Recently in Dogfish Head Category

Vintage Dogfish Head

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Once the darlings of the craft beer community, it seems that Dogfish Head's fortunes have been on the wane in recent years. Sure, they're still chugging along and are often the savior of a BMC dominated taplist, but their beers aren't quite as heralded as they once were. This might be due to the hit-or-miss nature of their sometimes gimmicky approach, or perhaps just plain snobbery. Personally, I tend to enjoy their more "normal" takes on beer, though some of the "off-centered" stuff hits its mark from time to time as well. I had the good fortune to visit the original Rehoboth Beach brewpub last year, and it was a really good time. I had some brewpub exclusives like Porter by Proxy and SeaQuench Ale (now a regular release) that I really enjoyed (and others that were... less successful, like Choc Lobster).

Anyway, I knew that I'd squirreled away a few bottles of Dogfish Head's more extreme efforts a few years ago, so I lit my torch and made the trek into the deepest, darkest catacombs of my cellar. After fighting off a hoard of mummies and centipede-like creatures, I managed to extricate a few vintage bottles of Dogfish Head from several years of cobwebs and dust.

As per usual, there are two sides of the coin when drinking well-aged beer. On one side, it's always an interesting and sometimes sublime experience. On the other, while it's always a different beer than it was fresh, it's rarely a better beer. I'm happy to report that, in this case at least, Dogfish Head's wares held up remarkably well. Of course, you'll also have to note that these are among the more extreme varieties they make in terms of ABV and thus are particularly good candidates for aging. I suspect most of their other offerings would not fare so well. I've got some comments about each beer that are incorporated below, so read on, fearless drinker:

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine - A barleywine brewed with figs, I always found the label's "Directions" charming: "Open bottle, pour contents into two snifters. Enjoy. Or: Walk hand-in-neck into the middle of the woods. Use a shovel to dig a 2x2 hole three feet deep. Seal the bottle in a plastic bag. Place in hole & pack with dirt. Memorize location & leave. Return exactly one year later. Dig up bottle, open & enjoy." Well, I didn't pack it in dirt and I left it in the catacombs of castle Kaedrin for 5 years instead of just 1, but this still held up pretty well. I'd probably recommend a little less time in the cellar if you're looking to age your own, but it definitely takes on age gracefully. This is probably one of Dogfish Head's more underrated beers. This is actually the last beer from Dogfish Head that I did a proper review for, and it's from 2012... I may need to remedy that, but for now, let's look at our well aged 4-5 year old bottle.

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine

Pours a very murky brown color with a half finger of off white head. Smells of dark fruits, those figs and prunes, crystal malt, dank resinous hops (typical of aged beers, but it's a subtle presence here, lending complexity). Taste hits that fruity malt character, rich caramelized figs and prunes, crystal malt, light on the resinous hops, followed by a heaping helping of booze. There's a little oxidation going on here, but it's not overwhelming the beer. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, lots of boozy heat but nothing unapproachable. A sipper for sure. Overall, this has held up remarkably well. Would try again. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/4/17. Bottled in 2012B.

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - Perhaps Dogfish Head's most famous beer, it's one of the few that does seem to still command a devout following. One thing you'll hear a lot of people say about this beer is that it's almost undrinkable when fresh, which I've always counted as an exaggeration, but I never did manage a well-aged version until new. This has to be one of the most remarkable transformations I've ever seen in an aged beer. When fresh, it's certainly boozy and hot, but it's got lots of great citrus and pine hop character going on. I liked it. With age, especially once we start talking about 5-6 years, it essentially turns into a malt-forward barleywine. Even just the color of the beer changes dramatically. I managed to dig up a picture from ye olde digital catacombs that shows what it was like with about 6 months on it (you can click to embiggen all the images in this post, but I'm afraid this one isn't exactly high quality. Please direct complaints to my old cell phone):

2012 Picture of a freshish bottle of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

And with 6 years on it (these two bottles were from the same 2011B batch), oxidation takes hold and turns this a much darker color:

A six year old Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA from the same batch as previous picture

Whoa. Pours a murky, very dark amber color with a finger of white head. Smells like a malt-forward barleywine, lots of oxidized aromas, a little bit of dank, resinous hops (way different than fresh). Taste is rich and sweet, again, malt forward, more like a barleywine, certainly a little oxidized, a little faded, dank, resinous hops, finishing boozy. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, and quite boozy, not as hot as fresh, but plenty of warming sensations as I drink. Overall, I may have kept this just a bit too long, but it's still quite interesting. I'd like to try one with 3 or so years on it to see how it compares. For now B or B+

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/18/17. Bottled in 2011B.

