I've been drinking irresponsibly lately, by which I mean all of the usual things, but also that I've been forgetting to use the stupid notebook in which I differentiate between beers with "strong grapefruit character" and those that merely display "pronounced citrus notes." I draw little trees next to the piney ones; the ones that are neither piney nor citrusy are most often "malty." I got a whole system worked out, but I keep sabotaging my beer research by leaving the notebook at home.
Another professionally detrimental trick I've learned is that on occasion, a person can just drink brandy all night, because Jesus, fuck, man, sometimes you've just had too damn much beer lately, you know? Or at least too damn much inefficient beer. I'm a session-beer advocate for a good 43 weeks a year, but during the blissful season between Halloween and Hate Yourself Day, I like to cram so much potato-based and sugar-lacquered atrocities into my shamehole that there's really not much room left over to get properly festive on four-percent-ABV beer.
Fortunately, the beer calendar tries to accommodate this by back-loading the annual release schedule with all sorts of heavy holiday ales and imperial stouts. I dig these brews. Even when they're not objectively excellent, they help nudge common beer-drinkers out of our comfort zone by stripping away a lot of the hops that flavor most of the beers we gravitate toward the rest of the year. For all my blather about pilsners and saisons—which I claim as my two favorite styles, because I'm too cool for IPAs—my per-liter year-round beer consumption probably has nearly as much hops as the next beer blogger's. Boo. This makes for an identity crisis! And it also gets boring, even if it's a good-tasting kind of boredom.
So hurray for stout-and-spice season, and special thanks to Hennessy for helping out when no one's looking, but I kinda miss hops now. I still need to keep the alcohol-by-volume level high enough to allow for maximum pie-inhalation, though, which is why my most recent detour back to India pale ales starred the ultimate gonzo hop-bomb, Dogfish Head's ridiculous 120 Minute IPA.
I really like Dogfish Head, though I had cruddy things to say about their base-model 60 Minute IPA in a rankicle this summer. Their website explains where 120 Minute got its name: "120 Minute is boiled for a full two hours while being continually hopped with high-alpha [acid] American hops, then dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month and aged for another month on whole-leaf hops."
They only brew it a couple of times a year, and its availability is restricted in certain markets that put a stupid, arbitrary cap on how alcoholic a beer is allowed to be (get your shit together, Ohio). But if Dogfish distributes to your state—and 18-percent-ABV beer is legal there—then it's not that hard to track down. I didn't have to jump on any flash sales or wait in any lines for the privilege of paying 10 goddamn dollars for a single 12-ounce bottle a few weeks ago.
Was it worth it? Hey man, who knows. We've been over "worth" before. I can say that I'm glad to have paid out of pocket to try the September 2014 bottling for the first time sober and notebooked. (A friend gave me a bottle a few months ago, but I foolishly and inevitably pressed it into emergency service one night when the fridge was bare and my taste buds were already shot.)
The smell of 120 takes over the room as soon as you pop the cap, with tons of pine and nearly as much citrus, apricot, and mango. My highly educated guess is that they use every single hop in the world to make this beer. In addition to the expected good stuff, there's also a sweet, rum-like alcohol present on the nose, but not much given the strength, and not in an off-putting way. There's some light caramel character underneath, but the hops dominate, as they should, with a good balance among resin, citrus, tropical, and floral flavors.
I'm told that Dogfish 120 Minute improves with several months of aging, but it's plenty good enough to enjoy upon release. Go ahead.
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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. Image by Jim Cooke.
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