Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

By on January 31, 2011 @ 6 PM (2 Comments)

Time for another Father and Son beer review! This time we hit the infamous Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA – a beer that can be tough to find, unless you know people. Or live in a state the doesn’t have a law against selling beer above 15% ABV. Either way.

The Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA comes to us from the fine folks at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery up in Deleware. It was sent to us as a gift from one of the fine vendors Son Beer Love does business with in his day job. It’s got a completely unassuming front label – just a picture of a hop leaf, the name of the beer and a statement that it “Ages Well.” The last part remains to be seen as we’ve cellared a bottle to have in a decade or so. The back of the label reads “What you have here is the holy grail for hopheads. This beer is continuously hopped over a 120-minute boil and then dry-hopped every day for a month. Enjoy now or age for a decade or so.”

The ABV comes in at a hearty 18% and the IBUs come in at an impossible (literally) 120. It’s a 12 oz bottle of mouth wallop for sure. Though not noted on the bottle, we feel like our batch is likely from 2009.

We thought about live blogging this as we reviewed it, but at 18% we thought our review might go something like this:

First sip: Sweet edge, strong alcohol presence.

Second sip: Nice notes of floral, caramel, etc.

Thir3d sip. Toff3e notez, aromza, sippy sip.

444444444444thhhf stepppp…… Glarfneck spoo.

After thinking through what a 12 oz bottle of 18% ABV beer might do to us we decided that splitting the bottle was the intellectual choice. Just so happened that Father Beer Love was in Charlotte visiting Son Beer Love (that’s a lie, he was in Charlotte visiting Granddaughter Beer Love).

For a little primer into the beer, check out this quick video of Sam Calagione talking about the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA:

For our review we used a snifter glass which wound up being perfect for tight swirls and catching lots of aromas. Also for feeling all fancy like. We got a starting beer temperature of 51.3 F. We used some sandwich thins and water to cleanse our palates in between sips.

Our initial pour yielded a small 1/4″ creamy off-white head that left a fair amount of lacing as it dissipated quickly. There was no discernible carbonation and the body clarity was a bit hazy. The color was a brilliant amber/orange.

For our aromas we grabbed caramel, toasted malts, citrus, grapefruit, grass, orange, pine, resin, yeast, alcohol, apricot, fresh ginger, dry sherry and some general spices. Of all the smells grapefruit comes out the strongest. It smells super hoppy and may literally have the biggest nose on a beer we’ve done or can recall. The strength of the smell is outrageous and is only further concentrated by our snifter glasses. We’re notoriously not hopheads, so we’re not sure we’re going to like what comes next.

What comes next is the taste. We hold our snifter glasses like we’re 14th century aristocrats and take a sip. Initial flavors are a heavy sweet and a light bitter. The finish flavors are a moderate sweet, moderate bitter, very light salty and a very light tart. Our heads turn sideways like a dog that has just seen you juggle. Where’s the mouth punch? The tongue burning? The taste buds dissolving? It’s not there.

What is there is caramel, honey, toasted malts, toffee, floral, grapefruit, pine, resin, apricot, brown sugar, butterscotch, fresh ginger, dry sherry, spices and a touch of vanilla. It’s quite the taste profile and it has a surprising amount of sweetness to it. It’s a great sweetness for two malt madmen like ourselves. Wow. The alcohol, also surprisingly, isn’t around in the taste.

The finish length is long, the mouthfeel is buttery and the tongue hit is in the front. There’s a fair amount of body lacing as we drink it down and on our patented malt to hop scale it comes in 1.5 clicks to the left of balanced on the malty side. It may be an Imperial IPA, but that malt backbone is so strong that it brings it to the malty side of balanced. You can’t possibly fathom how odd that is to us.

For our bottom line notes we got a yes to drinkable, balance, harmony, memorable, wow factor, value and buy again. Our only no was to repeatable, which most 18% ABV beers aren’t going to score well on.

By the end of the review our beer was up to 67.1 F and it tasted even better than it did when we started. This one passes the 60 degree test with flying colors. Start out around 55 degrees or so and you’ll be in good shape as you sip it throughout the evening.

The Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA just blew our minds, in a good way. It’s nothing like we expected. Well, the smell was, but the taste so wasn’t. The smell is completely dominated by hops and the taste is completely dominated by the malts. The hop shock is smell-based only. We wound up calling it “A Malt Lover’s IPA” and we think that is the perfect description of it. We struggled with whether or not it was a 10 and in the end we decided to settle on a 9. When we try the bottle we’re aging we may come back and change our minds.

Thanks to our friend Dave for sending us this treat. We look forward to more!

Also – for comparison – check out our review of the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA.

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA Rating: 9 out of 10 (?)


2 Comments (Add Your Comments)

  1. Barry says:

    This is good. The 60 and 90 minute are also good…I haven’t seen a review for Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout here. You ought to try it. It’s a treat.

  2. John says:

    Barry – thanks for the note on the Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout. We actually have reviewed it, it just hasn’t made it to the site yet. One of our favorites for sure – I’ve probably had 5 of them by now. So smooth.

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