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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