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Dogfish Head 120 Minute India Pale Ale

August 15, 2009


DogFish Head’s Extreme Adventure

Anthony Says:

IMG_0835Brewed with an inordinate amount of hops, and featuring a staggering 20% alcohol by volume content, it is fitting that Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA arouses some strong opinions. My initial impression upon hearing of this beer was of some sort of volatile isotope; a bottle gingerly removed from a steaming canister of liquid nitrogen. I quite honestly half expected to fall to the floor clutching my throat after sampling this beast of a brew. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt the least bit nervous about the prospects of drinking a beer.

While this impression may have been a bit overly dramatic, drinking 120 Minute IPA is an experience unlike any other. It is, after all, well outside the bounds of anything one normally associates with beer. 120 Minute IPA makes Barley Wine look like Malta. This is high-powered stuff, folks. Having had no idea what to expect from a beer that is closer to a Port than the average IPA, I was pleased to discover yet another exceptional brew from Dogfish Head.

120 Minute IPA poured a brilliant dark maple/golden color with a surprising amount of carbonation. While the head was disappointingly wispy and thin, I suspect this was largely a consequence of the cheap hotel bar glass I was forced to use. A more impressive head would likely be generated by a proper tulip glass or snifter. The nose can best be described as a typical IPA on steroids: floral hops, pine and sharp citrus aromas are immediately and heavily discernable. However, unlike most other IPAs, the sweet scent of malt maintains a dominating presence. Combined with a palpable fusel alcohol, the nose almost reminded me of brandy or perhaps spiced dark rum (Captain Morgan, is that you?).

The taste of 120 Minute IPA is incredibly dense and complex. An initially molasses like sweetness is quickly subsumed by a secondary wave of spicy citrus hops flavors. You can really feel the hops and malts battling to mask the massive alcohol content of this beer. While 120 Minute IPA may be far less bitter than it is malty and sweet, there is nevertheless a cloying alcohol astringency that is unavoidable for a beer this strong.

Ultimately, drinking this beer can only be described as an experience. While it comes in a standard sized beer bottle, you don’t drink 120 Minute IPA as much as you sip it like a fine wine or scotch. The slightly sticky mouth feel- imparted by its heavy malt character- further places it more firmly amongst distilled spirits than fermented alcohol beverages. Indeed, in 120 Minute IPA, Dogfish Head has produced a brew so extreme that it lies on the outer reaches of what can properly be considered as beer. It says much of the quality of Dogfish Head’s craftsmanship that 120 Minute not only retains the qualities of a beer at the strength of a spirit, but also stays true to the IPA style.



Gatlin Says:

IMG_0839 I have waited a very long time to try this one. Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA has become a sort of mythical beast in my mind: both illusory and fantastic at the same time. It is next to impossible to find this beer in Canada. In fact, the only place I know where one can obtain a bottle is at Beer Bistro on King Street in Toronto, Ontario. So I was very proud to finally climb the mountain that is 120 Minute IPA, and did so in the company of both friends and family.

(Note: Just so that everyone appreciates the effort that went into this review, I had to write my notes on the paper tablecloth and look like a huge dork in front of a restaurant of poshly dressed patrons)

Technical Rundown:

  • Container: 12 ounce brown glass bottle
  • Alcohol: 20% by volume
  • Color: 13 SRM
  • Bitterness: 120 IBU


Poured slow to the center of a brandy snifter, this beer generated a small off-white head which slowly reduced to a large-bubbled film. Moderate lacing was observable. The body showed very little visible carbonation and was a cloudy, tawny, dark copper. The smell from this beer was intense and complex. Alcohol was quite noticeable and reminded me very much of a barley wine. Notes of resinous pine, lemon and a ton of fruits like fig, prune and apricot made me want to jump into the glass. A hint of rum or brandy was present on the finish.

The taste was very much like a barley wine. Dark fruits and alcohol exploded in my mouth with hints of pear and apricot. The bitterness was not even remotely overwhelming and had a great bitter apple-like flavor. The malt backbone was definitely well laid to support all the hopping. Great malty flavors of tawny port and sweet toffee really balanced everything out nicely. The finish was dry but not overly astringent. Far too boozy to be super drinkable but the flavors could keep me going for two servings.



Some Final Thoughts

Anthony Thinks:

  • A truly unique beer
  • Sheer amount of hops and malt pumped into this brew is impressive
  • A nice midway point between a beer and a spirit


  • Scores low on drinkability- you aren’t going to be drinking this at your Superbowl party
  • Formidable alcohol content requires careful consumption
  • Aftertaste is unpleasantly syrupy and sweet


4½ stars. 120 Minute IPA is a tough beer to rate. I can’t imagine, and probably wouldn’t advise, drinking more than one of these in a single sitting. Likewise, this isn’t a brew I’d recommend to anyone but a seasoned beer drinker. That having been said, it is simply hard to overlook the craftsmanship, quality and utter distinctiveness of this beer

Gatlin Thinks:


  • Big, flavorful and boozy
  • Complexity is through the roof
  • You will be hard-pressed to find anything comparable


  • Very hard to get your hands on north of the border
  • A little pricey
  • Extremely boozy


As an extreme beer (think Sam Adams Triple Bock or Utopias) 120 Minute IPA is a clear 5 star brew. As a double IPA or imperial IPA it’s a solid 4½ star brew. I personally think anyone given the opportunity should try this one at least once. Whiskey, brandy and rum drinkers may particularly enjoy sipping down a bottle

So, What’s On Your Mind?

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 15, 2009 6:47 pm

    Whoa! Sounds serious. Diggin the prose. And will certainly be on the look out for this one.

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