NOT OFTEN DOES a 9% ABV Double IPA qualify as the Goldilocks option. But then Goldilocks wasn’t tasting the outré potions of Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head Brewery. The ## Minute series of IPAs—so-called for their respective boil time—spans the standard strength 60 Minute, this imperial-strength 90 Minute, and concludes with the eye-popping 120 Minute. At nearly 20% ABV, the 120 Minute invokes the inflated prices on a wine menu that make $45 for a bottle seem perfectly reasonable: thus 90 Minute becomes the sensible middle path.
90’s color is dense amber (around 13 SRM), quite clear as expected and with a finger of creamy, large-bubbled head. That creaminess also comes through strongly in the flavor even after the head has subsided, almost overmatching carbonation shading towards the lower side of medium. Once the lacing begins to hang in waves, the overall visual impression is of pure hop nectar. And indeed, the beer’s first aroma wave is of straight hops–not overly complicated with floral or tropical notes, but rather the thick, leafy plantlike bitterness of a vine dropped into a boiling pot of sugar water. Oft-guessed cultivars for clones tend to include Simcoe (on a danker day) and the oily and strong but relatively neutral likes of Warrior.
Yet as with most DIPAs, hops are not all that’s on display. Corresponding to its darker color, 90 Minute is on the fuller side of the body spectrum with gobs of two-row barley to balance its bitterness and alcohol. Though not very nuanced, the malt side holds its own with a forward fullness almost like honeyed pie crust. Despite its strength the beer is not especially heavy or hot on the finish, especially considering Dogfish Head’s occasional zeal for gob-smacking booziness. Yet strong it is, and there remains a lurking clinical edge (rubbing alcohol, perhaps) that the malt only does so much to counteract.
Meanwhile, the bitterness of the hops remains prominent, radiating across the tongue after the malts taken their last bow and leading to the last. Indeed, overall 90 Minute is an almost constant paean to hops in their various manifestations: bitter, aromatic, beguiling fruitiness, and tangy derring-do. Perhaps it’s their continuous hopping process–which sees hops added in a steady flow instead of periodic doses –blends those distinct impressions together a little too generally on the palate. 90 Minute comes out strong, full, and tasty, but just not as complex or challenging as Dogfish Head typically strives to be. Perhaps aging it for a time would allow the flavors to articulate and clarify themselves. As for now—90 Minute is just about right.
Served: On tap (Emerson Ale House, Mt. Prospect)