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout - Of the Dogfish Beers I've aged, I'd expect this one to do the best. It ticks all the right checkboxes for the ideal beer-aging candidate: dark malt-focused ale with extremely high alcohol, no flavor additives likely to fade too much over time (i.e. coffee, vanilla, etc...), and so on. This is the sort of beer that drinks pretty hot fresh, but ages considerably well. At 2 years old, it was a really tasty treat. With 5-6 years under its belt, it's even better. This appears to be one of the few beers that actually does get better over time.

A vintage bottle of 2011 Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a half finger of tan head that disappears quickly. Smells rich and malty, caramel, dark fruit, even some roast and dark chocolate remaining. Taste is very sweet, caramel, dark fruit, almost port-like character here, again, still a little roast and chocolate. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, and chewy, plenty of booze but it does not at all feel like 18%. Overall, this has held up remarkably well, could probably last much longer! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a snifter glass on 5/1/17. Bottled in 2011A.

So there you have it. I've depleted my entire supply of Olde School, but I still have a 120 (same vintage) left, and a 2010 WWS slumbering in the cellar. I'm guessing the WWS could take several more years before showing significant degradation, but the 120 should probably be drunk soon (and if I had Olde School, that seems to be at its limit as well). All three of these beers are good for long term aging though, and my recommendation would be to pick up a 4 pack of each, and drink a bottle every 1 or 2 years.

Yuletide Beer Club

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I don't know why I called this a "Yuletide" beer club except that 'tis the season and I am a bit tipsy (alas, none of the beers we tasted were particularly festive). For the uninitiated, Beer Club is a monthly get together amongst friends and coworkers (and former coworkers) to share some beer and partake in general revelry. We have been woefully neglectful of late, and indeed, after just barely sneaking a September meeting in at the very end of that month, we did not manage a meetup in October or November. But we're back on track and managed a pretty good showing.

Yuletide Beer Club
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard disclaimers apply, we were at a sushi place, not a sensory deprivation chamber. Notes are below, in order of tasting, not necessarily in the order pictured.

  • Fat Head Trail Head Pale Ale - It's like a toned-down version of Fat Head's Headhunter, dank, piney hops, tasty, a decent start for the night. B
  • Lost Nation Gose - Yup, a beer we've had many times here, and it's a nice, light, tart beer that works well as a warmup beer.
  • Rubber Soul Dropout - A super fresh crowler from this brand newish (less than 6 months old) Maryland brewery that is rather obviously comprised of Beatles Fans. This is a pretty solid DIPA, nice citrus and pine hop presence, and a decent amount of bitterness too (this will come into question later in the tasting). B+
  • Trinity Red Swingline - Was not expecting much from this beer named after an Office Space reference, but it wound up being one of the better of the night, super funky and earthy, with a decent amount of hop presence, and only a hint of sourness. One of these days, I'm going to buy a waxed beer that will totally lead me astray, and I thought this might be it, but I guess not. Also of note, the wax job was rather weird, like they dipped it once, realized that wouldn't be enough, so they dipped it again, and then just said "fuck it" and dipped it a third time because why the hell not. This is important, and I am totally justified in writing more about the wax job than the beer itself. B+
  • Free Will DC Cranberry Farmhouse - I picked this up at the semi-local Free Will release on Sunday. A pretty nice little saison number, but it's more subtle than the beer we just drank, so I think it suffered a bit from the comparison. Still, it seemed pretty darned good. B or B+
  • Pretty Things Jack D'Or - Thus begins a little, informal tribute to the sadly now defunct Pretty Things brewing company, this is a little more sweet and raisiny than I remember, but it's still relatively dry and a great match for the sushi we were eating at this point. B
  • Pretty Things Hopfenpop! - This was not a fresh bottle and you could sorta tell, but it was nevertheless pretty good and held up pretty well. I would have liked to have tried this one fresh, but for this, I'll give it a B
  • Stone Double Bastard In The Rye - This wound up being a sweeter take on the Double Bastard (as compared to, say, Southern Charred or even the base beer), but the hop character survived and tries its darnedest to counteract the sweetness. Still one of my favorites of the night though, and pretty fantastic. B+ or A-
  • Troegs Impending Descent - The Scratch beer that keeps on giving, I managed to get up to Troegs this Black Friday and pick up some of this solid imperial stout, perhaps not as great as their initial vintage, I still love it.
  • Pretty Things Fumapapa - A very nice imperial stout with all the standard notes and an additional and very complementary smoked malt character that manages to make itself known without overwhelming anything (or making you wonder who put their cigar out in your beer). Very tasty, and damn, I'm going to miss these guys. A-
  • Dogfish Head Hoo Lawd - Yes, this beer's premise, brewed to 658 IBUs (apparently the highest confirmed measurement ever, despite some others with higher "theoretical" IBUs), is gimmicky and such things tend to be hit or miss, but this was indeed an interesting beer to try. It pours a jet black color (i.e. not very IPAish), has a nice hoppy nose, dank citrus and pine, and the taste starts off just fine, like a malt-forward IPA, then the bitterness starts coming in towards the finish and building through the aftertaste. It's kinda like when you eat a hot pepper and you're all this isn't so bad and then 10 seconds later your mouth is on fire and 10 seconds after that you think you might die. Alright, so it never quite approaches fear-of-death levels of bitterness, but it is very bitter, which isn't that unusual, except that this lingers for much longer than normal. I'm really happy I got to try it and would recommend getting a sample if you see it, but the smallish pour I got was plenty, and it's not something worth really hunting for. Interesting though and one of those things that makes it hard to rate. B
After the Hoo Lawd, we opened a couple of "palate cleansers" that were IPAs that basically tasted like water, so I won't really go into detail on those. The Rubber Soul Dropout fared slightly better, but still didn't taste bitter at all. Go figure. So that wraps up this beer share, look for more in January, I hope!

