Dogfish Head’s 12o Minute IPA is practically a rite of passage among beer geeks.  Q.) How is it then that until recently I was a 120 Minute virgin?  A.) Ohio’s silly alcohol laws.

So since I couldn’t find this beer in my neck of the woods, while I found myself in Michigan the other day I scoured the small towns I drove through till I discovered a beer and wine shop that might have a different selection.  Lo and Behold, there on the shelf was one remaining bottle of the holy grail of hops.

No wonder this beast is so renowned.  It boasts a fierce ABV of 20%.  I had to chuckle.  This is 1% lower than the alcohol laws placed on hard liquor in Ohio.  Forget the audacity of the alcohol content…it has an IBU of 120.  The bitterest of most Imperial IPAs rarely top 100.  With this in mind, I knew that this was one malty beer.

Dogfish Head’s describes this beer as:

Too extreme to be called beer? Brewed to a colossal 45-degree plato, 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 & aged for another month on whole-leaf hops!!! Our 120 Minute I.P.A. is by far the biggest I.P.A. ever brewed! At 20% abv and 120 ibus you can see why we call this beer THE HOLY GRAIL for hopheads!

Upon pouring, the color of the beer was not drastically different than a typical IPA.   A beautiful copperish color, it invites you to drink.  Upon closer inspection, there is something peculiar about this beer.  First of all, the head is extremely minimal.  In fact, there was almost no head at all.  Swishing a bit in my snifter revealed a sticky-sweet heavy viscosity.

The aroma is not as hoppy as one might expect.  Digging my nose into the glass, I did not have to search hard to find it, but the most prominent smell was that of alcohol.  The malt, missing with this smell creates a tempting aroma reminiscent of grain vodka or a dark cane sugar rum.  Holding the glass a few inches from my nose revealed a candy like smell.  It actually reminded me of “Sugar Daddy” candy.

Tasting this beer is like sipping on an aged Brandy.  You dare not guzzle it (if you still want to walk to bed!)  The taste was not very complex.  The intense alcoholic flavor hides a lot of subtleties that may be derived from the malts in the brewing process.  The hop flavor, while present, is not strong.  It does make the malty alcohol drinkable.   As I was sipping it, it tasted like a very sweet caramel candy.  Were it not for the pleasant hop bite as the brew went down my throat, I would have trouble with this one.

Despite the way this review sounds, I thought this beer was fantastic.  It is in a class of its own. It is a sipping beer.  After cutting the grass on hot summer day, would you guzzle a pint of single malt scotch to quench your thirst? No.  In the same way, you would not guzzle a 120 minute IPA.  But you would enjoy sipping your scotch or 120 minute IPA on a quiet evening and enjoy the experience.

Given my choice, I prefer Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA more, but I do intend on venturing back to Michigan to pick up another 120 Minute to throw in my cellar for a few years.

Nate’s Rating:

Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★¼ 

Among other Imperial IPAs: ★★★★¼