3.3AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 6/10 PALATE 2/5 OVERALL 15/20
I’m a huge fan of the India Pale Ale style, but I’ve never tried an Imperial IPA. I decided to start with one of the strongest beers on the market: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. I was surprisingly unimpressed by this beer, but that might be my own fault for not truly being ready for it. Certainly a beer of this type is an acquired taste, so how credible is my critique?
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
Since the beer has a gravity of 45 degrees Plato, I wasn’t at all surprised that it poured extremely smooth like very thin syrup. The beer has a very cloudy complexion without much carbonation apparent. It formed a small, off-white, soapy head that didn’t leave much lacing on the glass and dissipated quickly.
The aroma was not what I was expecting, with a dry, subdued scent with just the slightest hint of citrus notes. The high alcohol content was detectable, but wasn’t off-putting.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA to taste like. I have drank other IPA beers that rank in the 60s on the International Bitterness Unit scale, so how bitter would a 120 IBU beer be?
I was fully expecting (and hoping for) an all-out assault of hop bite on my palate, but what I got was a seemingly gimmicky-tasting beer with a spicy, vanilla or butterscotch rum-like taste. The taste started out citrusy and juicy but then became dry and syrup-like. In fact, its taste is apparently derived not from its hops but from its malts and flavorings. Dogfish Head’s taste is extremely sugary and sweet, making the beer reminiscent of some kind of rum cocktail.
The high alcohol content accounts for a significant portion of the flavor, but isn’t overwhelming. I often find IPAs to be refreshing because of their citrusy qualities, but this just made me thirsty.
For a beer whose existence is based on the fact it’s so strong, Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA is remarkably smooth. Because of its potency I did notice a slight tingling, almost burning sensation in the bottom of my throat, but it wasn’t any worse than a generic mixed drink.
There’s no reason to criticize this beer for its weight since it comes with the territory of being an imperial brew. I have drank very potent beers of around 7% ABV, but I’ve never come close to drinking a beer with nearly quadruple the alcohol of the average lager. Dogfish Head is 20% ABV which means it’s absolutely going to take its toll no matter who you are. I began to feel a buzz only halfway through my glass and it was in full effect by the time I finished it. However, this beer didn’t get me intoxicated and that’s fine because I drink beer for the appreciation of the craft and taste, not for the chemical effects.
At 450 calories Dogfish Head is practically a meal in and of itself. Then again at $10 per 12oz bottle it’s not the kind of beer you’re going to be drinking very often, so it definitely works as an after-dinner treat.
I think I may have done myself a disservice by not starting with Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA and working my up to their 90 Minute IPA and eventually to the extreme brew that is 120 Minute IPA. Even so, I thought the taste could have been better since it seemed a little gimmicky to me.
NOTE: Read and watch my 2014 review of a 2011 vintage here: http://www.chadzbeerreviews.com/2014/01/dogfish-head-120-minute-ipa-2011-vintage.html