I have a few people to thank for this post, whom I'm incredibly grateful to. This post is all about trying Dogfish Head's 120 minute IPA side by side with one another. My first thanks go out to Jeff (@Juffage) for bringing along a 4 month fresh bottle of the stuff. My second props go out to @D_I_N_G for providing me with a 5yr old bottle of the stuff.
I first tried this beer about 3 years ago, whilst I was still only a relative noob beer geek. Back then, upon consumption, I thought it was the best beer I'd ever had to date, I mean, it took up two pages in my beery note book at the time for crying out loud. (still the only beer to do so!) It was the epitome of beer nerd-ery, and the holy grail of Imperial IPAs. Time has passed since though, and when I finally got my hands on another bottle 3 years later, I couldn't help but feel quite a few apprehensions about another taste. I really didn't think it would be able to stand up to my unbelievably high expectations of my first experience - let's face it - these things hardly ever do.
I should probably explain a little more about how the first bottle (the 5yr old one) came into my possession in the first place. I'd been on Twitter a while, and had always moaned about how I'd never had the chance to try this beer again after my first sampling. It was then that @D_I_N_G sent me some DMs saying he was coming back to Leeds and was willing to bring a bottle with him for me. Despite being a little skeptical, I pretty much said DO IT! and a meet up was arranged, and the rest is history. You may get the Twitter impression that me and @D_I_N_G don't get along, but that (hopefully!) couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, I like to tease him a little (a lot) about session beers and beer cocktails, but in reality he's a fine upstanding gent who has my respect for trying to live an Englishman's lifestyle in the Cask Ale desert that is the US.
Let's rock on to the beers then:
Fresh bottle: I didn't get too much aromas to begin with, it was served a little too cold, but I did get a big dose of aniseed, gooseberry and watermelon. From the first taste you can tell it's boozy. It's like someone's shoved a spade full of brown sugar in your mouth and set it on fire! There's tonnes of pure hop resin and a super orange bitterness which is kind of like a cointreau spirit flavour. It's sweet sweet caramel with an almost medicinal oaky character behind loads of toffee. Think Imperial IPA meets Quad Barley Wine.
5yr old bottle: I took a nose of the beer and my exact words were; "This smells so fuck!ng good!!! It smelled like the ultimate vintage ale. Massive amounts of marmalade, chocolate wood, caramelised orange rind and raisins and a heap of burnt sugar. I thought the fresh bottle was sweet, DEAR LORD! This was a beer which was so sweet it coated your mouth and refused to let go, it was so cloying it almost left you speechless! (it did for quite a while) Carmelised apples and burnt pear skins, you get the idea that the first has a bit more orange bitterness about it when compared to the old one - this is the best beer and will be the best beer I have this year. The bitterness of the IPA has completely melted away to produce something that's so complex, so dominating it pretty much takes your breath away. The bottles state; "ages well" - Sam, I wanted to think you were wrong, but you couldn't have been any more right.
It's true, the fresh bottle let down my expectations. It was never really going to live up to my first taste experiences, and how much I bigged it up in my head. Having said that though, trying the aged version DESTROYED my expectations, and wrote them completely anew!
Just for a little fun at the end of what was an amazing experience, we decided to try a little bit of both beers together. It was pretty much what you'd expect. It still tastes just like an awesome beer, with the sweetness of the older bottle dominating, but with a tiny bit of young bitterness creeping in the background.
I gotta get me some more of this beer! That was one HELL of a beer moment.