Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dogfish Head

A friend of mine owns a house in Delaware somewhat close to the beach and the two of us decided to drive up on Thursday night as we didn't have classes on Friday.  It was a bit of a last minute plan so we were unable to get tickets for the tour but we decided to go to the Dogfish Head brewery located about 20 minutes away in Milton, DE for a tasting.

At the tasting we sampled 4 of DFH's brews, here's a short synopsis of each:

Pangaea: A ginger spiced beer which is said to include ingredients from each of the 7 continents.  At the tasting the beer was really refreshing, the ginger was there but not overpowering and the malts added nice levels of complexity with sweet and malty.
Red and White: A orange flavored wit beer (white) which they then place in a barrel with pinot noir juices (red) to give complexity.  The beer has strong smells of wit but this flavor is largely lost on the palette with the pinot noir flavor dominating over the orange and coriander.  A refreshing beer especially at this ABV (I believe it was 10%)  with a strong wine similarity.
Palo Santo Marron: An almost stout like dark beer aged in a huge wooden tank which imparts caramel and vanilla notes along with a slight warming though not burn of alcohol.  A pleasant slow sipper that I enjoyed but would probably not look for again.
World Wide Stout: An 18% ABV extra strong stout (the strongest in the world according to DFH) this monster is well balanced for how strong the alcohol is masking it with bitter roasted barley, black and chocolate malts and mild hops.  Took me a while to drink it but it was one of the more enjoyable imperial stouts I've had without the bitterness of the roasted barley coming through too strongly.

Overall impression: my impression of all 4 of these beers is pretty much the same as all dogfish head beers I've had in the past.  There seems to be a great and inspiring emphasis on the ingredients, both the grains and the spices, but a surprising lack of care taken on mouthfeel and yeast.  I can't say that I've ever noticed a pleasant yeast character coming from a DFH brew and usually feel that they are a little thinner than I would enjoy.  This thinness probably comes from the fact that every DFH seems to want to have more alcohol than should really be appropriate. Thinking now about this lack of body and high alcohol, as well as the over presence of spices, I think it could come from DFH employing a low mash temp leading to higher fermentables but less of the larger sugars which give sweetness, body and character to ales.  The lack of yeast character is probably due to using some neutral house ale yeast in everything.
Those things said Greg and I picked up a bomber (1 pint. 9.6 oz) of the Pangaea and a 6 pack of their Indian Brown Ale (we wanted lighter options as our friend Charles was meeting us later and can't handle too much.)

Later in the day we ended up deciding to do more DFH as we went to the brewpub in Reheboth Beach, DE. To put things short, this place was way overcrowded for what it was, my roast beef sandwich was hard, without a ton of flavor and both the chive-horseradish and au jus seemed weak and under impressive.  The fries were tasty but not great.  I ordered a snifter of Noble Rot, a brewpub exclusive which said it was a saison style ale with viognier and pinot gris grapes added.  The end result is not something I would ever call a saison with no yeast character showing through but, like the red and white, was a quite enjoyable and extremely drinkable wine tinged beer.  With the food being below mediocre at best the drink was at least enjoyable enough to validate the visit.

Coming home the three of us began to watch The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (a great movie, I strongly recommend it) and enjoyed the ales we picked up earlier in the day.  The Pangaea from a bottle felt MUCH more gingery, still enjoyable but not nearly as in balance as it had been on draft, a bit of a disappointment but not bad.  The Indian Brown Ale (which I had not had before) seemed to be oddly named to me. While I haven't had any other American Brown ale this was way darker than the English versions I have had and, while the Indian name implies, there was a lot of bitterness, it felt much more like a porter of sorts to me, especially at the 7.2% abv mark.  Enjoyable with some roast barley and other dark malt flavors of chocolate and coffee coming through too the point that this is probably the most enjoyable DFH I've had.  While the beer isn't exactly what I'd had in mind I think it may have been more balanced than I'd expected out of this company.

Overall it was a fun day of Dogfish Head even with the above mentioned complaints factored in.

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