Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (review)

In recent years a number of craft brews have managed to reach a sort of "celebrity" status among discerning beer drinkers. Of particular interest to me as an IPA lover, in my still young beer-life, is Dogfish Head Brewing's 120 Minute IPA.

Dogfish Head recently shipped their final limited batch of 120 Minute IPA for 2015 and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle at The Jolly Farmer, Waverly NY. Visit any Winery or local Wine & Spirits seller and $10 to $15 bottles of wine are readily available. But when it comes to beer, the general public typically expects to spend a couple dollars per 12oz bottle, and perhaps a little more for some unique imports. The bottle of 120 Minute IPA that now stands before me rang up at $13 for just 12 ounces.

While 13 dollars certainly isn't a bank-breaker, as compared to the price of a "fine wine," whenever we shell out several times the average price for a product or experience it begs the question: Was it worth it?

Billed by Dogfish Head as "The Holy Grail for Hopheads," 120 Minute IPA is boiled for 2 hours, continually hopped during that time, dry hopped daily during fermentation, and then aged another month on whole leaf hops. Couple this labor and ingredient intensive process with the limited quantity produced each year and its easy to see where some of the price tag comes from.

I purchased this bottle of 120 Minute IPA on Saturday afternoon, chilled it in the refrigerator, and opened it 24 hours later. Poured into an nondescript glass, the beer yields a finger or two of slightly off white foam and visible effervescence over dark amber liquid that leaves considerable legs on the edges of the glass. Those legs are reflected in a lingering, syrupy mouth-feel.

The aroma in this particular bottle is less "hoppy" than I expected; slightly fruity and smoky with a strong nose of alcohol.

Weighing in at an advertised 15% to 20% ABV (depending on which batch you are drinking), the boozy aroma is no surprise. 120 Minute IPA flirts with being a liquor, which is confirmed by the strong (for a beer) alcohol warmth in the back of the throat. But unlike a distilled product, 120 Minute IPA has more than just oak tannins to offer in the flavor department. On the IBU scale this beer scores a 120. Its bitter. Its hoppy, but not in the same way that typical Imperial IPA's with 6.5% to 10%ABV and 60 to 100 IBU's are. The immense ABV in this beer "does something" to the hops that is hard to explain. Hop-haters sometimes describe IPA's as tasting like a fresh cut lawn. I have a similar opinion of straight whiskey, which I think tastes like drinking a 2 x 4, until you add a little ice and allow the water content to reveal other subtleties. With 120 Minute IPA the alcohol hall seems to "pickle" and "reveal" shapes of flavor in the hops that are otherwise hidden.

Dogfish Head recommends trying some 120 Minute IPA fresh, but also aging a couple bottles for up to 10 years. The mainstream media pushes 'fresh' beer, and for the most part so does the craft beer world. I'm mildly interested in aging a couple bottles, however it may prove too tempting to wait. Try a bottle of 120 Minute IPA and see what you think...

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