Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: 120 Minute IPA
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: ~18.0% | IBUs: 120
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
Now here's a beer I've been waiting to try for quite a while now. It's not that I haven't been able to procure any (in fact, I was able to squirrel away a bottle when I was but a poor intern in '08), it's just that every time that I bought some, I didn't end up reviewing it. Though I loved the other beers in Dogfish's Minute series, I just never got around to it. Perhaps I was afraid.

After all, this is a big bastard of a beer. As the name implies, it's boiled for a full two hours with continuous hopping form high-alpha hops. As if that wasn't enough, it's then dry-hopped daily in the fermented for a month and aged for another month on whole-leaf hops.

The result is a hop-monster with 120 IBUs and 15-20% ABV. Barleywine? Triple IPA? Bastard child beer liquor? You could make a good case for each.

Unlike most DIPAs, Dogfish encourage aging of the product, as it's hearty enough to positively evolve over time. I certainly have a nice collection in the cellar.

But, the time has come to finally jump in and review this beast. Wish me luck.

Appearance: A golden-orange body capped by half a finger of cream-colored head that fades in average time, leaving patchy lacing.

Aroma: Somewhat muted (almost aged) dank, piney, leafy, and citrusy hops over heaps of sticky toffee pudding malt. Plenty of spicy booze all around.

Taste: Up front, citrusy, green, dank, resinous, sappy, and bitter hops take charge. There’s a lot of peppery booze here to be sure, but it never gets to be too much. Underneath, enough caramelized malt to ground everything. It’s big, full of character, but not muddled. Leafy hops, grainy malt, and lots of spicy booze in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with smooth medium-low carbonation and a dry finish. Plenty of heat and oiliness from the booze throughout.

Drinkability: Obviously, with the bonkers alcohol content, this is a beer firmly in sipper territory. However, that said, it still manages to drink a little faster than expected.

Verdict: 120 Minute is just as extreme as billed, but it’s not just extreme for extreme’s sake; it’s a damn good (and thoroughly interesting) beer. Not just a Double IPA, this is on another planet and an experience worth having. Looking forward to finally breaking into the aged ones in my cellar to see how it evolves.

Grade: A

Saint Arnold's Bishop's Barrel No. 4 Review

Brewery: Saint Arnold Brewing Co. | Beer: Bishop's Barrel No. 4
Style: Weizenbock | ABV: 9.9% | IBUs: ~40
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Saint Arnold Bishop's Barrel No. 4
For the fourth beer in the successful Bishop's Barrel series, Saint Arnold has brewed up a big Weizenbock brewed with cocoa nibs and aged in Woodford Reserve barrels.

The majority was brewed a year before bottling, with 10% of the final product being a fresh batch to bring back the weizen yeast character which had faded in the barrels. The cocoa nibs employed came from Tejas Chocolate.

Here's how Saint Arnold describe the finished product:
The taste starts with bourbon and a rich maltiness. Chocolate and a light banana flavor emerges, reminiscent of a banana split made with chocolate ice cream.
I've been a big fan of the Bishop so far, let's see if the streak continues.

Appearance: An inky black body that lets no light escape, save a few highlights of brown if you force the issue. Up top, just over a finger of tannish head that fades in average time, leaving great lacing.

Aroma: A mix of dark malt, musty dark fruit, licorice, vanilla, bourbon, lots of oak, and a hint of booze as it warms.

Taste: Just like the nose. A big, bold mix of very dark fruit, licorice, vanilla, leather, bourbon, and oak over a solid backbone of dark malt. Clearly related to the other beers in this series. The alcohol is masked masterfully, never showing its head. Lots of barrel in the finish, along with dark fruit and dark malt.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied and velvety with smooth medium carbonation and a full finish. Nice slickness from the alcohol throughout.

Drinkability: Drinks just as you’d expect given the alcohol content.

Verdict: As with most beers in the Bishop’s Barrel series, the barrel really is front and center here. It’s more than just barrel through, with plenty of big and enjoyable Weizenbock character complemented by the barrel. Without the barrel it would be a good beer, with it, it’s something more.

Grade: A

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Saint Arnold Bishop's Barrel No. 3 Review

Brewery: Saint Arnold Brewing Co. | Beer: Bishop's Barrel No. 3
Style: Russian Imperial Stout | ABV: 11.5% | IBUs: 49
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass
Saint Arnold Bishop's Barrel No. 3Here we have the third release in Saint Arnold's Bishop's Barrel series, and already we're seeing some retreaded ground.

Like the first release in the series, this is a Russian Imperial Stout aged in Woodford Reserve barrels. The differences being that it was aged for 12 months instead of 10 and that the house Saint Arnold yeast was used in place of the less estery yeast in the first release.

I was a fan of the first release, though wanted a bit more body. Sounds like I may just get my wish here.

Saint Arnold use the same description for this as the first release:

A pleasant sipping beer with the bourbon both present but not overpowering as you work your way through the glass. Oddly easy to drink for a beer this strong.
Let's jump back in and see what has changed.

Appearance: An inky black body with hints of red around the edge. Up top, just over a finger of tannish head that fades slowly, leaving good lacing.

Aroma: Bitter chocolate, cola, molasses, a hint of something lactic, booze, and lots of bourbon barrel character with a balance of oak and vanilla.

Taste: The base features dark chocolate, dark coffee, dark fruit, and well-toasted dark malt, but is on the lighter side as far as intensity goes for the style. There’s lots of barrel character on deck to compliment, with lots of vanilla, oak, and bourbon character. Taking a small nip of Woodford Reserve while sampling, it’s clear to see the influence here. Everything meshes well and it’s well balanced. The booze is apparent throughout, but never imposes. Dark malt, oak, and bourbon in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and creamy with silky smooth medium carbonation and just a little warmth from the booze. Doesn’t have the same thinness issue as the first release.

Drinkability: Drinks a little faster than the double-digit alcohol content and style would suggest.

Verdict: Plenty of deja-vu here, to be sure, as this is rather close to the first installment of the series. The yeast change is noticeable, making things a bit more full-bodied and creamy. However, that extra two months in the barrel hasn’t made much of an impact. The base beer is still just a little bit less intense than I’d prefer, but the barrel again comes through beautifully.

Grade: A

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