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Monday, November 16, 2009

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head is a brewing company that began in 1995 as a on site brew pub in Rehobeth Beach, Deleware.  A year later, it's first brew, the Shelter Pale Ale, had reached such high demand that they began bottling it and shipping out to Philidelphia, Washington D.C. and beyond.  By 1999, Dogfish Head products were being shipping around to around a dozen states and is now one of the leading brand names in the American craft beer movement.

One of there newest pop creations (if you go to there actual locations, they are brewing different kinds of beers all the time and putting everything in them from chipotle peppers to honey or cardamom, you name it!) is their 120 Minute IPA.  Now let's elaborate.

First, an IPA, or an India Pale Ale, is becoming one of the most popular styles of beer in the US during the craft brewery movement.  First brewed in England during the 18th century, the India Pale Ale is an Ale that is usually between a light amber or copper color tipple that usually boasts higher alcohol content and is recognized for it's bitter, hoppy and occasional malty flavor favored by beer drinkers for it's complexity whether served cold or at red wine temperature.  Some are very drinkable and can be consumed as a daily beer or patio favorite and others are great accompaniments with strong flavored entrees or as dessert substitutes.  Some, like the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA can be cellared for one or two years and will lose some of there bitter aspects and obtain sherry like notes.

The 120 Minute part explains that the IPA has been boiled for 2 hours in High-Alpha American hops.  It is then dry-hopped daily in a fermenter for a one month period and then ages for another month in whole-leaf hops.  In translation, it is an incredibly hoppy beer!  The final product is then brought up to an alcohol content between 18%-25% alcohol and can vary from bottle to bottle (So sip it, share it with a friend and have only one!).  It is recommended to drink this IPA at a temperature of 50-55 degrees Farenheit and consumed in a brandy balloon, big red wine glass or a trappist style beer glass.

I refridgerated my first 120 Minute IPA and pulled it out a half hour before I was ready to pour and used a large Cognac snifter as my vessel.  Upon pouring it into the glass the IPA fell upon itself in a rich amber similare to a VSOP Calvados.  The frothy off tannish white head broke away quickly but remained distantly present as I tasted.  This IPA unlike other high alcohol concoctions is carbonated, so it still drinks very much like a beer.   The smell is intense, candy like with burnt caramel, tangerines and apricots being the star players.  Signs of vanilla, malted cream and roasted almonds are underneath an already present sherry and marmalade note.  The bitter tannic finish is far more softer than most IPA's and definitely not what I usually expect from a Dogfish Head brew.  It actually finishes with a risidual sweetness accompanied by a slightly acidic symphony that is very welcoming.

In retrospect.  The Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA is a complex beer with cellar potential that should only be consumed with some one over dinner or consumed over the course of an evening.  I opened mine over an hour ago and have a long way to go.  As it warms up it actually showcases slightly more hops and nutty attributes and continues to take on this sherry like quality even in the glass.  Because of the complexity, the strength and the experience of it, I highly recommend to anyone who can get there hands on it, but buy one to taste and one to hide away because I'm rather curious what this will taste like in 2011.


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