Drinking Dogfish diagonally: Comparing the Dogfish Head IPA siblings

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has a well-deserved reputation for their wild and crazy beer styles. Not surprising coming from a brewery that touts itself as "Off-centered beers for off-centered people." Led by craft beer rock star Sam Calagione, Dogfish has broken rule after rule about what beer is "supposed" to be. From the potent 18% ABV Worldwide Stout to the truly global Pangaea (which includes ingredients from each and every continent), Sam and company are always looking for new and interesting ways to push the envelope.

But creativity and originality do not mean much if you do not turn out a good "normal" product, and Dogfish delivers there, too. One of the great ideas to come out of the Milton, Delaware, brewery is the process of continual hopping. Born out of experimenting with one of those old electronic football game tables, this method is pretty self explanatory: hops are adding continuously for the duration of the boil. Dogfish offers several variations on the theme: 60 Minute, 90 Minute, and 120 Minute, each one hoppier and stronger than the last. There is also a “75-Minute“, but that is actually a cask blend of the 60- and 90-minute brews.

How much difference can a half-hour or two really make? Plenty, actually. I decided to do a "diagonal" tasting of the Dogfish Head IPA siblings, starting with the 60 Minute and working my way up.

Dogfish 60 Minute IPA

Referred to by Sam Calagione as a “session India Pale Ale”, the 60 comes in at 6% ABV and around 60 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). It pours a golden copper and is alive with hop aroma. A white, lingering head and an amazing, crisp and fresh flavor, followed by a delicious dance between the rich malts and floral and citrusy hops. It's easily a beer that could be paired with many dishes including anything spicy. I have had it on draft as well as in the bottle, and both are fantastic. You simply cannot go wrong with a Dogfish 60 Minute IPA.

Dogfish 90 Minute IPA

The first “continually-hopped beer” and still the best, in my opinion. If you are unfamiliar with the story, the abridged version is that in the early days of Dogfish Head, Sam and his brewers were experimenting with hop additions at different times during the boil. They decided that instead of the usual bittering, flavoring, and aromatic additions, why not continuously hop the brew from start to finish. To accomplish this and to maintain a consistent flow of the lupulin-laden lovelies, they used an old vibrating electronic football game. It worked wonderfully, and thus was born the 90 Minute IPA. It is a strong, bitter but delicious brew that pours a deep gold and a white foamy head that lasts forever. And hops, hops, and more hops just coming flowing out in an amazing symphony of citrus and pine. The 9% ABV is noticeable, but so well balanced (and offset somewhat by the 90 IBUs) that one hardly thinks about it. This is a fantastic representation of the Imperial IPA style, and a must for hop heads everywhere.

Dogfish 120 Minute IPA

The granddaddy of them all. The bitter, mean old uncle who does not mince words, refuses to be polite, and yet everyone loves him anyway. That's what I think of when I drink this beer. It is 18% ABV and 120 IBUs. This beer is boiled for a full 2 hours while being continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops, then dry hopped daily in the fermenter for a month before being aged for another month on whole-leaf hops. That is some serious bitterness going on. And yet, there is a sweetness to this beer that is surprising, deceptive and delicious. The 120 Minute IPA is not a beer you can drink casually, nor should you. It is an event to be savored, poured into a snifter and sipped, letting the flavors roll over your tongue, the alcohol warm your body and numb your brain. Only brewed 3 times a year, it is not an inexpensive beer either, but it is worth the experience.

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