Dogfish Head Sixty-One
The one lasting memory of the short-lived television show Brew Masters – which followed the exploits of Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione – is most definitely the episode where the brewer was determined to make Chicha, a beer created by fermenting raw corn that’s been… wait for it… chewed and spit out. In said episode, the earnest Calagione enthusiastically enlists his entire staff to chew as much corn as their jaws can handle, which, of course, is not an easy task, so the majority of filming centers around employees complaining about sore jaws.
I only bring this up to point out that the wine-beer hybrid – though perhaps a stretch for many brewers – is a relatively tame experiment for Dogfish Head (a fact that’s confirmed by noticing that they’ve made several). Moreover, it seems Calagione has, over the years, developed the habit of pouring a splash of wine into DfH’s flagship 60-minute IPA (probably to the chagrin of his friends), which means that the development of Dogfish Head Sixty-One, a twist on the brewery’s continuously-hopped, single IPA that’s made with Syrah must, was, one could suppose, inevitable.
The end result is an IPA that’s perfect for IPA-haters. Or, better yet. those of us who find America’s obsession with hop bitterness absurd. Much like our wine industry took its love for big, rich, oaky wines to the extreme, brewers (and beer geeks) current obsession with hops seems to be of the opinion that more is always better. Thankfully, wine has begun to find its way back towards the middle; hopefully beer will eventually do the same.
Not that DfH 60-minute IPA is one of the worst offenders; though bitter, it’s relatively balanced for an IPA. The grapey sweetness of Syrah that comes into play here, however, nicely offsets the hops (similar to the malt backbone one finds in a double IPA, but without the added alcohol). For me, someone who enjoys the floral, aromatic quality of hops but isn’t a fan of overwhelming bitterness in beer, it strikes a nice balance without being overly fruity, and is an interesting bridge between the two worlds.
In sum, this is about as crowd-pleasing as IPA can be: slightly sweet, slightly hoppy, dangerously quaffable.