4AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 17/20
I’m familiar with the concept of a “black & tan” whereby a stout is mixed with a lager, but I’ve never experienced any kind of imperial hybrid brew. Dogfish Head is one of America’s premiere brewers of imperial beers, as well as India Pale Ales, so it’s not surprising they would come up with a beer like Burton Baton. This beer is, “A blend of oak-aged English strong ale and our 90 Minute I.P.A.” according to their website.
The result is a very unique beer which is certainly unlike most imperial IPAs I’ve encountered. It’s got a complex and intense palate as you’d expect from an imperial. It’s not quite as drinker-friendly as I’d prefer, but it’s definitely enjoyable.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
This beer pours to a beautiful shade of dark amber with a bit of a reddish hue. It’s clear with some carbonation present. It forms a fairly small layer of slightly off-white creamy head. The head dissipates rather slowly for an imperial beer and can be easily regenerated by swirling the glass.
The aroma is an absolutely lovely bouquet of citrus and flowers with some vanilla notes as well. Imperials do tend to have such a rich aroma but the hoppy notes are reminiscent of something more pedestrian.
I noticed two distinct flavors which make up the palate. Immediately upfront I detect a rich, sugary vanilla flavor not unlike rum or Kahlua. On the finish there is a citrusy grapefruit-like tartness. However, since Burton Baton is an imperial brew there isn’t much of a hop bite or crackle since even the citrus is just as rich and syrupy as the initial vanilla notes.
Like any good imperial beer worth its salt, Burton Baton has a very complex palate which changes as it warms. I went on to notice a distinct woody, oak taste as well as a slight bit of cherry and plum. The only problem is the citrus flavor begins to recede and the boozy, rum-like qualities become more prominent. Alcohol is definitely noticeable but it does not usurp the genuine flavors in the palate here. I really like the spiciness which is similar to a Belgian dubbel or perhaps a quad. You certainly couldn’t accuse this beer of being simple.
Imperial beers aren’t actually known for their drinker-friendly approach. With their intense taste and strong alcohol presence they’re definitely more suited for sipping than chugging. What’s funny is that my first few swigs of Burton Baton were so crisp and light I felt as though I could slug down my entire glass. However, as the beer warmed and the palate became more complex and more intense it also dried out. By the time I was down to the last 1/4th the dryness, in tandem with the alcohol presence, was extremely difficult to avoid. While the beer at least finishes smooth, the mouthfeel is quite intense and even for an experience drinker like me it was probably a bit heavier than necessary.
I have had beers less potent than Burton Baton which have gone to my head much quicker and more intensely than this beer did. At 10% ABV one might assume this beer is just a monster throwing its weight around, but I was very impressed by how light it actually drank and felt. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or full during or after my glass of this beer (in fact, I’d have drank another if I had another).
There’s a lot to like about Dogfish Head Burton Baton. It’s innovative, tasty, smooth and lighter than you’d think. It walks that fine line between being an acquired taste and mainstream, but in the end it succeeds as both a imperial and an India Pale Ale and that’s something I can get behind.
NOTE: See my 2017 re-review here: http://www.chadzbeerreviews.com/2017/07/dogfish-head-burton-baton-2017-re-review.html