“Hi Bill – Do you happen to know if there are any Oakland (or Bay
Area) stores that sell Dogfish Head IPA (60 and/or 120 minute)? I’ve read about these beers but have yet to find them anywhere. Any help would be appreciated. – Steve, Oakland”
“Hi William: I’m looking for Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA. I can’t find a distributor for this brand in the Bay Area. I was able to get a half case (12 bottles) of 90 Minute on the web for only $50 with shipping and handling. Odd how it came out to that even number? At $4.16 a bottle I’ve been very stingy with it. Drinking Bourbon is cheaper. Any ideas who has this in the Bay Area? It’s a killer IPA. – Thomas, Benicia”
Every week or so I get an e-mail like these, asking about Dogfish Head IPA and I tell them there’s good news and bad news. The bad news for the many fans of the increasingly famous, extreme beers made by this Milton, Del. Craft brewer is there won’t be any Dogfish Head IPA here in California at least until later this year.
Brewery founder Sam Calagione said the company’s aware of the interest and as production expands so will distribution. But it will be late this year before Dogfish arrives in the Bay Area, Calagione says.
Now the good news.
If you are a fan of killer India Pale Ales or think that a brutally hoppy beer might be your idea of nirvana, there’s no better place to be than right here at home in the San Francisco Bay Area.
We’re living in the hoppy beer fatherland or should that be, motherland? IPA’s and their stronger kin, much like Dogfish IPA, abound here.
But wait, let’s jump back a couple of centuries: What is an “IPA?”
The style that became India Pale Ale got its start in England in the late 18th Century. It was a solution to a vexing problem: How to supply English troops and administrators in the Indian colonies with beer? Beer was important because regular water made people sick. Beer was boiled, so it was safe and everyone drank beer.
But by the time ordinary beer in its wooden cask arrived in India after a long sea voyage, it was past its prime, often undrinkable. A London brewer figured out that if the beer was brewed stronger and fresh hops and yeast were added to the cask, the beer would continue to slowly ferment and condition in the cask and arrive in India, stronger than ordinary English beer, but very drinkable.
About the same time, pale malts were coming to market and the new, copper-colored IPAs, made with pale malt, became a huge hit in the colonies and around the world.
‘But in the 20th century IPAs fell from vogue, washed away in a sea of light-tasting lagers. We know the drill: A little hops, a little malt, a whole lot of water and advertising.
It took one patriotic American brewer to seriously revive the IPA style. Fritz Maytag and Anchor Brewing, San Francisco, fired the shot heard ’round the world at the dawn of America’s bi-centennial in 1976. He called it Liberty Ale****. In a tongue-in-cheek wink at the British, Anchor used American Cascade hops.
At that point, most surviving English IPAs were subtly hoppy with lots of malt. Liberty Ale had both: It was satisfyingly malty with an intense zap from the hops. That beer set a generation of homebrewers on fire. Many went on to found craft breweries and an IPA became a craft brewing staple.
Fast forward three decades and we find a new generation of craft brewers on the job. And have they ever pushed the envelope. Enter: extreme hops, and – to balance all those hops – a whole lot of malt.
Sam Calagione and his Dogfish brewers are part of the revolution. But a lot of it is happening here.
Never tried a Double IPA. Here are three suggestions:
Pliny the Elder****, Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, CA. Pliny was a Roman naturalist and historian, who gave hops a name. The only downside to this very splendid beer is that it’s draft only. But any beer tavern worth the name stocks Pliny. If your local doesn’t, complain.
Pliny’s 8 percent alcohol by volume and 100 International Bitterness Units. Your basic Bud’s 5 percent alcohol and 13 IBU. However, don’t expect Pliny to be a bitter beer. Malt predominates and hop aroma is intense, but the mouth doesn’t pucker. Double IPA brewers tend to use only aroma hops and to add them very late in the brewing process and as dry hops in the fermenter. Ergo: aroma, but not so much bitterness.
Maximus, Lagunitas Brewing, Petaluma. One of the few Double IPAs available in bottles, at 7.5 percent ABV and 90 IBU, it’s a treat. This lat note. Maximus placed third in a New York Times blind tasting Jan. 9 (2008). Of course 90-minute IPA was first, a beer I’ve never heard of, Weyerbacher Double Simcoe I.P.A. from Eaton, PA. placed second. Fourth was the beer in a can: Oskar Blues Gordon from Lyons, CO. Personally, I think our own beer in a can, 21st Amendment IPA from San Francisco tops Gordon. But then, blind tatings can fool even the most expert expert.
Stone Ruination, Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA. 7.7 percent alcohol, 100-plus IBUs. It’s another over-the-top IPA.
This last note: The center of Double IPA heartland is The Bistro, a modest, but nationally important tavern at 1001 B. St. in downtown Hayward. Proprietor Vic Kralj had been holding an annual India Pale Ale festival for a while, when he noticed that some of the newer beers far exceeded the strength and hop bitterness of a typical IPA. His solution: The Bistro Double IPA Festival.
The eighth annual Double IPA Fest is set for Saturday, Feb. 9. (2008) Vic expects more than 50 beers from craft brewers here and around the U.S. Many will be bringing special beers, created just for the festival. No doubt, Dogfish 90-Minute will be on hand. Hours 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Dogfish e-mailer’s, here’s your chance. More information on this not-to-be-missed festival can be found at www.the-bistro.com.
This final note. If you’re interested in uber-hoppy beers and other extreme brews and in Dogfish Head, founder Sam Calagione has written the book: “Extreme Brewing: An Enthusiast’s Guide to Brewing Craft Beer at Home,” Sam Calagione, Quarry Books, Glouster, Mass., $24.99. It’s easily found discounted in most bookstores or order it online.