March Beer Club

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I won't lie, this was a really good night. I went a solid week and a half without beer before completely falling off the wagon this past weekend (as planned, to be sure) and drinking a bunch of beer (and bourbon, and moonshine, and other stuff) during Fat Weekend (a gathering of portly individuals from across the northeast, and some points west, for drinking, fun, and fatness). Now here I am a few scant days later, drinking more beer (again, as planned). For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we returned to a classic Beer Club venue, Jimmy's BBQ. Lots of smoked meat, dirty corn, beer, and fun was had by all:

March Beer Club
(Click for larger image)

Meat induced thoughts on each beer are below. This is for posterity, so I will be sure to be honest, though you might want to take this with a grain (or giant block) of salt, as this BYOB wasn't a hermetically sealed isolation chamber that is ideal for precise tasting notes. Caveats aside, here we go, in order of drinking, not necessarily in order pictured:

  • Kaedrin Fat Weekend IPA - This year's batch finally got that Simcoe and Amarillo loving that I've been trying to get for a few years. My only issue is that I'm still getting a handle on this kegerator operation here, so I feel like I frittered away a significant amount of aroma in the process of trying to get the carbonation and pressure right. I think I've figured out this process well enough that I won't ruin future batches, and it's not like this one turned out bad or anything. Indeed, just a few of us housed 3 whole growlers during Fat Weekend (we would have done so on Friday night if I didn't insist we save one for Saturday). So yeah it was good, and it compared somewhat favorably to tonight's IPA lineup, which was considerable. I'll give it a B for now, though I think it could easily go higher with some slight tweaks to recipe and kegging procedure.
  • Dogfish Head 90 Minute - The old standby, I feel like the last couple times I've had this, it hasn't been quite the mindblower it once was for me. Still a rock solid brew, though I might downgrade it to a B+
  • Maine Lunch - One of my contributions. In case you can't tell by the first three beers of the night, we overcompensated for the past couple of beer clubs and brought a shit ton of IPAs this month. Not that I'm complaining, as they were all pretty damn good (to spectacular). This one was a really nice citrus and pine take of the style, in competition for my favorite Maine beer. B+ (though it might go higher outside of this setting)
  • Petrus Aged Pale - Nothing like a sour to cleanse the palate, eh? A very nice oak aged sour beer, something I've had before, and one of those things I'd use to help convert the heathens to the world of sours/good beer. B+
  • DC Brau On The Wings Of Armageddon - Many thanks to Dana for rocking the DIPAs tonight, including this rarity (at least, to us PA folk), which turns out to pretty much live up to the hype, a super piney, dank take on the DIPA, nice body, really well rounded and delicious beer (along the lines of those Pipeworks IPAs I had a while back). Really fantastic, and I hope to someday snag a few fresh cans of this for myself. A-
  • Sixpoint Hi-Res - Alright, so we're getting to a point where specifics about given IPAs are starting to blend together in my head, but I my thoughts on this one are that it comported itself very well in this rather strong lineup of IPAs and DIPAs, actually better than I was expecting (though I'm not sure why, as Sixpoint has always been a pretty solid brewery for me). We'll go with B+ and leave it at that.
  • John's Homebrewed Porter - A relative newcomer to beer club, John made his first batch of beer in about 20 years recently. He went with a pretty straightforward porter that, to be sure, turned out well. But he's working on some interesting stuff in future batches, including a port wine soaked oak beer, possibly even a wile beer, so I'm quite looking forward to it. B
  • Alchemist Heady Topper - Yeah, we've already beaten this one to death before on the blog.
  • Bell's Hopslam - Another one we've covered before, but I certainly ain't complaining, as I do really enjoy this beer and this is the first time I've ever had it out of a bottle. Thanks again to Dana, who brought a crap ton of DIPAs tonight.
