Dogfish Head Oak-Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout
Product description: A dark, roasty stout aged in oak barrels on vanilla beans. ABV: 16 – 17.5% IBUs: 70
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery – Dogfish Head Oak-Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout – 12 oz. bottle poured into a snifter – ~16% abv.
At $12 or more for a 12oz bottle, this beer is about six times the price of your regular beer in a store, so is it any good? Today we’ll find out.
Starting out, this is not your ordinary imperial stout. That style nowadays can include really any black ale going over 8% ABV. But I think we’d all be surprised to see one at 16% – double the threshold. And that figure is on the low-end of the range listed for this beer. Take a look online, and World Wide Stout fluctuates between 15-20% ABV. When it debuted in 1999, I’m sure it was the highest alcohol craft beer available. In 2002, it even clocked in at 23%.
Fast forward to today, and we now have a special variant of that beer, one aged in oak barrels with vanilla added. This is a new release for 2017 and has been all over store shelves recently as stand alone 12 oz bottles given the retail price.
Let’s get into it. Starting off, this has the familiar neon yellow bottle cap “warning label” like Dogfish Head’s 120 Min IPA (15-20% ABV) and Raison d’Extra (15-18%). That warning cap should almost be a safety requirement given the high ABV of these beers. Stick some of these in the fridge at a party, and your unsuspecting beer drinker could be getting the equivalent of four standard alcoholic drinks in one beer bottle.
Into the snifter, this version of WWS is clear brown while pouring and looks inky black in the glass. Minimal tan foam rises up with weak head retention – that’s normal for barrel-aged stouts in my experience. The aroma begins with hints of vanilla, but it’s more just starchy like a sweet potato and not very intense. Take a sip, and this beer is just thin and watery. That doesn’t make any sense, so I give this beer the works trying out different glassware, pairing with crackers and cheeses, letting it aerate and warm up, taking long breaks in between samples. It doesn’t help. Somehow there is no body left in this beer here as the sugar is all gone and the barrel aging has transformed the beer into an over-oaked, tannic mess. What you are left with isn’t even that boozy, but it is watery – thinned out from all the alcohol – with harsher barrel flavors of mildew and wet earth. There’s an acrid acidity in the finish that I’ll blame on all the roasted malt and roasted barley additions that no longer have any sugar for balance. It’s a sipper, but each sip keeps doubling down on that watery, acrid flavor.
It’s tough to enjoy. So this holiday season, I would recommend passing on this one.