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Beer Reviews

120 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head
Milton, DE

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 21%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Pair With:
Let me begin this review with a brief rundown of the most important events ever to occur in the history of the world:

336 B.C.: Alexander the Great begins his unprecedented conquest of most of the known world.

1066 A.D.: William the Conqueror and his Norman forces overrun the dirty Germanic tribes squatting on British soil and re-civilize the greatest land in the world.

1431 A.D.: Annoying French girl Joan of Arc finally put to sleep by the far superior English.

1492 A.D.: Christopher Columbus “discovers” America, a land that had already been occupied by thousands of people for hundreds of years.

1945 A.D.: The Allies finally subdue the Axis, thus ending World War II; not surprisingly, Great Britain does most of the work.

2007 A.D.: Nigel Aloysious Tanner, King of Hopheads and 74,907th in line for the British throne, samples Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA, an Imperial IPA that checks in at a mere 21 percent ABV; world peace quickly follows.

Face it folks, this is a momentous occassion for yours truly, the hoppiest of hopheads here at Never let it be said that Nigel doesn’t embrace a challenge, and drinking a brew anywhere near this powerful certainly qualifies as a challenge. My previous record for ABV? I think it’s around 13 percent, which is pretty impressive, but is Sally McNally when compared to this.

Being the thoughtful Englishman that I am, Nigel wants to share this potentially euphoric experience with my loyal readers, so I will not sample this brew until I begin the review portion of this blog. I want to give you the full experience, from the crack of the bottlecap to the very last sip. If there’s time, I will include the fallout Wholesale Dolls from this as well, including my drunken, face-first plunge onto the couch at 1 a.m. and my attempt to crawl out of bed in the morning while cursing myself out for “drinking the whole f-ing bottle” on a Sunday night. Never let it be said that Nigel doesn’t think about his fans.

Before I begin, I must thank a certain Eddie Glick for providing me with this bottle of Hophead Holy Water. Nigel has never seen this brew anywhere around here due to the complete lack of sophistication among the local population, so I am forever grateful to Eddie for his generosity. This is far and away the greatest gift I have ever received, making that Rolls Royce my Mum gave me last year look like a pile of puke. While Nigel may occassionally poke fun at Eddie, he is far and away the best 40-something year old virgin loser shut-in that I’ve ever met in my life (by the way, a little Proactive Solution may cure that hideous acne problem). Here’s to you, Eddie!

Dogfish Head makes a point to explain that this brew ages well, and thus can be cellared for an extended period. Nigel would love to do this, but has only one bottle and is far too anxious to try it. However, I promise ya’ll that I will track some more down at some point, and I will attempt to age it for an extended period and review it again in a few years, if I’m still alive and allowed to write for this fine website (Nigel is constantly walking on thin ice, you know). Perhaps Eddie will be more patient with his bottle, and in the future can scold me for indulging so quickly.

So, here goes nothing. The crack of the bottlecap reveals a good amount of carbonation, with a nice fog billowing up out of the bottleneck and a decent foam nearly reaching the top of the lip. The initial aroma is faint, but increases on the pour. The brew is a good color, an extremely cloudy dark orangish-golden brown, somewhat reminiscent of a dark hefeweizen. A very lively head on the pour leaves a surprisingly foamy pillow of slightly over a half an inch. This dissipates fairly quickly, leaving a nice creamy white trace throughout the top and sides of the glass. For such a powerful brew, I must say I’m a bit surprised it has this much life to it.

The aroma is still not nearly as powerful as I expected, but is nice nonetheless with both huge amounts of bitter, floral hoppy goodness (duh—it had hops added to it continously for 2 FREAKIN’ HOURS!), as well as a surprisingly strong hint of sugary malt. Not surprisingly, there is a detectable aroma of alcohol, though it’s not too offensive. Hop aroma may dominate, but its not the strongest Imperial IPA I’ve ever inhaled by any means—not even close, to be honest with you.

First sip … Damn! That stings! I can tell already that this is gonna take awhile. After the first sip I can best describe the flavor by using the immortal words of Ralph Wiggum on The Simpsons: “It tastes like … burning!”

OK, I’ve rinsed my palate with some water, and I’m gonna try this again. Not nearly as offensive this time, it is clear that somehow hops may not be the dominant flavor. The initial sting wasn’t from hops (I don’t think), but from alcohol. The second sip is flavorful, but more in a sugary, caramel and molasses context. A very sweet brew indeed, but not necessarily due to the insane hop addition. It has a citrus zip to it as well, though it’s hard to pinpoint it due to the alcohol sting.

Ok, I’m past the halfway point, and I can say I’m a bit disappointed. It’s good, but nothing like what I expected. Certainly a difficult drink, diehard hopheads will likely be let down by what Dogfish Head describes as “the holy grail for hopheads.” You want hops gallore? Have a Devil Dancer, a Hop Wallop, a Bitter Woman From Hell, a Ruination, etc. All of those selections have more in the hops department than this, and are far easier to drink with half as much ABV per bottle. Hell, even Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA is far, far superior to this in both hops and overall flavor and drinkability. Dogfish Head deserves major props for creativity, attempting to make an extremely ballsy brew, but what good is a 21 percent ABV brew if the overwhelming amount of alcohol contained in it destroys the other flavors? Us Beer Dorks don’t drink to get drunk (though that somehow seems to happen on occassion): we drink to enjoy a flavorful, finely crafted brew. It’s hard to do that with this particular selection, as it is very, very hard to enjoy anything when your tongue is numb.

Almost done, and I will say this: give it a try if you’re up for a challenge. It’s not a bad beer by any means, it just goes too far over the top. This took me two hours to drink, and let it be known, I’m definitely feeling its effects. Medium-bodied with a huge aftertaste, this obviously is something you can only tolerate on rare occassions, and have at the most one bottle in an evening. I would suggest finding someone to share it with (but not in a gay “Lady and the Tramp” sort of way), as it will temper its effects. To the folks at Dogfish Head, I say this: 90 Minutes is plenty—no need to get stupid with the hop additions.

As the final drop goes down, I will close by saying this was certainly an experience, though a somewhat disappointing one for yours truly. Too much sting throughout the drink to make it as enjoyable as it should be, but I am glad I had the opportunity to finally sample it. I still hope to find some more in the near future, and find out if cellaring it for a few years will help ease that sting by bringing the other flavors to the forefront. Give it a try, if only to brag to your friends that you drank a 21 percent ABV brew, but don’t expect too much. As for that “euphoric experience” I was hoping for? Better luck next time, I guess.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on July 9, 2007.
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