  • Ken's Homebrewed Coffee Porter - No real coffee added, but it used some sort of special coffee malt. Not sure if that's malt soaked in coffee or something like that or if it's just roasted to a point that it gives off coffee character, but whatever, it came through well in the beer and did not overpower it at all. Granted, coffee porters aren't really my thing, but this seemed to work reasonably well. B-
  • North Coast Pranqster - A nice little Belgian pale ale, very sweet for it's relatively middling ABV, but still well carbonated enough that it works really well. I enjoyed, and it fit after all those IPAs. B+
  • Widmer SXNW - It came in a fancy box, so it has to be good, right? Well, it's made with Pecans, Cacao beans, and Green Chiles, so I was fearing another hot pepper beer, but it turns out that the dominant character came from that cacao. Huge chocolate notes in the nose, with a corresponding taste. The chiles are there, but in the background, just providing some complexity. Overall, it's an interesting beer, though not one I'd really seek out again. B
  • Humboldt Black Xantus - So I didn't realize this when I bought it, but this is apparently one of them barrel aged Firestone Walker beers, even if it's bottled under the older Nectar Ales brand. That barrel aging comes through loud and clear, and it's quite nice, but there's also apparently a coffee component that also shows up, though it's not as dominant as, say, BCBCS. One of my favorites of the night, though not quite Parabola levels awesome (but still regular beer levels awesome). A-
So there you have it, an enjoyable night had by all. Already looking forward to the next installment of beer club...

Olde School Barleywine

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Lately, it seems like all of Dogfish Head's beers have gone off the deep end. I know they're fond of "off-centered" stuff and strange ingredients, but a lot of that stuff doesn't seem to pique my interest. I guess it's interesting that someone is making beer with "an ancient form of wheat and loaves of hearth-baked bread, and it's flavored with chamomile, doum-palm fruit and Middle Eastern herbs", but I dunno, that's just not revving my engine. Maybe I'm just a man of simple tastes. I tend to prefer Dogfish Head's more normal takes on standard styles, like IPAs (made with far out ingredients like... hops!) and stouts. This barleywine offering straddles the line a bit, but it at least sounds like it's beer.

It starts off as a rather big 13% barlewine, which is then dosed with dates and figs, bringing the final result up to around 15% ABV. And apparently the date/fig addition actually has some sort of historical basis in that the cellarman in Ye Olde English pubs would attempt to revive a flat cask beer by adding crushed up dates and figs to the vessel. The addition of sugars would revive the yeast, add carbonation, and freshen up the beer a bit. I don't know how historically accurate this practice really is and I don't want Martyn Cornell to cross the pond and break my legs for promulgating beer myths, so I'll just say that I'm assuming some liberties were taken with the story. Still, a barleywine fermented with dates and figs fulfills Dogfish Head's "off-centered" mission whilst still being something that sounds like beer. In other words, I bought one and drank it:

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine - Pours a dark orange color with a finger of white head that fades quickly, but leaves a ring of head around the glass for quite a while. Aroma is filled with figs, sweetness, and maybe some piney, citrusy hops. Taste is quite complex. Lots of crystal malt up front, with some resinous hops coming out in the middle, and that figgy goodness hitting in the finish and asserting itself through the aftertaste. Booze hits in the finish too, but nothing overwhelming. Mouthfeel is full bodied, thick, and boozy, plenty of carbonation, but not something you want to gulp down. A real sipping beer. Overall, it's a solid, complex barleywine with some interesting and uncommon notes. I'm quite enjoying it and would be curious to see how it ages, despite its relatively light color. Regardless, if you like figs, you should really check this out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/8/12. Bottled in 2012B.

