My summer crush began in the warmest months of 2017, shortly after quitting my corporate job to work full-time for MoreBeer! I know, most love stories don’t start with a change of occupation. Then again, this isn’t a love story, unless of course you count the love to learn more about brewing. Before signing on full-time, I had been working weekends at my local homebrew shop and a frequently asked question was, “What is the ideal gap setting for my grain mill?” On the surface it seems to be an easy, straightforward question with a simple answer.
Looking at trends, you could get a very confused perspective on what the American drinker wants. On the one hand, IPA—whether aggressive and bitter or fruity and smooth—still rules the roost. On the other hand, aficionados wrap the blocks for the latest big, burly, rich sweet stout that tastes of bourbon, vanilla, and a Boston cream donut. So, you might think that we, as a group, would appreciate a rich, roasty pint with an aggressive slap of hops.
At one time, we did. What happened to us, and what can we do to restore the proud tradition of the American stout—while still being playful?
Early American brewing had its share of porters and stouts before lagers began to dominate the market, pushing out all but a few old stalwarts. I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about craft American stout.
Weihenstephan is a brewing institution steeped in superlatives. The very name of this venerable old brewery north of Munich evokes associations with some of the most respected wheat beers in the world, beers like the style-defining Hefe-Weissbier, and Vitus, a lush Weizenbock. And not only is Weihenstephan home to one of the most famous brewing schools in the world, it’s also the world’s oldest existing brewery.
While Drew is getting his ducks in a row for the next series of shows – It’s Replay time! And since we’ve been getting a lot of water questions, what better place to revist, than Martin’s episode all about Bru’n water!
If you’ve been reading this column regularly over the past 17 years, you’ll probably have noticed that one thing I rarely do is write negatively about anything.
I don’t really review beers, and if I do in any way, I only do so if I enjoy them. This is because tastes are subjective and what I may find displeasing might be really tasty to someone else. It’s like any creative endeavor: I may love a certain book or film or song, and you may hate it. It’s just the way it is with anything that isn’t based on empirical data. (A certified beer, for example, can tell you if a beer is well-made according to the style it’s in, but their opinions mean nothing when it comes you whether you should like it or not.)
I thought of doing this as a beer profile, but I think the nuances would be lost. Comparing years on any beer is a special form of analysis. I used to think of 120 as an overly hoppy, somewhat barley wine-ish brew. I was skeptical when they claimed it ages well. I decided to test that. I am VERY happy to report I was wrong… sort of.
Before I even tasted them, smelled them, savored them, I added this caveat: I find hops tend not to age well when they become the focus. A little cardboard is one thing among the sweet, flavor-filled, well aged Bigfoot or Foghorn. I find it adds texture, a pleasantness. But when hops are THE balance factor, unless you’re brewing one of those Belgian brews that use specific type of hops that age well, uh, no. I have done assessments of up to 10 different years of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. Thomas Hardy too. I have an almost 20 year bottle of Hardy Big Bob gave me from Big Bob’s Barleywine Bash just before he died. Some day we’ll savor it. Almost hate to: once it’s gone that’s it. Like Big Bob dying all over again.
So let’s see how aged 120’s stack up. BARELY aged. Not sure I’d want a 20 year 120 due to hops, but I’d be open to the experience. My original plan was to have 3, but Midtown in Nashville stocked them wrong. They had them labeled as 17, 18 and 20. I ended up with 2 2020’s and one 2016. But 2 days later found a 2019. So 16 v. 19 v. 20.
The comparison was, well, educational. We’ll start with mutual characteristics, then move on to 2020, and from there go back in time.
No fermentation characteristics in any of them. Two of them have a dry, yet slightly sweet, sense to them. Makes for an interesting balance, enticing. One? Well, we’ll get to that. I do have a question: does Dogfish vary they recipe for 120? That might explain the 2019.
Let’s see what 1 year, then 4 years, does to 120. Continue reading “Comparison: 2016, 2019 and 2020 Dogfish 120”