I love delicate beers. The fruity esters and subtle malt profile of the humble ale can be a real thing of beauty. That said… sometimes I just want a real slap in the chops from a fist full of hops.
Dogfish Head has been pumping out beer since the mid 90s and has developed a following for its experimental, maverick approach and a collection of strong beers. Today we have one such brew.
The 120 Minute IPA is not for the faint hearted, clocking in at over 16% abv. It’s not cheap either, but then it gets a lot of love in the brewery and sees more than its fair share of hops in a long, hands-on brew which sees it continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops throughout the boil.
High alpha hops are the ones responsible for bittering (measured in IBUs or International Bittering Units). The alpha acids in these hops need to be isomerized through boiling to release the bitterness - so the longer the boil and the more the hops - the higher the IBU (to a certain extent).
Dogfish Head founder and brewer Sam Calagione hit on the idea of continuous hopping whilst watching a cooking show where the chef slowly and continuously peppered a stew. He tracked down a vibrating kid’s football toy that he found in a thrift store and rigged it up to offload a continual stream of hop pellets. Hence was born Sir Hops A lot - the continuous hopper.
The clever thing about continuous hopping is that the hops making it into the boil early will add more bitterness, whilst those added later in the boil will add more flavour and aroma. That’s hop complexity right there!
So how does this “holy grail for hop heads” taste? Let’s find out…
It pours an electric orange-ochre colour that is certainly enticing. The nose is like orange treacle and dried fruits - there’s the odd volatile nail polish note too (but in a good way) and some tropical hints for good measure. It certainly isn’t a one dimensional hop bomb and it’s not particularly dank and piney either, just super fruity. The palate continues in the same vein - with the 120 IBUs swallowed up by big orange fruits, syrups and treacles - only to emerge triumphant and cleansing at the finish.
A super interesting drop with heaps of complexity and - I’d imagine - much more to offer given a few years in the cellar. The sweetness isn’t what you’d necessarily expect - but at 16% abv there’s heaps of residual sugar left behind from what must be a hefty malt bill.
This isn’t an everyday beer by any stretch of the imagination and you’d be better off sharing it with more than one person IMO - even at 355mls. It might not be a cheap drop - but if you can stretch to grabbing a few to put aside, you’re guaranteed plenty of enjoyment tasting it with friends and watching it evolve over the years. At the end of the day - that’s something it’s hard to put a price on…