3.6AROMA 6/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 15/20
I’ve never put too much emphasis on a brewer’s location since it’s rather arbitrary if you think about. However, I think certain styles of beers, especially seasonals, would be better brewed in locations that suit them. For example, if you want a winter warmer you might grab one made in a place that knows the winter, like Denver, where Flying Dog’s satellite brewery is located (their main brewery is out of Frederick, Maryland). Their K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale is the kind of beer I’d want to drink after coming in from a cold day of skiing (if I skied, that is). It’s a sweet, but not too sweet; bitter but not too bitter; and easily drinkable but still full-bodied.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
This beer pours to a pretty shade of dark copper, a frothy, beige head which leaves plenty of lacing on the glass and lingers until the last drop. The aroma is quite mild with hints of cinnamon and a bit of citrus.
The taste of K-9 Cruiser is what you want in a winter warmer: up front there’s a rich malty sweetness with notes of dark fruit (notable raisin) and cookie-like spices of cinnamon and possibly ginger. It’s so rich and malty, in fact, it’s almost like syrup on the palate (and a thick mouthfeel to match).
On the back end the beer finishes noticeably dry with a touch of citrus. The aftertaste is also dry and bitter, which is impressive considering this brew is only 30 IBUs. But this is not exactly what I would call a crisp or clean palate since it’s tough to ignore the flavors here. I just wish those flavors were more inviting since these flavors don’t excite my palate as much as I would prefer.
They say taste is relative but the same might be true of drinkability. Personally, I found K-9 Cruiser to be an easy-drinking brew. While it’s true it’s heady, robust, and just plain thick it doesn’t tear up your palate. I was surprised how quickly and easily I was able to drink this beer. Even more surprising considering it’s a bit dense at 6.4% ABV. It does have a slight warming effect as it finishes, but that’s why they’re called "winter warmers" after all. More experienced beer-drinkers will find this beer easy to drink, but lightweights will likely find the full body a bit too strong.
If we were to graph the quality of winter warmers versus the number of beers on the market it would most likely be a bell curve. If that’s true, then Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale would fall right in the middle of the curve. It’s a solid performer that probably won’t blow you away but is unlikely to disappoint. If you’re satisfied with just being satisfied, then by all means pick it up.