Plenty of other American craft breweries are so enamored of the many wonderful beer styles originating in Belgium that they create their own versions. In fact one of them, Celis Brewery, founded in Austin by Pierre Celis, the Belgian who founded Hoegaarden and then sold it to InBev, was largely responsible for the rise in popularity of the witbier style. Celis griped that InBev (a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev) forced him to make Hoegaarden more appealing to the masses, but apparently didn't have any problem selling out again in America, as Celis was sold to Miller Brewing, which shut down the operation and sold the equipment and name to Michigan Brewing Company. Michigan Brewing then hired Celis to continue creating Celis White and other brews, including the Belgian strong-style Grand Cru.
Raging Bitch's story isn't so complicated or compromised. Brewed by Flying Dog (which began, like Avery, in Colorado but moved to Maryland in 2008) and released this fall to celebrate the company's 20th anniversary, it's an American IPA made with Warrior, Columbus and Amarillo hops and Diablo Belgian-style yeast.
Both beers are available and, considering the quality, relatively inexpensive by the six-pack. After the jump, they get the brunt of the Hophead Beer Ranking System.
Celis Grand Cru
Appearance: Clear golden with a small, short-lived white head. 8/10
Nose: Spicy and herbal with coriander, clove, orange rind, banana and Belgian yeast very prominent. 9/10
Taste: Very nice slightly peppery like a good blonde ale, slightly sweet, with all the nose elements blending nicely with earthy, grassy hops. 36/40
Body: Medium body, with good refreshing, lively carbonation, and it's not syrupy despite some sweetness. 9/10
Finish: Dry and refreshing, very sippable. 9/10
Style/Originality: Very authentic Belgian grand cru -- no surprise, given Celis' roots in Hoegaarden. 9/10
Party Factor: A six-pack of this 8-percent ABV goes for $8.99 at Central Market, giving it a factor of 5.3, rounding to 5.
Flying Dog Raging Bitch
Appearance: Coppery-orange with a big white head. And you've got to love the Ralph Steadman-drawn gonzo label art. 10/10
Nose: Wonderful blend of big spicy yeast esters and a combination of earthy, piney and citrusy -- particularly grapefruit -- hops. 10/10
Taste: Phenomenal. All those nose elements plus some sweet apricot, herbal and grassy notes and sweet bready maltiness are all perfectly balanced. 39/40
Body: Creamy and smooth. 10/10
Finish: Clean and crisp with a good hop bite. 10/10
Style/Originality: This can hold its own with Belgian-made IPAs like Piraat and Urthel Hop-It, yet it's available at a far cheaper price point. Here's hoping Flying Dog makes it a permanent addition to its lineup. 10/10
Party Factor: A six-pack of this 8.3-percent ABV went for $8.99 at Central Market (hopefully they'll restock -- it was gone last time I looked for it), giving it a factor of 5.54, rounding to 6.
Total: An outstanding 95.