Mint Julep Ale Falters Out the Starting Gate

My Uncle Gary made a living of writing about sports. He gathered more quotes over a very long and wildly successful career as the human Swiss Army knife of sports reporters than I can possibly imagine. He is also a man with a quip for every event in life; more of them are his own than he would admit.

I recall his theory about how to make a great Mint Julep going something like this:

Crushed Ice
A Few Sprigs of Mint
Fine Bourbon

Step 1: Muddle the sugar and some mint in the glass
Step 2: Add a generous amount of crushed ice.
Step 3: Throw that all in the trash.
Step 4: Pour 4 oz of Bourbon in a new clean glass.
Step 5: Enjoy

The beginning of May gives us the Kentucky Derby. This annual event brings out women in garish hats, a sudden and fleeting interest in horse racing, and mint juleps. Flying Dog Brewery released a timely beer meant to celebrate this as part of their Brewhouse Rarities series: Mint Julep Ale. Just like Uncle Gary’s theory above, this brew should have left the mint and “bourbon natural flavors” out of the ale.

Mint Julep Ale

Notice bottom right: “Bourbon Natural Flavors.”

This golden ale entered the glass without any fuss while pouring a rich golden hue with little head. But right out the gate I knew this beer was in trouble. It stumbled badly at first sip with a mild mint flavor that coupled with the blonde ale like sex between drunk prom date virgins that were going “just as friends.” Is this how you wanted your first time to be? Not really, but you got to do it sometime… I guess and well, it happened.

The label says “honeysuckle” but I will be damned if the flowers showed up anywhere in the flavor profile.

Which leaves me, naturally, with the finish. The ale was meant to convey the bourbon with what is called “Bourbon natural flavors.” “What are those?” you may be asking. Hell-if-I-know.

I do know that one way to make beer taste like bourbon has been to age it in some bourbon barrels. That didn’t happen. Did they just add bourbon to the product? Nope. Otherwise it would just say “with Bourbon.”

So instead we got a facsimile of what bourbon kind of tastes like. It’s is as if Flying Dog took the basic concept and elements of bourbon and threw it into the bottle as a remix with a golden ale and some mint. Like Puff Daddy or P. Diddy or whatever, destroying classic rock songs as repackaged Godzilla movie soundtrack filler or a tribute to his dead coattails. (Yeah, I said it. Fight me!)

Did I hate this beer? No. While normally a broken down race horse would get one behind the ear and shipped to the glue factor, this one should be spared because I know some people really liked it. (I am looking in your direction Stouts & Stilettos.) But it shouldn’t be sent out to stud either.

This also-ran could be called a gimmick but that is way too harsh. Therefore, I am left with considering this a smart idea in principle that just never quite lived up to the potential. In the end, potential is just wasted energy until execution. This one faltered out the gate.


Mint Julep Ale was handed to me by a friend with a wink as I walked out of his home. I suspected at the time he was looking to unload it.

There are several Flying Dog beers that I do strongly recommend:

Tropical Bitch
Gonzo Imperial Porter & the barrel aged variant
The Truth Imperial IPA

P. Diddy’s “work” has not aged well.

In full disclosure, I have yet to find a beer with mint that has really worked for me. So consider the source.

Reference Springhouse Brewing Co., which absolutely nails stouts, makes a Satan’s Bake Sale Mint Chocolate Chip Stout and well… I think it’s a wreck. But that beer is well regarded by others.

While we are on the subject of mint flavored things: Mint Oreos are okay but you shoud feel free to skip them.

Another point about Oreos…

The Canonical List of Oreo Cookies:

1. Oreos
2. Double Stuff Oreos

That’s it. That is the list.

The other permutations of Oreos are not officially recognized and many variations are downright heretical.

If you are about to disagree with the above list of canonical Oreos, let me stop you right now. I suggest that you think about your life choices. Maybe you need to find the reason why you are on a wayward path.

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