From the Cellar: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

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Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA is a “Holy Grail for Hopheads,” according to the brewery. The 18% ABV and 120 IBU (International Bitterness Units) brew is arguably the crown jewel of Dogfish Head’s “Minute” series, which also includes a 60 Minute IPA, 75 Minute IPA and 90 Minute IPA. The premise — continually hopping a beer over however many minutes grace the label — is simple, but has dramatic effects on the beer. And the two hours of continuous hopping that goes in to the 120-Minute IPA is blatantly apparent on a fresh pour — which is why opted to lay one down for five years.

IMAG4238A few months ago I told you about what I see as a key to cellaring beer: forgetfulness. One of the beers I actually forgot I had was a bottle of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. The bottle I had been had been in the cellar for five years come Father’s Day this year so I figured it would be a good a time as any to crack it open — so I did.

My first encounter with Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA was in 2008 when Ben, now a writer at Guys Drinking Beer, was working at Galleria Liquors. He had a pretty big role in shaping my palate when I first got into craft beer and the 120 Minute IPA was one of the hard-to-find beers he set back for my weekly visit to the store. He warned me it was really hoppy — but six years ago I had no idea what really hoppy was. I cracked the bottle as soon as I got home and was overpowered by citrus hops, blistering alcohol and gobs of pure molasses.

If I were to try this beer fresh now I could find some things to appreciate when drinking a beer this hoppy. I couldn’t then. After a few sips I handed the bottle over to a friend who begrudgingly finished it.

After that experience I told myself if I ever happened across a bottle again I’d cellar it for a while to see if it could improve. A year later I did — so I did.

With five years of age on it, a bottle of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA is still boozy but in a far more welcoming way; the hops have faded leaving a warm, soothing and far less aggressive beer in its wake.

Pouring out heavy and a dull burgundy in color the 120 Minute IPA gives off an aroma of Belgian waffles slathered in butter and doused in maple syrup, cinnamon rolls and warm cherry pie. I could pick up a bit of alcohol on the nose but nowhere near as much as I expected to find in a beer that is nearly 20% ABV.

On the palate the five years in the cellar have made a world of difference. The alcohol is still present but is more warming than burning. The hops have faded dramatically but still leave a touch of citrus — mainly orange peel — around mid-sip. It’s the malts that really shine in this aged pour; there’s gooey caramel and chocolate covered cherries, butterscotch candies, caramelized brown sugar and honey. The finish is soothing and is capped by a bit of citrus-y hops that managed to survive those five years in the bottle. The body is heavy and coating and one to savor — each and every sip.

Ideally I’d recommend picking up a few bottles of this the next time it’s released; drink one fresh, try one after two years in the cellar and another after five year’s in the cellar. But if you’re not up for spending over $30 on three 12 oz bottles of beer then I’d suggest setting one back for five years. I can all but guarantee you won’t be disappointed. If you can manage to pick up a bottle to drink fresh — all the better — as you’ll have a better appreciation for what five years does to a bottle of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.

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Ryan

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Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.

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