I'm somewhat torn here. When craftbrewing really started catching on a while back, the 120 Minute IPA was considered the model ale of the movement and why not? Few other breweries were as extreme as Dogfish Head, and finding anything as hoppy and ABV heavy -- a teeth kicking 18% -- was almost unheard of.
I first tried the 120 Minute IPA a few years back, when my love-affair with craftbrews was a mere blossom, a flirt if you'd like. I didn't really love it and as it turns out, I still don't. This might be because I'm not a hop-bomb kind of guy, and while there are plenty of hoppy beers out there now, the 120 Minute IPA can still hold its own, even with its insane pricetag.
This year's edition pours a nice dark red color, with a surprising mellow nose. Give it a sniff and caramel almost outcompetes the hops. Almost. Give it a second whiff and the hops become more pronounced.
When the beer hits the mouth the hops hit harder than on the nose, but the caramel still holds its own. It's when you sit back you'll experience an aftershock: The hops grab onto the roof of your mouth and will not let go. The aftertaste is about as dry as any beer I can think of. Rather miracelously, you barely notice the 18% ABV.
So. My impression now is that the 120 Minute IPA is not as unique as it once was. It holds its own, no doubt about it, but other ales out there certainly can give you a siimilar hop craze, and more cheaply too.
What sets this beer apart is that, hoppy as it is, the other flavors are nicely balanced into the equation. You truly do not notice the alcohol until you're through the bottle and feel mildly(-ish) buzzed. That I respect. In fact, I respect the beer a whole lot, but I just can't bring myself to fall in love with it. I'm at heart a porter and stout guy (no, not just a saint as you might think).
In that sense, if you love a masterfully brewed hop bomb, you can't go wrong with this. For the rest of us, it is something to respect, and worth the ungodly price you have to pay -- as much as $20 for a 12 oz bottle -- every odd year.
Vote for Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA: It’s your civic duty!