"If you truly believe in what you're doing, nothing can stop you" --Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Brewery, Brewing Up a Business Ahhh. So here is the first of many "What I'm Sipping" posts. Consider this a beer memoir, not a review. I won't, after all, put anything on this blog that I don't believe you should try, nor put anything on here that I don't like! Of course my first beer memoir must be from one of my favorite breweries in the entire nation--Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA. Do read on if this picture entices you...
I was fortunate to enjoy a Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA (India Pale Ale) a few weeks ago. As I was sipping it, a great idea came to my head...why not share this beer with everyone? This beer is a meal on its own, but that doesn't mean it should be neglected on my blog! On top of that, I visited the brewery a few months ago, why not share that experience as well?! Brilliant.
I had the pleasure of visiting Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware this past February with my friend Kristi, whose life I’m pretty sure was changed forever after our experience ;) I've become a big fan of Dogfish Head after reading Sam Calagione's book Brewing Up a Business, where he shares his rough beginnings, determination, and ultimate success from building Dogfish Head brewery from the ground up. When I realized the original brewery would be just a short road trip away, we jumped in the car...and went to Delaware! Visiting the brewery after reading the book confirmed how all of his hard work paid off. Check out these two pictures. The first is the original brewing room…the second is just a snippet of their current bottling warehouse. It is bigger than any facility I’ve ever seen:
Dogfish Head is truly a unique brewery—there’s really no other brewery like it. In his book, Sam talks about how he was always throwing random fruits, herbs, spices, anything into his batches of beer…he could never just stick to the normal recipe! And the brewery reflects this in all their beers…they’ve got an IPA brewed with syrah grapes, a brown ale aged in Paraguayan wood, a pilsner brewed with pear juice…there’s just nothing normal about these beers, which is absolutely fantastic.
My brewery tour was phenomenal...I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story. I was lucky enough to be invited to their employee happy hour after closing for the day—everyone was so nice; it was obvious what an incredible community the company has built with its employees. For that reason alone, it is definitely a brewery I am proud to support.
Okay, now on to our featured beer…Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA. I should note that this beer is brewed only a few times a year (because it is a difficult beer to brew), so it is hard to find. If you come across any, buy a few (I’ve had good luck at Whole Foods). I just saw on their Facebook page that they will be releasing their latest batch in a few weeks...so now is the time to look for it! Drink one whenever you like, but save another to drink in a few years—the beer ages beautifully (flavors mellow out/change into a completely new experience). Andrew and I opened this bottle after about a year of aging. Maybe we should have waited, but sometimes you’ve gotta live a little, right?
120 Minute IPA is boiled for an entire TWO hours…most IPAs are boiled for 1 hour...and they continually add hops during that entire boil. On top of that, it is then dry-hopped every day for a month and then aged for another month on whole leaf hops! People say it is the ultimate beer for hop-heads; it comes in at 120 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) after all, which is way more than most IPAs. However, I don’t really put this beer in the IPA category…to me, it drinks more like a barleywine than anything.
The aroma immediately enticed me with a beautiful, subtle sweetness of cherry pie and raisins. There may have been some hoppy aromas, but what really drew me in were these dark red fruits that made me feel as if I were smelling an aged tawny port. When I took that first sip, I got all those fruit characteristics and more—it was complex, but somehow subtle, and bitterness was restrained, hidden by the warming alcohol and balanced maltiness. It is a meal on its own, but would go well with an assortment of cheese, charcuterie, and crusty French bread…nothing more. And with its alcohol percentage around 18%...you might want to share a bottle with a friend :)
If you are looking for that “ultimate hophead” beer, look elsewhere—the bitterness is so balanced that, no matter how much you want it to ruin your palette, it won’t. It really is a beer you have to experience for yourself, because there is nothing like it. If you’re lucky to get your hands on a few, drink one now, and age the rest—each one will probably be a completely different experience than the others.