2009 Beers in Review-Best Beer #4

15 12 2009

We are in the homestretch now! Just four more beers left in our best beers of the year. Have you tried any of them yet? If so, what did you think?

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA- Dogfish Head Brewery Milton, DE

Photo Credit: Brainard Brewing Company

American Strong Ale

Rate Beer Score: 98 Points

Sometimes, what turns a good beer into a great beer is the situation in which you are drinking it. This is the case of today’s beer. Last Spring, Christine and I went to Delaware with some friends. We stayed in a cabin beside an estuary. We read books, drank coffee, watched wild life and played dominoes. We went to the beach, walked on the boardwalk, played ski ball, went on carnival rides, swam in the ocean, and drank beer.

We also drove out to Milton, home of the Dogfish Head Brewery. We had tickets for the last brewery tour of the day. But we got lost in downtown Milton (population 1600) and missed our tour. I walked up to the bar and asked if we had missed the tour. In a thick Irish brogue, he answered “Aye! I am sorry, but do you know what that means?” I asked him what that meant. He told me, “That means we need to give you lots of beer!”

So I called my friends over. And Jameson began pour us flights of beer. While people who were actually on the tour had little tokens to be turned in for a few sips of beer, Jameson was pouring half pints of the entire selection. And that is how I got to taste the 120 IPA.

Sam Caliogne, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, was a homebrewer. Sam and Dogfish Head have become a real innovator in brewing extreme beers in America. Their signature technique, called “continuous hopping” is the key to their flagship beers: The 60 Minutre IPA, The 90 Minute IPA, and the 120 Minute IPA.

In traditional brewing, a beer has a “hopping schedule.” The brewer times exactly when the hops goes into the boil in order to extract the right ammount of flavor, bitterness and aroma. This is because the bitter alpha acids take a longer time to completly get extracted from the hops. However the phenols that give flavor and aroma are far more volatile and evaporate out of the boil over time. With continuous hopping, there is no schedule. Hops are added continuously during the boil. Each name (60, 90, 120 Minutes) reffers to how long the wort was boiled while receiving a continuous hopping schedule.

The 120 Minute IPA is bright golden. It is the color of harvest wheat with a little bit of toast. The head is negligible. And the carbonation is slight.

The mouthfeel is surprisingly sticky. But to have a beer as big as this one (18% ABV), one needs a lot of sugar. And then to boil it for two hours, that sugar is practically a syrup at that point. For a big, sticky beer like this, the 120 is surprisingly smooth and clean. It is not cloying, there is no “cough syrup” or “Cherry Cordial” feeling.

The front end is sweet and boozy. There is no apparent toast to the malt. It is reminiscent of brandy or a liqueur. One would expect this beer to be melt-your-face-off hoppy. However, it wasn’t! The amount of sugar in the beer balanced the hops extremely well. Don’t get me wrong though, this still has 120 IBUs. It was just extremely well balanced. One gets a lot of citrus, particularly orange peel, with some pineyness.

This was a lovely beer. But, it was not great. It was a challange. What really made it was to be in the brewery, with friends, drinking free beer. It also kicked my butt. Splitting it with friends, I still got buzzed off of it. I do not think I could drink a whole bottle of it. Which is fine, because a 12 oz. bottle will run you about $10. I would split this with friends as a before dinner apartif. Perferably before some BBQ ribs with a molassas based sauce.

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2 responses

15 12 2009
Johnny Automatic

If I was not already wedded to Pliny the Younger then this seductress would own me. I think this is my first bisexual beer review,

15 12 2009
awinnett

Johnny, this is indeed an amazing beer. I think the term you were looking for though was “polyamorous.”

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