Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Beer of the Week: Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA

Note: This column was first printed on Dec. 3, 2008.

What’s on Tap:

Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA Leads the Pack

By William Brand
MediaNews Group

DO YOU REMEMBER THE 1980s? I do and one of the weirdest things that happened in the beer world was the absolute craziness on the East Coast about Coors. People had to have it. It was hot. But regular Coors was just an ordinary light lager, so the Coors craze didn’t last.

Fast-forwarding more years than I care to think about, there’s a new craze and it’s here on the West Coast. The buzzword brewery is Dogfish Head. The difference between then and now is that the beers of this Delaware brewery are just about the exact opposite of light lager. I’d call them stunning.

But Sam Calagione, who founded Dogfish Head in 1995 and named it after a peninsula in Maine where he spent summers as a kid, describes them as “extreme beers, off-centered beers for off-centered people.” And finally, after years of anticipation, Dogfish has arrived in the Bay Area. Extreme? Calagione’s not kidding. Consider our Beer of the Week: Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial India Pale Ale ***½. It’s 9 percent alcohol by volume and 90 International Bitterness Units.

By comparison, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is 37 IBUs.

90 Minute is literally infused with a package of craft beer hops during a 90-minute boil. More hops are added during fermentation. Yes, it’s hoppy, but 90 Minute has a beautiful malt balance that (almost) hides the huge dose of hops.

It’s a beautiful copper beer with a nose of malt, hops and spices. The taste is full, with decent malt sweetness with a rising dryness. There’s a slight hop bitterness and tang and a bit of warmth from the alcohol in the most pleasant finish. Four 12-ounce bottles cost about $10 and are worth it.

Two other regular Dogfish Head beers are also available in the Bay Area: Palo Santo Marron****, aged in a tropical wood barrel, 12 percent ABV and Midas Touch Golden Elixir***, 9 percent, based on an ancient recipe.

Sam Calagione has written several books. My favorite is “Extreme Brewing: An Enthusiast’s Guide to Brewing Craft Beer at Home,” (Quarry Books, $24.95). Check out my blog,, for reviews of all of Sam’s books. (Note to my e-mail list: Reviews will be published Thursday morning.)

There are a number of new books on beer out this season. At the top of the list has to be “Wishing You a Merry Christmas Beer: The Cheeriest, Tastiest and Most Unusual Holiday Brews,” (Universe Publishing, $19.95). Author Don Russell, who writes the Joe Sixpack column in the Philadelphia Daily News, surveys the world of holiday beer. It’s an interesting, informative ramble and even if you never buy the beer, it’s a great fireside read.

Reach William Brand at or call 510-915-1180 and ask for his Retail Beer Store List or Good Pub List. Read more by Brand at