Dogfish Head Horizontal Tasting

This blog post started with a picture that my brother-in-law Steve texted to me a couple of weeks ago. No actual text, just a photograph of a 4-pack of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, which I took to be a recommendation. I was introduced to the 60 Minute version probably about 10 years ago, not too long after it was introduced in 2003, and we took a field trip to the Dogfish Head Delaware brewpub (in Rehoboth Beach) and the actual brewery (in Milton) in 2009 when Dr. Mrs. Dr. Dave was on sabbatical at the University of Delaware. I’ve also had some of their other specialty beers from time to time, but hadn’t had an occasion to try some of the variants on their most popular product.

After tracking down the 120 Minute variety at the local craft beer store, my frugal side momentarily kicked in since the cost was basically $10 for a 12 ounce bottle—Yikes! However, after giving it some thought, I came up with a way to make the cost more bearable by turning it into a research project and amortizing the cost over a few other Dogfish Head brews by doing a “horizontal tasting.” This is the kind of thing that one frequently does with wine: a “vertical” tasting would look at the same vineyard and variety over several vintages, whereas a “horizontal” tasting might involve the same vintage and variety but different vineyards in the same region. The clerk at the liquor store also helped by reminding me that they do a discount if you purchase a mixed 6-pack, so I also picked up a couple of other higher-end small bottles which may appear in a later post.

Four beers at one sitting was going to be too much for me (at least if I wanted to have coherent impressions of the different brews), so I invited my buddy Philip to join me in this project, over a dinner of chicken stew and mashed potatoes. This also gave us a chance to gossip about the progress of renovations at his parents’ home in upstate New York, verbally joust with the teenagers, and generally catch up on each other’s lives, while allowing time to savor and comment on the merits of each bottle.

We started with the 60 Minute, which is a nice, reliable beer for almost any meal. The 90 Minute is more of the same—I have to admit that I couldn’t really tell all that much difference, and probably wouldn’t pick this one for myself.

The third bottle was a more interesting variation. The Burton Baton is a blend of two beers: an English style “old ale” and an imperial IPA. The blend is then aged at the brewery in oak tanks for about a month. This one was very flavorful, darker in color, and would be a fun special occasion beer, maybe to take to dinner at a friend’s house, so long as you knew they liked beer and made sure that any drivers were fully aware of the 10% ABV. (Fortunately, Philip lives within walking distance so driving wasn’t an issue.)

By now, we were almost through with dinner, which was fine since the 120 Minute deserved to be savored on its own rather than being paired with food. Even darker, with a lot of viscosity and some extra sweetness to go with the floral hops, this was almost like dessert by itself. When I went to the website, I was surprised to see that rather than a typical ABV precise to the nearest 0.1%, this beer was just listed as a range between 15-20% ABV—that’s up there with a lot of fortified wines! It took me a couple of hours to remember what else I had tasted with a similar flavor profile, but eventually I figured out that I was pretty sure that the Harpoon Leviathan gave me a similar sensory overload (but with a more modest, though still substantial, 10% ABV).

So, a fun way to spend an evening, and maybe inspiration for a similar style of tasting at a future date. Cheers!

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Double Your Pleasure…

I decided to look recently while in the checkout line at the supermarket to see if one could still buy Wrigley’s Doublemint chewing gum. I work in a school, so of course I know that chewing gum in general is still a thing, to the dismay of a subset of teachers (not to mention the cleaning staff).  However, I didn’t remember seeing or hearing about that particular brand for a long time, even though the advertising jingle is one of those bits of flotsam that will remain in my brain forever.  On the other hand, I don’t watch much television and often use the DVR to avoid ads, so I used Google Images to learn that the Wrigley product is still going strong and that twins have continued to star in ads for Doublemint right up through the current decade.

Of course I’m not really interested in chewing gum–I’ve actually been thinking lately about double stouts, also known as Russian imperial stouts, and other close relatives in the beer universe. As noted in my last post, a recent quest has been for readily available beers that represent a small indulgence relative to my usual selection of craft beers—the difference between $7-8.00 for a six-pack and $10.00 for a four-pack or big bottle.  I already mentioned a few of the double IPAs, so this post will list some of the stouts that I’ve been considering.

IMG_0931My new acquaintance Aaron sent along a can of an interesting collaboration between two local businesses: Grey Sail Brewing (Westerly) teamed up with Dave’s Coffee Roasters (Narragansett) to produce Dave’s Coffee Stout.  The dominant flavor note here was the same aftertaste that I get from chocolate covered espresso beans. Although both of these are interesting experiments, neither the chocolate treat nor the beer is likely to work its way into my normal rotation. (The stout is not currently listed on the Grey Sail web site—maybe it’s a seasonal that will return next winter?)

I’ve had Southern Tier 2X Stout (or a close relative) sometime in the past. No picture and no particularly memorable tasting notes here, so this one also wasn’t the answer to my quest.

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing in CA was a restaurant purchase at Luxe Burger Bar, our customary dinner out after an evening at one of the RI Philharmonic Orchestra’s Rush Hour concerts.
These concerts are fun—purposefully shIMG_0901orter than the full Saturday program, starting a little earlier and designed to be more family-friendly. With students at the RI Philharmonic Music School, our family gets an even deeper discount, and we shamelessly bribe our kids with the promise of a fancy burger afterward. In addition to decadent build-your-own burgers, Luxe also has a nice selection of bottled beers, which is good since the draft selection is sometimes disappointing, and back in February I was definitely in the mood for something chewy to go with my burger.  I haven’t tried to find this to bring home, but the North Coast web site lists them as being available at a couple of nearby stores, so it is a possible addition to the list.

One I will definitely keep on my radar is Boulevard Brewing Dark Truth. Nicely smoky and with a body and viscosity that were satisfying without being overdone.

IMG_0925Another one that I have tried previously and will be keeping my eye out for is Siren Noire from Heavy Seas.  This one comes in a big bottle, but even though it uses both chocolate and vanilla in the brewing process I wouldn’t limit it to being a dessert beer (though you could certainly go that route if you wanted to). The web site lists this as a seasonal beer available starting in January so there’s probably not any out there now, but they also helpfully suggest some alternatives, including their Alpha Effect “Hazy IPA” which I’ll get to some other time.

I keep waiting for the seasons to really turn here in New England, but the weather has continued to keep me in the mood for substantial beer (and scotch) rather than pilsners or gin and tonic. The forecast for this week, however, has us getting up into the 80s, so maybe that time is finally here. Cheers!

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