shore-goers might do a double-take with the latest release from Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery. Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale is brewed with classic Old Bay seasoning, the spice mix usually used when eating steamed crabs. Ingredients in Old Bay, a Chesapeake Bay tradition for 75 years, include celery salt, red and black pepper, and paprika.
These spices are not typical to beer, and it took some tinkering to make them palatable in an easy-drinking summer ale. The Flying Dog team went through 12 iterations in two years of experimentation, starting off with a German Gose style and dialing the spices up and down until the final product met desired standards.
“I think Dead Rise is a testament to our brewers’ talent, because Old Bay is not a subtle spice,” said Ben Savage, Flying Dog’s chief marketing officer and the impetus behind the brew. “It’s never been successfully incorporated into a beer. We spent a lot of time figuring how much spice you wanted in the nose, how much in the body and aftertaste.”
In other words, making sure the beer doesn’t taste like something you’re supposed to put on crabs.
A note on the name. A dead rise is a boat, “specifically designed to navigate the unique waterways of the Chesapeake.” There are 55 watermen who make their living on the bay, according to Savage. Some proceeds from the sale of the beer go to True Blue, an initiative (Old Bay is involved as well) to support the Maryland crab industry.
“There’’s been an influx of foreign crabmeat,” said Savage. “It’s cheaper. It’s not the same meat.”
To be clear, there are no crabs in this brew, though an avid craft drinker could be confused given the number of shellfish-inspired brews hitting the market in recent years. Real oysters offer a briny balancing agent to sweeter styles like stouts, made by Harpoon, 21st Amendment, and several other breweries.
My bottle of Flying Dog Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale pours an electric, sandy yellow into a tulip glass. I get lemon and some pepper in the nose, but nothing crabby to scare me off.
The first sip starts off like a lemony-sweet summer ale before the spices kick in. The mouthfeel on this beer is light, peppery and salty, and not in a bad way. The finish is dry, a welcome respite from the sea of lemon bombs that make up the usual summer beer lineup. I love the fact that it’s not too sweet and, despite the crab staring out from the bottle’s label, it would be easy to forgive the drinker for not thinking of this as an Old Bay beer at all. Allagash White and other Belgian witbiers possess a similar peppery character. I could absolutely drink more than one of these.
Flying Dog makes two summer beers, this one and Woody Creek White, a more traditional offering. The Old Bay beer was sold as a summer seasonal for the first time this year, and Savage said he’s not sure whether the company will bring it back. In my humble opinion, it would be a mistake not to.
Narragansett’s retro can
If you’re on the Vineyard this summer, walking around near the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, there’s an official, albeit nostalgic, beer to tote with you.
Narragansett has re-released its 1975 “Jaws”-themed can from the iconic movie. For the summer months, all 12-, 18- and 30-packs of 12-ounce cans of Narragansett Lager will replicate the 1975 can famously crushed by Robert Shaw in the shark thriller. The yellow-and-white can with the red stripe running horizontally through it is enough of a reminder to keep anyone out of the water.
This summer, in partnership with the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami, Narragansett will sponsor the adoption of a shark. The shark will be tagged and monitored for scientific research. ’Gansett drinkers will have the chance to name the adopted shark by submitting suggestions through Narragansett’s social media channels now through Shark Week, beginning Aug. 10, using the hashtag #NameTheSharkGary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen.