Adventures In CellarSitting Review: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

In Cellared Beer Reviews by The Guys

Dogfish Head says:

“Esquire Magazine calls our 90 Minute IPA., “perhaps the best I.P.A. in America.” An Imperial I.P.A. brewed to be savored from a snifter. A big beer with a great malt backbone that stands up to the extreme hopping rate.”

dfh90minbottlesDogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Double IPA, 9% ABV

(Editors Note: We here it Guys Drinking Beer occasionally like to push the envelope of beer cellaring. IPA’s aren’t traditionally good candidates for the cellar.  They are brewed to be puckeringly hoppy and, thus, designed to be enjoyed that way.  But we thought it would be a fun experiment to see what happens to an overly hopped, high alcohol content Double IPA when it sits in the cellar for a year or more. Below are the tasting notes for Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA after one year and two years in the cellar.)

1 YEAR

Andrew: I believe it was our forefathers that asked the timeless question of, “What exactly happens when you throw a killer double IPA into the cellar for a year?” Because we aim to please our loyal readers and ourselves (that doesn’t sound right…), we decided to tackle just that question by comparing a bottle of 2009 bottle Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA side-by-side with a bottle from 2010.

I’ll just say up front, I’m simply amazed at how much a beer can change in a year’s time and that was certainly the case here. As soon as the beers were poured we saw that the 2009 had become somewhat of a cloudy amber color, next to the 2010 which had its typical crystal clear amber.

cloudy...clear

cloudy…clear

The malts in the 2009 had really taken over in the nose, while the citrus-y, floral-y hops took center stage in the 2010.

The 2010 tasted just as I had expected — light, fresh and crisp. I just love their combination citrus hops and malt and that hint of sweetness. The 2009 is where things really got interesting. The malts really dominated the hops on the front end, which a nice hoppy bitter aftertaste. The toffee and caramel notes that are ever-so-slightly present in the 2010 became really pronounced in the 2009 as well. In addition, much like you saw with our Double Crooked Tree side-by-side, the aged IPA really thickened up to an almost syrupy consistency.

A great side-by-side, it’s a lot of fun to see what happens to a beer when it’s set aside for a year.

Karl: The process of going from a 60 Minute IPA to a 90 Minute IPA and eventually all the way up to a 120 Minute IPA was part of my journey of learning how to love IPA’s.  As such, the option to take a whack at seeing what happens to a 90 Minute IPA after sitting for a year was enticing.  We’ve poked the cellar with a stick to check out what’s happened to barleywines and stouts, but a highly hopped IPA?  Would there be anything left?  Would the hops be long gone, leaving a hollow shell where a craft beer used to be?  It’s worth inspecting even if the results are disappointing.

Good news: it’s not disappointing.  It’s a little surprising, though.  At first glance, the two different years are like night and day.  The ’10 pours clear and sediment free with a thin head that quickly dissipates to nearly clear in comparison to the ’09.  Somewhere along the last 365 days or so the older 90 Minute IPA has gone surprisingly hazy, and cloudy with a much thicker, pillowy head.  Textually it’s amazing how much change a year can affect as well.  The ’10 is crisp like a nice fresh IPA should be, with a little pepper to it that hits at the back of the palate.  The ’09 is already syrupy and almost closer to a 120 Minute IPA in body.  Yet it’s still plenty hoppy, with time only peeling off the upper reaches of the plant’s bitterness.  In my notes, I wrote that it’s basically a 105 Minute IPA.

I think my other compatriates-in-brews are taking the brand new 90 Minute IPA for the win, but I like the ’09 a little better.  Something about it appeals to me the same way a Lagunitas IPA or HopStoopid appeals — it’s hearty, it’s rich, it’s not too bitter but the hop presence is still there.  It’s balanced yet intense in a good way.  The likelihood of you stumbling across a year-old 90 Minute IPA is slim, but if you lost one at the back of a closet somewhere, give it a crack.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Ryan: I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this little experiment.  When I started stashing away double IPA’s over a year ago I knew that the Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree would be a good candidate because it is a well-balanced DIPA.  I also stashed some Founders Devil Dancer, but only after talking to a couple of the bartenders at the brewpub about doing so.  The Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA was kind of a crap shoot in my mind.  Thankfully, the gamble paid off.

I won’t go in to too many flowery details, Karl & Andrew handled those pretty well.  But the differences between these two beers was rather intriguing.  Yes, they did look different.  The ’09 became a bit cloudier over time and the ’10 was clear and bright.  And, yes, the hops had faded in the ’09 but not as much as I had feared.  While you were hit with some malty sweetness up front it was quickly beaten back by piney hops that lingered through the finish.

A fresh bottle of 90 Minute IPA is all hops.  Piney and citrusy hops up front followed by a splash of orange peel and lemon zest in the finish.  The flavors are very crisp and bright.

Was I impressed, overall, by the is experiment?  Yes and no.  I was impressed with how well the hop character survived in the cellar but I expected this to fade away to more of a barleywine — which was a little disappointing.  Thankfully, there is one more bottle in the cellar that will sit for another year.  So this experiment isn’t quite over yet.

2 YEARS

DFH09 1
Karl: I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA was what seriously sent me down a road of hop-addiction. Like the rest of the craft beer world, I too got swept up in the wave of “It can’t get hoppy enough for me!” that so many of us went right along with. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I’m just saying that on a journey of a thousand IBU’s, the first step definitely had something to do with this beer.

So how is it after TWO years in the cellar?

Well, it’s still pretty damn good. Most people probably continue to scratch their heads when we dip into the time machine to try some aged IPA’s but if it’s got a strong backbone and enough of a kick to it, you’ll be able to see some changes. That’s certainly the case here – after being laid back for two years, this brew has almost turned into a fruit beer, very smooth and citrusy while retaining some of that hop characteristic from a fresh bottle. The balance is…well, a little shocking.

If you could bottle this and produce it, I think I’d probably drink it more often than a fresh 90 Minute  IPA. In all honesty, I have to admit that I don’t drink that much 90 Minute as it is, but I’d certainly return to this offering sooner.

Andrew: Really, who ages an IPA? We do apparently, and I’m glad we did. I encourage, nay demand you cellar a couple of bottles of the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA because it was really, really REALLY good.

I’d even say that I prefer a cellared 90 Minute IPA to a fresh bottle.

There was just a touch of hops in the nose, and it poured a pretty light red color. This turned into a
fruity, hoppy IPA that wasn’t overly bitter and begged to be followed up with another bottle.

This all begs the question: what happens when you cellar a bottle of 120 Minute IPA?

Karl: I think I know some guys who are willing to find out.

Ryan: Hold your horses, fellas. We’ll get to the 120 Minute IPA eventually. There’s one that I’ve been desperately trying to forget about for two years now sitting in the cellar. But before I wax poetic on the 120 Minute IPA, I first need to gush over a two-year old bottle of 90 Minute IPA.

I’ll be the first to admit, I feel kind of weird saying that. Eager to try a two-year old beer? An IPA at that?

This was all part of a little experiment we began when we started this site. We wanted to see what would happen to the overly hopped and high ABV double IPA’s out there. And, yes, we’ve read all the message board comments on why you should never age IPA’s and why they should always be drunk fresh. Those warnings actually fueled our desire to lay a few bottles down of some popular double IPA’s to see what would happen.

Guess what? This beer didn’t go bad. It didn’t turn in to some unrecognizable malt liquor. No-ones tongue fell out. To the contrary, a two-year old bottle of 90 Minute fades in to a very flavorful and — dare I say — drinkable IPA.

The nose is all 90 Minute IPA, with big bouquets of lemon rind, orange peel and grapefruit. Sip, sip and sip some more and you’ll be greeted with a shot of citrus-y hops up front followed by what can best be described as the syrup from a can of fruit — most notably peaches. Those flavors fade away as quick as they burst on to the palate, followed up by another shot of citrus hops and grapefruit that leads you in to a dry finish.

The other day I added my thoughts to our 5 year vertical of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout and closed out my review by saying how glad I was that we set some bottles back for a 10 year vertical so we could see how the beer would further develop. In that same breath I bemoaned the fact that we have pulled the last of a beer from the cellar and wished we had one or two more bottles stashed away. This was one of those times. I would love to see what happens to a 90 Minute IPA after 3 years and even 4.

So go ahead, dare to be different, and throw some 90 Minute IPA in your cellar. We’re quickly becoming believers in aged IPA’s (#webelieveinagedipa).

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Written by many, compiled by one, this is a collaborative post with contributions from at least two writers at Guys Drinking Beer.