Label sez: "Directions: Open bottle, pour contents into two snifters. Enjoy. Or: Walk hand-in-neck into the middle of the woods. Use a shovel to dig a 2x2 hole three feet deep. Seal the bottle in a plastic bag. Place in hole & pack with dirt. Memorize location & leave. Return exactly one year later. Dig up bottle, open & enjoy."

I suppose that's a romantic notion. I have another bottle of this stuff, but I think I'll just let it sit in my cellar for a while, along with some 120 Minute and World Wide Stout. Maybe I'll crack another one of those in a year or two.

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

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Back when my beer nerdery was going into overdrive (let's say 2009ish), I saw a few bottles of this at the store and balked at the high price tag ($8 for a 12 ounce bottle). Little did I know that I wouldn't even see another bottle of the stuff for two years (this delay was apparently exacerbated by a bad batch that had to be dumped, as portrayed on the short-lived Brewmasters tv show). So when Dogfish Head started releasing the new batch last year, I jumped on the opportunity. I had some on tap and picked up a few bottles, price tag be damned*!

I don't always love Dogfish Head's wacky shenanigans, but I usually find their stuff interesting and worth a shot. And say what you will about their shameless gimmickry, but Dogfish Head knows what it's doing when it comes to IPAs, and their "minute" series is a sorta rite of passage amongst hopheads around here. I've already talked about the history of the massive 120 Minute IPA, but one thing I never quite understood was the beer nerds' dismissal of this beer when it's still "young", claiming that it's "undrinkable" unless it's been aging for at least two years. When I had it on tap, I had no idea what these dorks were talking about, but now that I've cracked one of my bottles, I may have an idea what they mean (even if "undrinkable" is an overstatement).

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - Pours a beautiful, mostly clear golden orange color with a finger of white head. The smell is filled with caramel malt and a ton of hoppy citrus notes. The taste is very sweet, plenty of that rich caramel malt going on and again with the citrusy hop character, but not a ton of bitterness. What there is a ton of, though, is alcohol. Very boozy stuff, moreso than I remember from last time, though it's not undrinkable or anything, just different. Mouthfeel is full bodied, almost chewy, and again, there's a very boozy heat here. This is actually pretty easy to drink, but it's still just a sipping beer due to the booze. Overall, a very complex, interesting beer that's well worth seeking out. Like last time, I find it hard to rate something this weird and experimental, but for now I'll give it a B+, a slight downgrade, but I have a few more bottles of the stuff in my cellar, so we'll see how this ages. I think that age would mellow all that booze out a bit, making this a much better beer...

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 6/2/12. 2011 vintage.

I've got two more of these 2011 vintage bottles that will most likely sit in my cellar for those two years (or more) the nerds were talking about. This is generally made easier by the fact that it's such a high ABV beer. I'm looking forward to it, as well as the bottle of 2010 World Wide Stout I've got sitting around (another 18% monster). Alas, most of Dogfish Head's recent releases have not seemed very attractive to me...

* Is it sad that I now find this to be only moderately priced? Still, I probably made the right decision when I was in my beer nerd infancy, as I don't know if I would have appreciated it as much as I do now...

Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA

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Dogfish Head is always producing interesting, if perhaps a bit gimmicky, beers. Unfortunately, interesting doesn't always translate to "tastes good". Yeah, yeah, you developed the recipe from some three thousand year old tomb, but it doesn't taste very good (I'm looking at you, Midas Touch!) And lately, it seems like everything has to have the weirdest ingredients ever. But when it comes to more normal styles, Dogfish Head can really nail it. In particular, they're great at IPAs. Their Minute series of beers is exceptional. I'm sure many would call the whole continually hopped nature of the series something of a gimmick, but compared to some of the other stuff they do, I think it's a valid approach.

