Friday, May 25, 2012

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - 120 Minute IPA

If you were a fan of the show "Brewmasters," you know a thing or two about Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA. In case you don't know about this beer, here's what you need to know:

First of all, what's with the "minute" thing? As you may already know, Dogfish currently makes and distributes 4 "minute" IPA beers: 60 Minute IPA, 75 Minute IPA (which was recently bottled for the first time and is much harder to find than the 60 Minute variety), 90 Minute IPA and 120 Minute IPA. The "minutes" in the names refer to the amount of time that the beers are continuously hopped for. As the minutes go up, so do the IBUs (International Bittering Units, used to measure the hoppy-ness of beers) and the ABV. So you can kind of think of 60 Minute as the baby of the bunch, 75 Minute as the quirky older cousin (because it's made with a slightly different process, including being barrel aged with maple syrup), 90 Minute as the big brother, and 120 Minute as the granddaddy of them all.

But 120 Minute IPA doesn't stop at just a two hour, continuous hop boil. After the boil and initial hop additions are done, the beer gets dry hopped every day for a month and then sits on whole leaf hops for another month. The end result is an monster of an IPA that clocks in at 18% ABV (18%!!!!) and 120 IBUs. Because bottles aren't distributed to California, the only way for us San Diegans to try it (besides trading for it) is on tap. It doesn't show up often and when it does, it tends to go very, very fast. I finally got the chance to try it this week.

120 Minute IPA pours a dark golden color with a thin cream colored head. Usually beers this high in alcohol don't carry much of a head, but this one seemed to show good signs of carbonation. After trying a few beers this strong (Brewdog's Tokio and Dogfish's World Wide Stout) that almost knocked me out of my seat when I smelled them, the smell of this beer was surprisingly pleasant. I don't know why this surprised me so much, but the first thing I thought when I smelled it was, "It smells like an IPA!" I picked up citrus and pine hop notes along with some cedar and oak and some big caramel and earthy malt notes in the background.

The taste was big and malty upfront with a firm and piny hop backbone. With the alcohol as high as it is, I was really impressed that the hops came through at all, but they definitely did. A bit of prickly carbonation does wonders for the mouthfeel of this one, as it really keeps the beer from feeling too syrupy. Yes, 120 Minute IPA is a big boy, but it's smooth as hell. The alcohol is certainly there, but this isn't the kind of beer that's going to leave you wincing after every sip, like some other beers with ABVs in this range.

Dogfish's founder, Sam Calagione, said in a video about this beer that he didn't want it to drink like a spirit like some other high alcohol beers do. After finally trying it, I can confirm that it definitely drinks like a beer. A really, really tasty one.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39


  1. Where did you find it on tap in SD? Sounds delish!

    1. Toronados ended up with a keg of it during their 4th Anniversary celebration last week. It shows up every once in a while. I'll let you guys know next time I see it!