Sud Savant: Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA Truly Top Notch

Gang, I’m sorry that I’ve reviewed so few beers this month! In my defense, I’ve been performing in a musical, obtaining a mortgage, starting a new job, house shopping, musical rehearsals, commuting 2 hours every day, and trying to occasionally sleep. But excuses are for the weak, so I figured I’d at least try to make it up to anybody that reads by posting about something with a little more renown. Let’s crack open a Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA.

For those unacquainted, Dogfish Head 75 Min is a blend of their 60 and 90 Minute IPAs and is continually hopped for 75 minutes. It had been released previously under the name “Johnny Cask,” and involved similar label art, sans Groucho Marx glasses. It replaces their Squall IPA, which was a bottle conditioned, naturally fermented, unfiltered IPA that was hopped for 90 minutes. 75 Minute packs a moderate punch with a 7.5% ABV and just to keep things interesting is naturally carbonated using maple syrup from the Calagione Family Farm. It’s actually the same syrup used in their Life & Limb collaboration with Sierra Nevada. IPA + maple syrup? Should be an interesting combination. I mean caramel’s sweetness works very well in IPAs, so maple syrup shouldn’t be that great a stretch, right? Right? One way to find out. Let’s pour!

Oh and this is yet another bottle courtesy of my good friend Keith. I can’t say enough about the craft beer that this guy sends me. It’s nuts!

Aroma 10/12: Starting out, I was a bit concerned. You would’ve been too. The hops were very mellow and the beer was offering more of a “wheat” profile than that of an IPA. Please, give this beer at least 5 minutes in your glass to open up. You will not regret it. Check into Untappd, text your mom, whatever, just let this beer open up aromatically. It was like two different beers. The new aroma is giant in comparison and adds a lot of complexity. It keeps the lemony citrus (wheat-like), but adds the sour tartness of a grapefruit. Those two aromas take center stage and allow plenty of other smaller roles to strut their stuff. Also detectable are bits of earthy grains, a few shavings of orange rind, and a a dash or two of spice. While my mind says something like “grains of paradise” due to the association with the citrus, my brain says it’s probably an aroma from the hops instead. I am not detecting any maple at this time and only suggestions of bitter. Much later on in the glass I have determined that the spicier/herbal hops definitely were the culprit of the earlier detected spiciness. They come out to play last, but they quickly become the dominant aroma.

Appearance 3/3: Forgetting that this is a bottle-conditioned brew, I gave a more aggressive pour than I should have. The resultant head was huge, with tons of tiny, tightly-packed bubbles. This stuff stuck all over my glass and lasted long enough that I’m pretty sure it could have joined me for a feature length film. The color is a nice bright gold that grows darker toward the top as it fades into more of a harvest gold. This is a lighter color than I expected after hearing that the syrup was involved at such a late stage in the brewing process.

Flavor 18/20: Initial flavors are pale malts, but quickly move to pale ale by showing biscuity, crisp flavors. A delicate citrus doesn’t hurt the mix either. Things gracefully transition into a dry, crackery citrus, though the dryness is lost a little in the silky smooth texture. A muted pineapple is present as well and the round caramel sweetness becomes a wonderful compliment as the beer continues to warm. Even the syrup faintly speaks up from time to time. The finishes finally emphasizes the diminished resin flavor that has since been biding its time, and really reminds you that this is an IPA.

Mouthfeel 5/5: This beer offers a really neat duality with regards to mouthfeel. On one side, it’s bottle conditioned so there’s plenty of bubbles around to refresh the mouth. On the other, once the initial carbonation dies down the mouthfeel is ri-donk-ulously smooth. Not “imperial stout” smooth, but quite surprising for a beer this light in color (and that didn’t foreshadow this level of smoothness in the pour). Alcohol warmth is barely detectable except in fleeting glances and the body is moderate, no matter what the silky mouthfeel tells you.

Overall Impression 8/10: I like it. It’s not mind-blowing like most DFH offerings, but ’tis still a solid IPA offering. In fact, it’s a relatively mild DFH brew, but whether or not that is a bad thing is up to the drinker. I prefer a milder offering from time to time and 75 Min fits the bill. A aroma that eventually opens like a fissure, a dichotomous mouthfeel, and a complex hop profile are all components that contribute to this beer’s success. I do wish the maple syrup had more of a noticeable contribution.

Total 44/50: The brewing mastery on this is truly top notch. The mouthfeel, head size, and head retention are all indicative of some truly talented folks doing some great work. The taste/flavor is enough to be satisfying and robust, but without overwhelming the unsuspecting drinker the way some DFH beers can. I dig it! It’s also an IPA in a bomber that doesn’t seem to relish the fact that it’s an IPA. Let me explain, the fact that this beer is a special release doesn’t mean it has to be a powerhouse example of the style. Most IPAs, let alone those that come in bombers, ensure that they are well-hopped and bitter. This beer, while well-hopped, doesn’t slam you with bitter or a lack of balance. On the contrary, it’s remarkably balanced for the style. This beer shows that there are other characteristics to be considered when speaking of IPAs, and which of those characteristics should constitute or be inherent within those IPAs that have earned a reputation of excellence. Is this a top IPA in the craft beer market? No. Does it show us all things that top IPAs can do to make themselves better? Absolutely. Does it example characteristics that I would like to see before heaping praise on IPAs in the future? You betcha.

Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!