Over the Christmas holiday, I had the opportunity to pick up a rather rare beer that I’ve been trying to get a hold of for quite some time now. Dogfish Head brewing out of Milton, Deleware will always hold a special place in my beer lovers heart as they were the first brewery that really turned me on to IPA’s and extremely bitter and boppy beers. They make several IPA’s and gauge their bitterness and alcohol content by naming them after how many minutes they continuously add in new hops to the boil. The longer and more hops boil into the wort, the more sugars to ferment, the higher the alcohol content. Their everyday IPA is 60 minute (6.0 % ABV), a little fancier brings you to the 90 minute (9.0% ABV) and the top of the line, limited run, is the 120 minute (varies, but this year is 18% ABV). Obviously a beer at 18% isn’t your typical beer. You can start to think of it more as a wine or distilled spirit.
When you start pushing beer to the extremes of brewing some odd things can happen. Dogfish Head was the subject of a Discovery Channel mini-series on craft beer. During recording for the show, the Dogfish was going through it’s annual brew of 120 minute. Although it’s the smallest batch of commercially available beer they brew all year, this production brings in a lot of revenue for the company. That year in particular something went wrong with the brew (I believe the yeast kept on dying so it couldn’t finish fermentation) and they had to dump the entire batch. Oops.
They played with the recipe and techniques, did a test batch over the summer, and then finally was able to ramp up production. I was able to get several bottles of 120 minute while at my parents house (120 minute is not available for purchase for home consumption in the state of TX). I drank a few bottles, but plan to cellar the remaining 4 bottles for special occasions. A quality beer with high enough alcohol content can be stored like a fine wine. The flavor will age and change with time. Hopefully I have the patience to wait it out for awhile!