Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dogfish Head Strikes Again: 120 Minute IPA

After seemingly 3 weeks of receiving posts, pictures, and testimonials from friends of mine about it, I finally picked up a Dogfish Head Brewing 120 Minute IPA.  It's one of those event beers you have to post about.  The story is legendary. Dogfish Head brings in a new brewer.  He struggles to make the beer, destroying three batches due to an inability to correct flaws in the yeast.  Finally, he gets it right on try number four.  It hits the market in bombers and 12 oz. bottles, outrageously selling at $11 a bottle.  Was the buzz about this beer worth it?

The Dogfish Head line of IPA's, 60 Minute, 90 Minute, and 120 have a very, very special place in my domain of beer appreciation.  60 Minute is the first IPA I ever liked after trying a few duds and thinking I could never embrace the style.  90 Minute cemented my appreciation for IPA's, now my favorite style of beer, and is my favorite beer on the planet.  Squall, its unfiltered version, is breathtaking.  120 is the brother of these two beers but, to this point, had been more of a novelty or curiosity, rather than something I'd seek out.  The reviews on this year's release were too phenomenal for me not to make my first ever 120 purchase. 

I picked it up then opened it the next day after it spent a night chilling in my fridge. I poured it into a Dogfish Head glass, a squat, square jawed snifter with a thick, stout stem, that's more of a column than a stem.  Out it poured, a deep amber brown with a slight chestnut tint.  A robust, billowing head quickly followed.  Massive piney hop odors streamed from the glass into the ambient air and the shiny white head refused to budge.

It has that champagne carbonation-like mouthfeel of 90 Minute but a bit thicker and rounder.  You are immediately blasted with a bit of roasted caramel: they really invert the tasting process, the hops come later.  That slight sweetness melts away and a pine, then grapefruit hop profile takes over.  This eventually dominates to the end of the glass.  Some spices linger around the edges and a minor amount of sweetness.  But a mild amount of pine and a heap of grapefruit are the big  players here and control through the last sip.  Indeed, you will savor every sip of this.  The aroma, carbonation, biting hops, mild sweetness, spiciness, and robustness make for a sublime experience and slow your pacing.

This is truly another masterpiece from Dogfish Head. I recall my first and only other 120, perhaps it was 6 years ago, maybe 7. I found it super sweet, almost syrupy.  Tasty, but not something I'd want to try but every few years.  The danger in the reloaded 120 is that it's not too heavy on the mouthfeel, and a rich, complex rewarding beer I'd almost want to drink again immediately.  It's spellbinding to think that this is a beer boasting an impossible 120 IBUs.  This is a brewing achievement.  It is rare to find a "triple" IPA, and not even the venerable Founders with their Devil Dancer competes on this level.  Perhaps the all-elusive Pliny the Younger tops 120, but I, like most beer lovers, have no personal knowledge. 

Be wary.   This beer is exceedingly potent, probably too much so.   It is said to range from 15-20% alcohol, a stupidly high level, so it really has to be enjoyed on its own, as your first beer, and not if you plan on driving or being functional. It will quickly put you underwater.

Yet, if you end up underwater, you have managed your way to the lost city of Atlantis, my friend, or some other magical, fairy tale land.  This beer is simply that good, that singular, and that unreal. 

4.9 of 5 starts.  Remarkable. 

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