Like many other beer drinkers on the East Coast I was introduced to hop-forward IPAs in part by Dogfish Head Brewing and their seminal 60 Minute (and 90 Minute) IPAs. That beer was one of my “wow” beers, the brews that changed my view on what beer can and should be. Hop-forward beers were my first true beer obsession, and these continually hopped IPAs were some of the finest examples on the local market at the time. While I still enjoy the occasional 60 Minute IPA, it is amazing how tame it seems compared to some of the hop-bomb beers featured by other breweries. Not that tame is a bad thing necessarily, I think many of these newer beers are overdone, while Dogfish Head manages to maintain relative balance in even their hoppiest offerings. If you do word association with most beer fans these IPAs would probably be the first Dogfish Head beers that come to mind, but head brewer Sam Calagione has always been at the forefront of many innovative trends in the brewing community. One of these trends is the use of non-traditional ingredients in beer, from various fruits to exotic grains to spices. Dogfish Head Sixty-One is one of their newest core-beers, and it mixes the addition of unconventional ingredients with the base of a continuously-hopped IPA. Dogfish Head was one of the first breweries to experiment with the addition of wine grapes to their beers, adding a complexity of flavor without overwhelming the base beer. Sixty-One is a perfect example, it combines the 60 Minute IPA recipe with the must of Syrah wine grapes. Dogfish Head Sixty-One is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Dogfish Head Sixty-One pours a purple-tinted orange with a mild white head. The scent is a subtle mixture of fruity wine grapes and floral hops. The taste starts with the hop flavor, cut grass, tangerine and some earthy notes. This is complemented by the fruity character of the Syrah grapes, hints of raspberry and plum. The bitterness is mild for an IPA, and balanced by touches of bread dough and cracker from the malty backbone. The beer is medium bodied and goes down smooth, with a middle-of-the-road (for an IPA) 6.5% ABV. The finish is crisp with some residual fruit flavor in the aftertaste. This is an interesting combination between the hoppier beer and the wine, worth a shot if you are both a beer and red wine fan. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
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