Last weekend I skipped the Beer Advocate Extreme Beer Festival, even though it was five miles from my home and tickets didn't cost any more than what I blow on beer any given day off anyway. I regret not going. It would have been fun, and it would have made me better at my ridiculous how-is-this-an-actual-job? job, which also means the ticket would have been tax-deductible. It's downright irresponsible and borderline treasonous to pass up any chance to claim beer as a legitimate business expense. I'm an asshole.
In my defense, though, the concept of extremity in beer is getting exhausting. Sometimes I overplay the role of happy, honest simpleton who could get by just fine with nothing but kolsch and pilsner until the end of time. I really do need some of that high-test, hopped-to-hell stuff sometimes, as well as the sours and stouts and all the rest of it. Thank heavens for extreme beer. But this morning I read that Flying Dog is coming out with a Sriracha Pale Ale. I like sriracha and pale ale, but still: fuck off. We don't need that any more than we need Rogue's Sriracha Hot Stout. Come on, Flying Dog, you really want to be second (or eleventh, probably, who knows) brewery in on the sriracha beer bandwagon?
Dogfish Head is one of my favorite breweries, but also one of the primary offenders when it comes to the Mountain Dewification of beer. They like to get a bit more CRAZY-with-a-backwards-k than my conservative old beer bones can handle. But the one benefit of being ahead of the wackiness curve is that 11 years down the line your wild stuff can seem reasonable and approachable by comparison.
Dogfish has been making Burton Baton since 2004, when an oak-aged, 10-percent alcohol-by-volume blend of imperial India pale ale and English-style old ale seemed even more batshit than it does now. I'm burning out on all-oak everything. It's true that a lot of my favorite beers spend some time in whiskey barrels before bottling; I love Allagash Curieux and Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (and many of its imitators), and last summer I tried a great Jameson-barrel-aged IPA from Brooklyn's underrated KelSo. But come on, man. Enough with the wood. Except when it's awesome. Burton Baton is awesome.
It's a nice, deep copper color, and while we've long since established that it doesn't matter what color a beer is, I'm working with a bit of a hangover today and running short on my word count, so let's all marvel at the copperness of this beer. She's a beaut, ain't she? Smells great, too. There's some caramel and cinnamon—from the old ale portion? Who's to say? Someone who knows his beer ass from his beer elbow, probably?—along with tropical fruit and pine from the double IPA part, and roasted vanilla underneath adding depth to the sweetness. It doesn't taste very boozy for a 10 percent ABV'er, but you get a bit of brandy heat. The oak is very restrained, offering mostly charred notes rather than the overt sweetness that undoes many lesser barrel-aged beers. Burton Baton is very smooth, somehow giving the sensation of lush creaminess without being all sticky and chewy, and the earthy, lightly resinous pine finish reminds you that this is at least partially a Dogfish Head IPA.
Dogfish Head Burton Baton costs about $15 for a 4-pack of 12-ounce bottles, which is bonkers but also fair. I recommend you drink this beer.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.
Illustration by Sam Woolley.
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