Dogfish Head Brewing Co – 120 Minute IPA

Lately I have been very guilty of bashing a lot of the things that come out of Dogfish Head.  I guess it’s because I have been taking a chance with a lot of different beers from them that I wasn’t sure I would like.  They really should take that as a complement.  I don’t like to try things I doubt I’ll enjoy, but I tend to make the exception for Dogfish Head.  They make beers that sound really interesting.  However, they also tend to make a few really amazing beers as well.  I enjoy their 60 and 90 minute IPA’s, Brown ale, Palo Santo Marron, and Raison D’Etre.  I enjoy going to their restaurant near my house and having a couple of these every time.  Today’s particular beer is another one of these favorites as well.

I’m going to talk about the 120 as if you’ve never heard of it before, but I’m fairly certain enough of my readers know a little something about this particular beer.  Dogfish makes a 60, 90, and 120 minute IPA, and the 120 is widely referred to as a beer that is not for your average beer drinker.  Each of the different numbers refers to the length of time they boil the malts and hops.  Therefore, the flavors are affected as the boil continues.  You’ll notice that the 90 is more powerful than the 60 and the 120 is a whole lot more powerful overall.  The Dogfish site states this beer is, “brewed to a colossal 45-degree plato, boiled for a full two hours while being continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops, then dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month and aged for another month on whole-leaf hops!” There are a few notes from that I’m interested in.  First, when it says it is dry hopped daily in the fermenter for a month, do that mean they add more hops every single day?  Secondly, how does the dry hopping and the aging on whole-leaf hops differ?   Seems to me it would have a similar effect.  Remember, I’m just learning about the brewing aspects of things.

I have had this beer once before.  It was nearly 5 years ago, and I was really new to the craft beer market.  To me, at that time, this beer seemed more like a legend.  I had heard about it, but I had never seen it.  Therefore, when I saw it in a local store, I was willing to shell out the $10 for a little 12oz bottle to give it a chance.  5 years later, I was feeling pretty much the same way again.  I have now learned a lot more about beer, and I’ve had quite a few different imperial IPAs.  My beer memory had this as the strongest beer I’ve ever had, but I’ve gained enough experience now to where I wasn’t sure it would be quite as big a deal.  Needless to say, I was excited to give it another shot.

This beer poured out a nice reddish/orangish auburn color.  Looking in the glass, you see some really good clarity to the beer. It has some slight haze to it, but overall, it is really clear.  The carbonation was somewhat interesting to me.  You could watch a couple single bubbles coming up from the direct middles of the glass, but otherwise, there really isn’t a whole lot to speak of.  There is a slight white head that develops on top of the beer, and swirling the glass only results in some light lacing and nice ample sticky residue.

I was actually really surprised how light the aroma of the beer was.  Having enjoyed quite a few different imperial IPAs over the past few years, I thought it would mimic a lot of those.  Typically dry hopping really enhances the aroma, but perhaps the aging actually changed that up.  The biggest aroma I got out of it is grapefruit and citrus notes.  There is definitely some sweetness to the beer as well, and I get some ample booze.  The floral and pine notes are rather subdued, but they are definitely still there as well.  I was interested to see if the floral and pine notes were hiding in the taste as they did in the smell.

I was really surprised how different the hops flavors came across in this brew.  The long boil, dry hopping, and aging period must have really altered your typical hop flavors most consumers are used to.  This beer does have a sweet malt introduction to it.  From there I get a lot of deep rich dark citrus and grapefruit notes.  These are combined with the huge full-flavord hop taste.  The hops tend to have a really tangy quality to them.  The aging seems to have altered that pine and floral into tang.  There is a lot of ample booze and lingering citrus on the back half.  The aftertaste continues with a lot of tang, booze, and fruit.  It has an almost earthy woody quality to it at the end as well.

The beer’s mouthfeel is an interesting mix of syrup and carbonation.  It starts rather syrupy, moves to carbonation in the middle section, and back to syrup for the ending.  There is a lot of ample tang to the beer, which I find really pleasant and inviting.  The tangy quality and syrupy texture seem to mix into a slightly thick mouthfeel.  The super boozy quality lets you know why they sell this one little 12oz bottle one at a time.

I have been holding onto this beer for a little while now. Stout month got in the way of it a little, but I was really happy to finally get to it.  I’ve had a quite a few different IPAs and imperial IPAs over the past few years, which actually includes this one as well.  Coming back to it years later, I wasn’t blown away by the crazy hop power it had.  Instead, I was blown away by how good the flavors were.  There may still be some of these floating around, and I’m going to see if I can find one for aging.  You should definitely see if you can find one of your own if you’ve never tried it.

Teacher Grade: A+

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5 Comments

  1. Living in Delaware I’m always asked by out of state beer people what I think of Dogfish Head. I always have to chose my words carefully. There are only about a handful of beer they make that I really, really like. The rest are either ok in my mind, or just not for me. But I think with a brewery like DFH, that’s an acceptable place to be since they brew so many, and so diverse a selection of beers.

    120 to me tastes like honey on steroids, to sweet for me to enjoy on a regular basis. The couple of times I’ve had it on draft I’ve made it the last beer I had as I don’t think much could stack up after it.

    As for your questions, yes fresh hops are added daily for their dry hop. As to the aging part, I’m not sure because I don’t how the beer is handled. It might be that the beer is transferred to a tank to age in, where fresh hops are added and the beer is left to age. Is this really different than dry hopping? Probably not from a technical stand point, but it does read well in the beer description doesn’t it?

    Great post. I’ll be doing DFH 75 minute bottle addition soon. Love it on cask. Let’s see what they’ve done to in the bottle.

    • Thanks for the info on the dry hopping. It’s interesting that it doesn’t have a bigger aroma to it if they are dry hopping it that much. It would seem to me it is counterintuitive if you are then going to age it as well. Whatever, I guess that is just why I’m a teacher who critiques and doesn’t attempt to create something this crazy.

      I agree with your take on Dogfish Head. It’s funny because I used to say DFH was my favorite brewery, but now I feel like I name it the most frustrating or confusing brewery.

  2. Now the price of this one, by volume, is about the same as the Better Half 750ml. The difference is that this one knocks my sock off, and I would fork over the cabbage for this one (although not frequently).

    I always suggest to everyone to try this at least twice. My first time I liked it, but it was a huge shock. And it took me a second tasting to really appreciate how freaking awesome it really is.

    • Yeah I agree this is a pricy bottle for the size you get. If the content was something else I probably wouldn’t be buying it.

  3. I really love a lot of Dogfish Head’s standards. All their IPAs are worth while – 60, 75, 90, 120 minute IPA, Burton Baton is fantastic, Squall was pretty good while it was around, Hellhound on my Ale, even Aprihop is pretty good. Palo Santo Marron is good too, but a lot of their other specialty brews seem hit or miss to me. I’m almost always glad I tried them, but I’m rarely that taken with them.

    I suspect the dry hopping and aging provide similar character to the beer. I wonder if the difference is that they’re dry hopping during primary fermentation (they mention the fermenter in their blurb) and aging on hops after they’ve filtered the yeast out of the beer? Just speculation on my part, but it seems logical. At 18%, the beer probably needs a ton of time to mature, and ensuring that it’s always got fresh hops involved keeps it from losing the hoppy character…

    I have a bottle of 120 and World Wide Stout (both apparently 18% ABV) in my fridge right now. I was planning on cracking at least one of them tonight. I’ve only ever had the 120 on tap, and it was really nice, but I’d be curious to see how different it is from the bottle.


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