The 60 Minute IPA is an excellent take on a standard style (though I may have overrated it a bit), the 90 Minute is an exceptional beer (and the best thing Dogfish Head makes), and the 120 Minute is a monster. Then there are the variations. Squall is bottle conditioned 90 Minute IPA, and it's really nice (alas, this beer was discontinued... in favor of the beer I'm reviewing today). Burton Baton is wood aged 90 Minute IPA, also a fantastic beer. And now we come to the 75 Minute IPA, a blend of the 60 and 90 Minute beers, with additional dry hopping and bottle conditioned with maple syrup. Also, I think this is their first beer bottled in their fancy new embossed bottles...

Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA - Pours a bright but slightly cloudy golden color with tons of billowy white head. Smells strongly of sugary sweet citrus, with plenty of pine and hints of something else too. Perhaps a bready yeast character? And as it warms, it takes on a more earthy character. Taste has a nice, sweet profile that eventually gives way to a nice dry bitterness in the finish. You get a little of that citrus and pine flavor too, and again, something I'm having trouble placing. Perhaps it's the yeast or the maple syrup... and again, as it warms, an earthiness emerges. Mouthfeel is strongly carbonated, but still surprisingly light to medium bodied. I haven't had a 90 Minute IPA in quite a while, but this feels a lot lighter. Overall, a damn good IPA and a solid addition to the minute series (though I think I still prefer the 90 Minute). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip on 4/12/12.

While Dogfish Head can be hit-or-miss with me, I'm always at least interested in trying their stuff. I don't really have anything in the pipeline right now, though I do have a couple bottles of 120 Minute aging in the cellar right now, along with the monster World Wide Stout (both of which are beers I really love).

World Wide Stout

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When do you drink an 18% ABV beer? Special occasions? Every other Flag Day? Leap Day? For breakfast? On the second Friday of March in the year of our Lord 2012? Ah, yes, that last one will do the trick, but it was a fortuitous turn of events that got me there, and I'm still at a loss as to when to open some of my other massive face-melters. It's a delicious mystery wrapped in an alcohol soaked enigma, with a chaser of dehydration and hangover.

Fortunately, Dogfish Head packaged this one in a 12 ounce bottle, so it's at least mildly approachable (I will leave the rant about big beers in big bottles for a later date). Apparently created on a whim at the Dogfish Head brewpub during the winter off-season months (which, I imagine, is how most Dogfish Head beers are created), this beer held the strongest beer in the world title for a short time. In this day and age where crazy Scottish brewers are making 55% ABV abominations and packaging it in taxidermied squirrels, it's easy for beers like this to get lost in the shuffle, but credit where credit is due: Dogfish Head was making this beer in 1999, well before extreme beers were trendy or popular. And I do think this still stands up well today.

Anyways, events conspired to keep me sober for a while after work last Friday, which left me in need of a stiff drink (and just the right amount of time for a single serving). This would normally be a job for Scotch or Bourbon, but I thought this 18% ABV face-melter would do the job, and boy was I right:

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a syrupy appearance and about half a finger of tan head. Wonderful aroma filled with caramel and vanilla notes, maybe even some fruity character poking through along with a little booze. Smells more like a really big barleywine than a stout. Taste has lots of sweetness to it, that caramel malt being quite prominent, with some chocolate and maybe even some vanilla, but the big surprise is the sorta fruity booze that emerges in the middle and dominates the finish. Very little roastiness here, but tons of intricate flavors emerging as it warms up. Maybe just a touch of balancing bitterness in the sticky finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, chewy, and hot. Carbonation isn't high, but it's not at a bad level either. The finish has just a little stickiness to it. Surprisingly well balanced and approachable for an 18% ABV monster. Tons of warming alcohol character going on in my belly after just a few small sips. This is certainly not a beer to drink quickly. Overall, I'm very impressed by this beer, a complex sipper, something that will probably age well, and quite interesting. Dogfish Head says it has a depth "in line with a fine port" which just makes me want to go to the liquor store and get me some of that stuff, as I've never had any before and I'd like to know if that's an accurate description or just Sam making stuff up. For my purposes, this makes an excellent dessert beer. Not your typical stout, and definitely worth a try. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 3/9/11. Bottled in 2010 (bottle has a "D" after the year, which I assume is some sort of batch indicator).

