I am usually not a fan of pumpkin ales. In my experience they tend to try to taste like pumpkin pie too much, and the nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice flavors tend to overwhelm everything else going on in the beer. Dogfish Head avoids that trap by muting the spices (which is unusual for DFH), adding some coffee and cardamon to the flavor profile, and playing up the brown sugar flavors. It is a bit sweet for my palate, but not cloyingly so. This is not a beer I am going to reach for very often, but it will serve as my Halloween beer, 6/10.
Whenever I am in a bar or a store with a good selection and I am dithering over what to drink, I usually end up getting an IPA. India Pale Ales generally have the right combination of flavors to please your taste buds and are usually low in enough in ABV that you can have a few and slake your thirst. IPAs have become the standard bearers for most American craft brewers, and with good reason. They are usually drinkable enough for the casual beer drinker to enjoy, yet still interesting enough for the beer dork to sniff, swirl and text their impressions to other beer dorks.
There are several elements I associate with IPAs. First, IPAs are more aggressively hopped than other beers that do not have ‘imperial’ in their name. Second, the malt profile is elevated a bit due to the aggressive hopping. Third, there is usually some wood, generally oak, in the aroma and the flavor. Fourth, IPAs tend to be among the more affordable offerings for any given brewer. My guess is that IPA sales are the bread and butter business of most craft brewers and those sales finance the more exotic offerings that many craft brewers produce.
The Fire Island Red Wagon IPA is a decent example of an IPA. It poured a dark amber, with a nice head. The hops were earthy and fruity, but not as bitter as I normally like my IPAs. There was nothing outstanding or particularly memorable about this beer, yet I can easily see myself polishing off a six pack over the course of an evening. That is one of the wonders of IPAs. Even if they are not great examples of the genre, you can still pound them back. The Red Wagon IPA gets a 6/10.
I have extolled the virtues of Dogfish Head before, and I am going to do so again right now. The 60 Minute IPA is pale amber and slightly cloudy with some grassy hops aroma immediately apparent, and some light citrus notes on the back end. The light caramel malts bring some sweetness to the bitterness of the hops. This is an excellent beer, as enjoyable as they come, 8/10. My only complaint is that at nearly twelve bucks a six pack, this is pricey for an IPA, especially when you get other IPAs which are almost as good for well under ten dollars.
We return to the Lords of Delaware, Dogfish Head, and sample their Indian Brown Ale. This beer has some sweet caramel and brown sugar notes from the roasted malts, and bitterness and fruitiness from the hops. It pours a dark ruby chestnut color with a medium head and very low carbonation. It is a melange of flavors, which is a good thing, but it never really comes together the way I think it wants to. It tries, it really does, but the Indian Brown Ale never hangs together the way it should. At 7.2% ABV, you are not going to drink many of these, and the odd flavor mix mean you probably will not want to drink to many of them. The Indian Brown Ale was not bad at all, and I imagine if paired with a sharp cheese, it might be great, but I can only give it 6/10.
At the request of JPE, I am going to give a quick review of the Aprihop from Dogfish Head. As you already know, Dogfish Head is one of my favorite brewers, and they have lined up another winner with this spring seasonal offering. This is a hoppy mofo, and the hops are balanced perfectly by the addition of apricots to the wort. If you think about the taste of apricots, with that combination of sweetness balanced by a tart bitterness, it is similar to beer, and I predict that apricots and hops will one day be a classic combination on par with stout and oysters, peanut butter and jelly, and Duke Men’s basketball and me being pissed off every spring. All of these flavors are topped off by a 7% ABV. I wish this one was available all year. 7/10.
If you like your beers malty and spicy, this offering from Dogfish Head is right up your alley. The Raison D’Etre pours a mildly cloudy dark copper color with a minimal head and a thin mouth feel. This beer is brewed with green raisins, beet sugars and Belgian yeast. I picked up the raisin flavor, and the complexity that comes with using Belgian yeast was there as well, with hints of coriander and cardamon, but I did not detect any distinct flavor from the beet sugar. I am docking it a half point because it was a touch too malty for me, but don’t let that deter you from giving it a tipple. 6/10.
As I have said before, Dogfish Head is one of my favorite brewers. I cannot say that I love all of their beers. Some, like the Midas Touch, I find to be nearly undrinkable. What I love about Dogfish Head is that when they miss, they miss because they are swinging for the fences. I have never tried one of their beers and thought it was too bland, or just a little bit off, or not quite right. Dogfish Head Beers are either home runs or strikeouts. Their beers are not for the faint hearted. At times, like with the aforementioned Midas Touch, Dogfish Head pushes the boundary of what can be called beer. And when Dogfish beers are good, they are really good.
Case in point is the 90 Minute IPA. The 90 minutes in the moniker refers to the amount of time this beer is continuously hopped. Dogfish Head also makes a 60 Minute IPA and a 120 Minute IPA. There is also a 75 Minute IPA that is a blend of the 60 Minute IPA and 120 Minute IPA, and which is only available on tap. (CORRECTION: I have been advised that the 75 Minute IPA is served on cask and has some maple syrup added.)
The 90 Minute IPA is often referred to as an Imperial IPA, but it is unlike any other Imperial IPA I have come across. It is not nearly as hoppy and is much maltier than the standard Imperial IPAs. There was not much head on the pour, but that slight head lasted to the bottom of the glass. The 9% ABV is very noticeable but is not harsh. If anything, the high alcohol taste balances the maltiness nicely and helps to highlight the spiciness of the hops. The beer is remarkably smooth with low carbonation and a velvety texture. I enjoyed the hell out of this beer, and give it a 9/10.
Dogfish Head is one bad ass brewery. Located in Delaware, Dogfish Head continually pushes the boundaries of beer, while at the same time being respectful of brewing traditions. I love these guys, and will try any of their beers without hesitation.
The Squall IPA came out last spring. If you see any bottles at your local beer emporium, grab them, because this a tasty treat. This Imperial IPA is super hoppy, and packs a 9% ABV. Very fragrant, very dry, and even with that high alcohol content, this drank very easily. I had this with some friends at a boy’s weekend in Vermont, and this was easily the standout beer of the weekend. Sure it led to us shooting off bb guns and grilling up some steaks, but what is wrong with that? A solid 9/10.