If you ask people which brewer would be the one crazy enough to get in a 19 foot Boston Whaler (about the size of Dexter Morgan’s boat in the TV series Dexter) and take a 5-part ocean journey up the East Coast to raise funds for charity – you’d probably only have one answer: Sam Caligone of Dogfish Head Brewing. [Read More…]
Tag: Dogfish Head (Page 1 of 6)
Last summer, on a tour of the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton, DE, I saw one of the original machines used to continuously hop beer produced there – “Sir Hops a Lot”. Sir Hops a Lot had been retired, and was sitting, sadly, on the ground in a back corner of the brewery, and had been replaced with “Me So Hoppy” – an in-line system that automatically feeds hops through to the brewing process which is now a *much* larger scale. I remembered back to my first introduction to craft beer – the days of “Sir Hops a Lot” and the dynamics of hops, when I was first educated.
Many years ago, Mike bought a few bottles of 120 minute IPA, 90 minute IPA and 60 minute IPA for my family to try side-by-side. I have described this moment as my “craft beer epiphany” where I realized the versatility and insane creativity that is possible to be found in beer.
So, when at Novare Res for a completely different reason, I spied Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA on their tap list, I couldn’t resist. I haven’t tasted this beer for more than four years, and, frankly, I had to have it.
This year (2011)’s batch ended up right at 18% ABV. A deep orange color, the viscosity and alcohol content of this brew becomes apparent when swirled in the glass. The aroma is pretty hot (meaning that I can definitely detect the alcohol over the hop flavors), but has a malty sweetness to complement it. It smells like a strong barleywine, and it’s difficulty to pick out any overwhelmingly sharp hop aroma, but that sweet alcohol twinge comes through loud and clear.
On the tongue, it isn’t an alcohol burn, it’s a low-carbonation bomb of flavor. It coats my tongue with a powerful sweetness and a subtle bitter tone, but isn’t bitter the way you would assume something with such an insane quantity of hops would be. It doesnt make me blink away its strength, but rather, submit to it. It slides in like a seductress, under the radar, but leaves you feeling totally turned on. I like it. I don’t know how much I remember tasting it in 2007, but I am thrilled at this. It has a smoothness that is just amazing considering the ABV. No “hot” alcohol burn when you drink it, just a sublime and balanced brew. I am impressed, and that’s coming from someone who is a regular Dogfsh Head fan.
While the experience of drinking it in isolation isn’t quite as enlightening as drinking it with its slightly less-hopped cousins, it is still an experience that will make your night.
What’s in a Sahti? Before seeing a Dogfish Head Label featuring a cute girl riding a reindeer and bringing it home, I would never have been able to tell you. But their continual quest to find weird styles to emulate never ends, and thus I find myself writing a side by side post about a style I’ve never encountered. The Dogfish Head Sah’Tea is a “modern twist” on this traditional Finnish style, and the Sahtia (Lammin) is one of the few remaining traditional examples of this style.
So what is it? Apparently developed in the 1500s in Finland, this style of beer is mashed in wooden barrels and then filtered through juniper leaves making a kind of juniper-steeped beer. Typically un-hopped and cloudy, this one also has (traditionally) wild yeasts and/or bacteria. So it’s a funky, juniper infused cloudy mystery of flavors. Sounds like an adventure.
Though I don’t like to quote Beer Advocate, they do have a very good post on this beer style, and put forth this warning – “Approach Sahti with an open mind and an open palate, or you’ll risk immediate disappointment and total misunderstanding.” Though said with a slightly condescending slant, I’ll take that as a warning that this might be a crazy tasting.
I’ll start traditionally – with the Lammin “Sahtia.”
It pours slightly cloudy and orange, with a lot of sediment in the bottle to boot. Smelling it immediately off the pour, I really was immediately struck by the smell of… dirt? There was something plant-like about it. Not juniper, or “christmas tree” but more earthy, rocky or some little layer of musk and funk that played with me. After letting it sit and getting another whiff, though, I pulled out some of the banana-like smells that you get in some hefeweizens. What a weird aroma. I can’t wait to taste it…
[long pause while I make faces and keep saying, “How the $#@% am I going to describe THIS one!”]
Okay. So, I was expecting a dirty/spicy beer, and was totally fooled. Tart, sour, bright and punchy, this one comes right at you. If you are looking for funk, this one has everything. A little pucker, a little vinegar here and there, a little bit of earthiness, but there’s really not a lot of body. It tastes a little like sour apple cider. A nice fall treat, but as weird and as funky as it gets. I admit I’m at a loss for words on this one, but at least I didn’t say it tasted like “cooked lentils,” “white wine and bubblegum” or “menthol and wintergreen.” 😉
Onto the Dogfish Head “Sah’tea.” Now, in the tasting notes on the side of the bottle, Dogfish mentions that they follow the tradition – to a point. Then, they add chai tea (black tea & spices). When you smell the Sah’tea, it is very obvious that there is chai in there. Hell, it smells like the iced chai that I had yesterday at the Portland Public Market. But I digress. It is a very tea-like scent, unlike the funkiness and raw weirdness coming from the Finnish version. It is sweeter and a sipping beer, I couldn’t see this quenching my thirst or going with dinner – but maybe something I would drink while listening to Simon & Garfunkel on a cool fall evening.
There is a little bit of residual funkiness underneath the tea, but it’s hard to pick out. By itself, the Sah’tea is a good beer. But despite its traditional methods, it gets eclipsed by the modernization.
Well, that was an interesting journey into things completely unknown. Any other strange styles I should try? Suggest them in comments.