I’ve been waiting a long time to write about this one. For many beer connoisseurs, the 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head is the Holy Grail. Or perhaps, as the guys from Hot Tub Time Machine would call it, the “great white buffalo.” Kept “in the back” under lock and key by liquor stores, and furiously sought after by the truly dedicated, this Imperial India Pale Ale from Delaware’s brilliant Dogfish Head Brewery is not so much a beer as it is an experience.
The first time I had this quite ridiculous concoction was with my friend, fellow podcaster (The Only Podcast That Matters) and beer lover Andrew. We tackled a 22-ounce homebrew that we brewed at The Brewer’s Apprentice in Freehold, New Jersey, and then split the 120 Minute IPA. This particular brew starts out at around a whopping 18% alcohol-by-volume level, so it’s not for the faint-of-heart. Drinking that first beer to warm up was a mistake, as we sat on my couch, waffling between delirious giggles and the inability to even speak. We somehow got out the words to appoint Andrew’s wife Veronica to drive us to Boston’s, a now-defunct pizza joint and sports bar down the street from my house.
I can’t remember for the life of me what I ordered that night. Was it an entire pizza? Maybe a big, stupid, greasy burger? Couldn’t tell you. I just remember eating it all. We sat, completely annihilated, gorging ourselves on food that is meant to cure hangovers the next day.
The 120 Minute IPA is boiled for two hours and continuously hopped during the brewing process. After that, it is dry-hopped as it ferments for an entire month, and then aged for another month before it is sent out into the world. This extreme form of brewing, in which strong and vibrant hops are introduced into the mix throughout the process, makes the 120 Minute IPA less like a beer, and more akin to a fine liquor.
Poured from a 12-ounce bottle, the 120 Minute IPA appears a dark amber color, and smells of aggressive hops and a bit of sweetness that perhaps is a result of the heavy maltiness. The aromas are strong, and the taste is even stronger. While the hoppiness of this brew is formidable, it does not have that obnoxious and over-the-top floral taste that many IPAs do. Instead, the forefront is taken by a stony booziness that is not for everyone. Those who have an affinity for a scotch, or maybe even a cognac may find this “beer” to be appealing. The head dissipates quickly, and I don’t get a considerable carbonation level out of it.
Personally, I’ve only had the 120 Minute IPA a few times, and I have not had the courage to take an entire bottle down myself. While I have enjoyed it in some sense, this is not a beer that anyone in their right mind can have more than one of in one sitting. This one is for extraordinarily slow sipping, and most definitely for sharing. It is difficult to find – most liquor stores won’t even have it and those that do typically only get a few bottles in at a time. You’ll most likely never see it sitting out on a shelf, so you’ll have to call your local booze joint, or go in and ask in order to get your hands on one.
The 120 Minute IPA is experimental, and is for the dedicated riders of the craft beer wave. It is recommended that this beer be aged before being enjoyed, and I have heard reports of a “mellowing out” the more you let it sit. The particular bottle that I received as wedding gift from a Good Samaritan who shall remain anonymous, I did let rest for a couple months before sharing it with one of my brothers. However, I’m not aware of the extent to which it was aged before I acquired it, and it was certainly still in possession of its boozy character.
If you haven’t tried this, and are interested in it, make sure you are ready for it. It is not to be fooled with, and it is certainly not for everyone. Dogfish Head undoubtedly gets a thumbs up on this special creation from me, and I would most definitely drink it again. Bottoms up!