We’re all busy. I get it. Twitter, push notifications, and news scrolls have reprogrammed the way we go about getting information. Soon enough, books may go the way of 8 track tapes or laser discs of the Director’s Cut of Young Einstein. With that in mind and for those of you whose attention span becomes challenged over 144 characters (let alone 144 complete words) I’ll toss out a bold prediction right off the bat:
Bold Prediction for the Twitter Character Limit Attention Span People:
Sam Calgione will open a winery before the end of 2015
You could stop reading here and continue surfing for deals on plush giant microbes (the Ebola virus was a big hit with our kids) or soup tureens etched with Despicable Me Minions by the expert artisans at the Franklin Mint but you’d miss what could be an interesting review of Dogfish Head 61. Remember how empty and out of touch you felt the day after Sharknado when you were the only one left out of the loop because you missed it? Don’t let that happen again. Your Dunkin Donuts gift card is almost tapped out anyway and you don’t need the large Mocha Coolatta you’ll inevitably drown your sorrows in when you realize that you’ve been left out again because the rest of the world is all abuzz about this post. By the way, it’ll only take 2 minutes to read. I timed it. Well, not yet because I don’t know what I’m actually going to write but I will. Promise. (I kept my promise – it might take 3)
THIS JUST IN: The editorial board reviewed the final draft and decided to move the review up in order to catch some readers who might already be suffering Google/Twitter Withdrawal DTs
A picture says a thousand words but so does a number. 60, 75, 90, 120, 61. One of those numbers is not like the others (OK, maybe two are but one is more not like the others – kind of like Hemmingway’s six-toed cats). Knowing that Dogfish’s stock in trade is pushing boundaries and crafting unusual ales I figured I was in for something modestly challenging and potentially horrific, a.k.a., their ill-fated Au Courant. I’m happy to report that my fears were the only things ill-fated. 61 is a really nice, complex, yet accessible craft beer.
Right off the bat you’ve got a crystal clear, effervescent ruby pour with small, quickly dissipating white head that throws off a bouquet of intrigue and inviting aromas
dominated by sour cherry/grape, mild citrus and earthy yeast notes. You know those beers that practically make you want to drop everything (except the glass) and belt out the Portuguese version of Strawberry Letter 23? Well, this is one of those. It’s also perfect for those times when you have visions of Christiane Amanpour battling Treat Williams in the Yahtzee Thunder Dome while she lip-synchs Pee Wee Hermann’s version of Surfin’ Bird. I know what you’re thinking… not another one of those beers. I began to think that way too as the syrah must in this brew worked its magic alongside modestly sweet summer cherries and tart nectarine. No real malt backbone or serious hoppy punch. Instead, the flavors are strands suspended between delicate, yet sturdy spiral rails of malt and hops. A veritable DNA Double Helix of craft beer.
The texture is both silky and light with lots of prickly carbonation that harkens back to that Yahtzee death match but this time the Thunder Dome is ringed by a second level where Attila The Hun impersonators (I assume they’re merely impersonators) sit behind vintage manual crank deli meat slicers slowly carving Boar’s Head Honey Smoked Turkey like a precision drill team. Yes, yes, plenty of those beers too, I know. Believe me, this really is a very different brew despite the common images it evokes. For instance, its bi-polar finish is a thing of brewing artistry. Crisp, abrasive, and dry, but with thin ribbons of velvety sweetness enticing another sip. You suddenly find yourself departing the party in a conga line lead by Willem Defoe while singing the chorus of Nights On Broadway AND Juice Newton’s Queen Of Hearts at the same time. Yep, it’s that beer.
Hybrid anythings are always sketchy. Look at killer bees. For a spectacularly funny write-up of the trouble with hybrids take a look at this great post by Beerbeque. One of the funniest things I’ve read all year. Dogfish Head 61 is a brazen and unabashed beer/wine hybrid that pulls it off seamlessly yet begs the question: Is Sam trying to tell us something? Is he going to start making wine or will he be content to play yenta between the wine and craft beer families.
So let’s see if I have this straight:
1. Sam Calgione founds Dogfish Head Brewing in 1995 to brew interesting, bold beers unlike the bland industrial pale lagers that dominated (still do but to a lesser extent) American brewing. “Off-centered ales for off-centered people™” was and remains their motto.
2. Over time, Dogfish Head turns out an impressive, growing, and unconventional lineup of brews, including their Ancient Ales and Music Themed series.
3. More and more of their beers are sold in large format, corked, wine style bottles.
4. Professor Calgione launches a well publicized and successful “beer vs. wine” food pairing campaign featuring tasting dinners pairing various beer and wine styles with each course to highlight the versatility of craft beer. During those dinners, Sam champions craft beer while his guest nemesis for the evening takes up the cause for wine. A veritable Matalin versus Carville battle royale.
5. In spite of the widening adoption of canning within the craft beer industry, Sam Calgione steadfastly and without hesitation has proclaimed that Dogfish Head beers will not be distributed in cans because it runs counter to Dogfish’s efforts to elevate craft beer by presenting it in large format bottles. Can you say “up-market” or “wineification?”
6. Dogfish begins to brew beer with elements, processes, and ingredients borrowed from wine makers such as Red & White, Noble Rot, and finally….. Sixty-One.
Is he wavering in his commitment and passion to craft beer or merely pushing the brewing envelope yet again into uncharted territory? Blaspheming apostate or brilliant mad scientist. Hell, in Medieval Europe brilliant scientists were often branded as apostates (just dust off the Ouija Board and ask Galileo) so the distinction may not be all that easily defined.
Regardless of his intentions, DH61 is an interesting, well-crafted, refreshing, and versatile craft beer that pushes boundaries by bridging them.