Man, this thing kicked my ass. As noted above, the bottle was apparently from 2010, which was something I bought inadvertently... but I'm glad I did so because I've heard the alcohol character overwhelms "younger" bottles. I've got another one of these in the cellar, which I can perhaps crack open the next time an 18% ABV opportunity comes along (and who knows when that will be). Incidentally, I also have some 120 minute IPA in the fridge (and in my cellar) that's definitely still young, and I have no idea when I'll get to that one... not to mention the bottles of Cuir and Coton I've been sitting on (those aren't quite as strong, but they're up there and they're in 750 ml bottles too)...

Update: Tee Hee.

Dogfish Head Squall IPA

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It's alive! As it turns out, this beer is basically a bottle conditioned version of Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA. What does that mean? It's pretty straightforward, but I'm going to make it complicated, because that's what we do here at Kaedrin.

Let's start with the magical wonder of yeast. The simple description of yeast's role in brewing is that it eats sugar, processes it, then poops alcohol and farts carbon dioxide (this is known as "fermentation" in respectable circles that I do not belong to.) Since fermentation typically takes place in a closed vessel (to keep out nasty bacteria and other unsavory bugs), brewers need to release the gas building up inside, least we have exploding equipment due to the additional pressure. What this means is that at the end of the fermentation process, when you're ready to bottle or keg your beer, you've essentially got a flat product. There are typically two approaches to carbonating the beer. The most typical approach is to filter all the yeast and proteins out of the beer, then force carbonate the beer (basically just injecting a bunch of carbon dioxide into the liquid, then bottling/kegging it right away). The other method is to "prime" the unfiltered beer with a small amount of additional sugars, then bottle it. The yeast remaining in the unfiltered beer (which is still alive) will eat up the new sugar and carbonate the beer, right in the bottle*.

There are pros and cons to each approach. Force carbonation allows for a quicker, more consistent product. On the other hand, it also means the beer won't stay fresh as long. Bottle conditioning can and will change the character of the beer over time - as the yeast is still "alive". Indeed, while most beer is meant to be drank fresh, bottle conditioned beers are often suitable for aging. The down side is that you end up with a layer of yeast on the bottom of your bottle, the end product can be less consistent (this can be a plus or minus when it comes to aging), and, of course, it takes a while to condition in the bottle. This is, of course, a drastic simplification of the subject, and there are many things I'm leaving out (i.e. kräusening, re-yeasting, bottle bombs, caged and corked beers, Belgian methods and so on...)

So Dogfish Head filters and force carbonates their 90 Minute IPA**, but their experiment with Squall was to see how bottle conditioning the same exact beer would change its character (there may or may not have been some extra dry hopping as well). They also barrel age their 90 Minute IPA (that version is called Burton Baton), and they blend the 90 and 60 minute IPAs to make the 75 Minute IPA. Alas, Squall seems to be going the way of the dodo. Given that hoppy beers tend to deteriorate with time anyway, this makes a certain sort of sense. I'm sure an aged version of Squall would be quite nice, but it would also be lacking a lot of the hop character you look for in an IPA (yeast will keep the beer viable with age, but it won't do anything about various flavors and aromas derived from hops). It was still an interesting experiment that I'm glad I got to try, though:

Dogfish Head Squall IPA

Dogfish Head Squall IPA - I think this might be my favorite Dogfish Head label ever. Anyway, it pours a cloudy, dark goldish orange color with a couple fingers of creamy head that leaves tons of lacing as I drink. Aroma is full of earthy hops and sugary citrus. Taste is very citrusy sweet with a light bitterness emerging in the finish. There actually is a musty yeast character here too. The mouthfeel is surprisingly full bodied, with lots of carbonation. Overall, a wonderful beer. I don't know that it's better than the 90 minute or Burton Baton, but I'm glad I got to try this variant. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip on 11/11/11.

I didn't realize it, but this would have really made a good double feature with the standard 90 Minute IPA. I suspect there wouldn't be a huge amount of difference, but I always find it illuminating to try such things together. Alas, with Squall going away, it seems that this is not destined to happen. Oh well, I guess you can't win them all. Stay tuned for the start of this year's holiday beer extravaganza.

* Bottle conditioning tends to be the favored method of the beginning homebrewer, as it doesn't require any additional equipment. But you do have to wait. Most folks who invest in kegging systems also gain the ability to force carbonate the beer in the keg, which means you get to try the beer right after fermentation ends. Unlike me, who has to wait a couple weeks to try the beer. Not that I'm bitter.

** And it's still an exceptional beer. Don't take this post to mean that filtered beers are inherently bad, because there are lots of amazing beers in both camps.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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