Friday, July 24, 2009

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: 90 Minute IPA
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 9.0%
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPAA while back I reviewed Dogfish Head's best selling beer, their 60 Minute IPA, and gave it an "A" rating. So hopes are high for the next beer from the "Minute" series, 90 Minute IPA, which actually falls into the category of Double IPA. The 90 in the name refers to the fact that hops are added to the wort continuously for 90 minutes during the boil and that the beer clocks in at 90 IBUs and 9.0% ABV.

This was Dogfish's first continuously hopped beer and the one initially brewed using Sam's vibrating football game hopping rig (you can read more about the rig in the review for 60 Minute). The football game is gone now, and Dogfish use a contraption called "Sir-Hops-A-Lot" to keep the hops flowing throughout the boil. Once the beer is conditioning another device called "Me So Hoppy" is used to dry hop the beer.

But that's not the last gadget involved! Some lucky people are able to order their 90 Minute "Randallized," where the beer from the tap is run through a organoleptic hop transducer module (a.k.a. filter) named "Randall the Enamel Animal" that is filled with whole hop cones. The "Enamel" in the name comes from the idea that the beer that flows out is hoppy enough to make you feel that the enamel has been stripped from your teeth. Dogfish sure love their inventions, eh? You can always count on Sam and the rest of the crew to come up with something new.

Well, my bottle of 90 Minute may not be "Randallized," but I'm sure it's still pretty damn good, so let's pop it open.

Appearance: Somewhat hazy rich pumpkin body. A finger and a half of off-white head that leaves good lacing.

Aroma: As you might expect, it smells a lot like 60 Minute with the volume cranked up even further. Hoppy as hell, but backed up with lots of caramel malt and alcohol. The hop profile is of Cascadey grapefruit and pine. Very appetizing.

Taste: Still lots of grassy, earthy, ctirusy and piney hops, but there's a lot more malt in the taste. The sweet caramel malt backbone is very much up to the task of maintaining balance, not an easy feat when there is so much hoppiness. Pleasantly assertive alcohol throughout and a lovely bitter aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and sticky with good carbonation. You can really feel the booze in your throat. Dries in the finish.

Drinkability: It's a sipper for sure, more due to the alcohol content than the flavor profile. Just about average for the style.

Verdict: Compared to most Double IPAs, 90 Minute has a lot more malt than usual, making it much more of a balanced proposition than most. While not my favorite Double IPA, 90 Minute is still very much a standout beer.

Grade: A-

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale 2009 Review

Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. | Beer: Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale 2009
Style: American Barleywine | ABV: 9.6% | IBUs: 90
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2009For many, one of the highlights of the American craft-brew calendar is the release of Sierra Nevada's Barleywine, Bigfoot. This is my first year sampling Bigfoot, and my expectations are rather high. I'm pretty late to the party though, as this is the twenty-fifth yearly iteration of the brew. In an industry filled with so many new beers, an American beer with a quarter-century history is due some serious respect.

Not only is this my first year trying Bigfoot, but this is also the first Barleywine I have reviewed here on PintLog. Barleywines are traditionally the biggest and richest of the British Ales, with mountains of malt and alcohol rates up to twelve percent. As it is with many styles, American Barleywines typically have a bigger focus on hops than their British counterparts. Barleywines are also one of the styles that typically benefit from extended cellaring, and Bigfoot is a classic candidate for extended aging.

Clocking in at 90 IBUs, Bigfoot is certainly on the hoppier side of the Barleywine spectrum, which is no surprise coming from Sierra Nevada. Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook are the hop variaties employeed while the backbone is compred of Two-Row Pale and English Caramel malts. In the immortal words of beer guru Michael Jackson: "Bigfoot captures the imagination, and its character is as big as the name implies, with a huge hoppiness in its earthy aroma, a chewy palate, and a great depth of flavor." Let's dive in.

Appearance: Somewhat hazy deep red body with red laser beam highlights. Two fingers of caramel-tinged head that leaves great lacing.

Aroma: Lots of hops, lots of malt, and lots of booze - just what I expected. Relatively balanced in its massiveness, but the hops take the spotlight. It's a complex mix: perfumey Cascade hops, dark fruit, spices, caramel malt, and alcohol.

Taste: Again, intense and complex. Masses of grapefruity and piney Cascade hops riding on top of a very solid caramel malt base with everything simply dripping with alcohol. Still plenty of dark fruit and spices flavors here.
The aftertaste is brilliantly bitter and boozy.

Mouthfeel: So chewy you could chip a tooth with
good carbonation. A great dry, boozy finish that segues into a long-lasting hoppy aftertaste.

Drinkability: Very filling and obviously a sipper. One is certainly enough, but a second is still tempting...

Verdict: Bigfoot, like any good Barleywine, is simply a massive beer. Everything about it is larger than life. There are enough hops to make it unique, but not so many that the lines are too blurred with a Double IPA. I can't wait to see how this ages.

Grade: A

Note: While this review is being published in July, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh this past January.