Why Do People Still Love Dogfish 120 Minute IPA?
I have so many fond milestone memories from the beginning of my craft beer journey. Many of them involve exploring the beers listed on the top 50 lists on Rate Beer and BeerAdvocate. Beers like 3 Floyds’ Dark Lord Imperial Stout, Deschutes’ The Abyss, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder and the illustrious Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA held court at the top of these lists, and with good reason.
While obtaining the top 10 beers in the world wasn’t nearly as hard a decade ago as it is now to even score a can of Tree House IPA, a bit of effort had to be put into finding the highly rated beers that weren’t in year round rotation. Typically, you would have to call or drive around, and your best bet would be to build a relationship with a few of your local liquor store beer buyers.
One beer from yesteryear that has maintained its luster and cult status is Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. For those not familiar, it’s one of Dogfish Head’s most popular beers. The story goes that it is an “IPA” that has been continuously hopped for the duration of the 120 minute boil. Once you have your first sip of this beer, you will know that this beer is anything but an IPA. While not listed on the label, this beer hovers between 16% and 18% alcohol by volume and there is no hiding this fact when smelling and sipping it. You are met with a strong whiff of citrus essence, honey suckle and for lack of a better term, alcohol, right out of the gate. Your first sip is likely to be euphoric, with an overload of boozy hop custard in your mouth. In my younger days, I have finished a bottle of this myself; you will most likely catch a buzz from this beer on a five or six ounce pour.
Since its inception in 2003, those who can get their hands on this do whatever they can to stock up on this beer, as it is only released twice a year, if that. Unlike almost all other “IPAs” or “Double IPAs”, people actually hold onto and age this beer in their cellars. The general consensus among die hard 120 Minute fans is that this beer is closer to a barleywine and gracefully mellows over time. Considering how boozy and hot this beer is fresh, I can get behind this initiative.
There are two things I find very interesting with this particular beer. First, there is little about this beer that resembles an IPA by yesteryear’s standards or today’s standards. Second, to this day it still has as strong of a following as it did over a decade ago.
We’ve seen many hyped up and popular beers fall out of grace with the ultra fickle craft beer fan, but not 120 Minute IPA by Dogfish Head. People aren’t chasing down other highly rated beers of yesteryear like Deschutes The Abyss, Stone’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, 3 Floyds Zombie Dust, etc. All beers mentioned are great, but the fanfare has died down.
There are two reasons why Dogfish 120 Minute IPA still has a huge following. The first reason is a warm sense of nostalgia. Just holding a bottle in my hand takes me back to the moment in the car with my dad driving to a local South Jersey liquor store. Explaining to my dad about a nearly $10 bottle of beer that had the strength of an entire six pack. Asking the liquor store clerk to go in the back and get my two bottle limit. Wrapping these bottles in my suitcase for my trip back to Southern California where Dogfish Head had not yet expanded their distribution to. Letting my beer buddies know that I got “the good stuff” from back east. Reading online about people comparing a five year old bottle to a fresh bottle. If you ask any liquor store employee or browse regional beer groups on Facebook, people are still very much seeking this beer out, hoarding it for a special occasion or for a future vertical tasting. When cool guys scoff at the notion of such an old school beer being sought after, plenty of 120 Minute IPA fans speak up in defense of this seemingly magical elixir.
So what might the other reason be why 120 Minute IPA still has a cult following in 2017? As the great beer pioneer Sam Jackson once said, “It will GET YA DRUNK!” I wouldn’t call this beer quite a double or triple IPA and it’s too hoppy and citrusy to really be considered a barleywine. It sips like an after-dinner liquor to me. Very few beers will give you a happy head change like this beer does with a half serving. A full bottle definitely fulfills the work load of a night of drinking. While we’d all like to think of ourselves as classy, responsible beer aficionados, sometimes a really good or a really bad day calls for some alcohol, and this is a nice way to introduce it into your mouth and blood stream.
So while you can refer back to many other hugely popular beers that eventually fall out of the popularity spotlight, it would seem that the mix of nostalgia and strength (alcohol and flavor) will keep Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA exciting to new and old drinkers for years to come.
August 6, 2020 @ 12:03 pm
FYI: Brewmasters S1E4 (TV show about Dogfish Head) says it’s 18% abv. Would love to find some in the UK.
October 26, 2018 @ 8:50 pm
I’m having a Craftoberfest party at River Road tavern in piscataway, nj. I have Maine A Tiny Beautiful Something, Firestone Parabola, and Dogfish 120 topping the draft list. I cant wait
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April 3, 2018 @ 8:30 am
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March 30, 2018 @ 3:05 pm
My first experience and I love it. Can only get 3 bottles????
December 5, 2017 @ 8:38 pm
Just discovered this beer for the first time in the U.P. of Michigan. I went back to the store after the first sip and bought 3 cases
… was the better part of this week’s paycheck. But I surely made the right decision.
November 14, 2017 @ 11:27 am
Great Beer. I love 120 minute and buy it when I can find it. You also mentioned Stone’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Inperial Stout. I was fortunate to come across the 2007 vintage on tap at Stone in Berlin last month. What a treat. It was exquisite. These kind of finds and unique tasting opportunities really reinforce my love for great craft beer. Thanks for your blog on the topic.
November 11, 2017 @ 4:19 pm
I had it on tap at The Blind Tiger in NYC when it first came out in 2003. The manager of The Tiger said to me “Joe, I have a beer that’s 23% alcohol from Dogfishhead. He gave me a 10 oz pour. Took 45 minutes to drink it, one small sip at a time. Oh my God, it was incredible. Then I went home, back to Brooklyn.
October 27, 2017 @ 7:13 am
Still aging about 24 bottles ‘08 On Up. Great beer, but the Chase doesn’t exist any more. Cases were sold in CostCo for $189, readily available not hard to find when released. Cheers!
June 9, 2018 @ 10:19 pm
I bought 48 bottles of the 2/2018 batch and I’m excited to age at least 24 of them 10+ years.
Could you explain to me what the difference between the 1 year old, and 9 year old bottled? Do you know what these would be like in 20 years?.
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June 6, 2017 @ 9:19 am
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April 26, 2017 @ 11:03 pm
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April 24, 2017 @ 1:03 pm
Based on the title, I was afraid that this was going to be judging people who still love it. I was glad that wasn’t the case! I was happy that the most recent batch had some good availability in San Francisco, so I got to try it as its freshest for once (pure jet fuel, in a good way).
April 24, 2017 @ 11:12 am
FYI- Bottles of 2017 do in fact show the ABV – It’s 16+% (had one last night and don’t recall exactly. Just in case you want to update the