One of my favorite breweries is Maryland’s Dogfish Head Brewery, makers of the 60, 90 and 120 minute IPAs which are, by themselves, a phenomenon. So I am always excited to see a new round of specality and seasonal beers creep northward to my area (NH/MA) so that I can try them.
The last time I made my run to my favorite beer supplier, I spied Dogfish Head’s “Black and Blue” in the larger pint size. Released in April of this year, it is described on the bottle as “A belgian-style Strong ale fermented with blackberries and blueberries.” I was intreguied because I have come to be really fond of blackberry-wheat varieties of beer that I’ve come across (such as the ones featured in the Sam Adams ‘Long Shot’ contest winners series). I was anticipating a wheat beer with a subtle berry overtone.
When I poured the Black and Blue into a glass, I saw something I didn’t expect – The beer was bright red and mildly cloudy (though not opaque). When I smelled it, I got a lot of different messages at once. It wasn’t the purely-berry smell that comes from something like a Wachussett Blueberry Ale or a Rasberry UFO Hefeweizen. It smelled malty, almost nutty, but not sweet, hoppy but not dry. Very difficult to describe. When I tasted it, I got just as much clarity! It is very complex, a lot of different flavors follow one another. There is a strong malt flavor but it is quickly dimmed by a crispness, it doesn’t have a syrupy or sweet flavor at all, and the berries are barely perceptable until the end.
I was really pleased that they could formulate such a subtle and complicated beer – as a brewery they tend to focus on things that are very strong in one note – in the case of the IPAs it is the hops taking center stage, in some of their other specialty beers (like Fort, Aprihop, etc.) it is an additive flavor like raspberry or apricot. But here we had a blend that switched flavors in my mouth very quickly. I enjoyed it – and at 10% alcohol by volume, it is another good beer to sip.