Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA versus Beervana

I have begun translating my March Madness winnings into beer (explanation here). Mostly I invested in foreigns and mostly, I confess, in Belgians (I should be more ecumenical, but ...). One domestic I did buy is the much lauded Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA. Everyone loves it. Esquire called it "perhaps the best I.P.A. in America." Zymurgy didn't stop there, and instead called it "the best commercial beer in America." Raters on both Ratebeer and Beer Advocate give it top marks. In other words, next stop: Transcendence.


Dogfish Head has three versions of its IPA, identified by the length of time they infuse the boil with hops. The 90-minute weighs in at 9% and 90 IBUs. Along the East Coast it is renowned for how extreme it is, particularly those 90 IBUs. What I admired about the beer is that the long boil seats the hop flavor into the caramelly maltiness so that the perception of depth is enhanced. Unlike the East Coasters who regard it as cosmically hoppy, I found it leaning in the direction of a barleywine, emphasis on the malt and alcohol. The hops are roughed up during that long boil, and their more evanescent qualities are lost in the boil or kept hidden under the iron fist of the malt and alcohol. I'm not a huge barleywine fan, but as barleywines go, it's a nice version. But it's hardly exceptional, and for a proud and loyal resident of Beervana, all this swooning over an above-average beer looks a little silly.

The Northwest is the furthest region from population centers of our country's founding. The generations of immigrants to Oregon have shared the desire to want to get away from home, and they had to do something more than wander here--they had to want to come. We are too far away and too small to attract the attention of the nation (except Seattle, which is largely misrepresented), and this provokes in us a strong ambivalence. We don't wish to attract attention to our little paradise, because that runs the risk of attracting immigrants who don't understand what makes it a paradise. On the other hand, when you live in paradise, you chafe when the rest of the world fails to acknowledge it.

So it is with beer. I am confident that only Belgium rivals Oregon for the variety of beer, broad availability, and penetration into the consciousness of the residents. But our beers don't leave the Northwest, and when they do, they meet perplexed reception by those who do not have the appreciation and sophistication of our drinkers. On that "Best Commercial Beers" list, 50 in all, there are only three Oregon beers--all from Rogue, the only brewery with national distribution. None rank higher than 34, and that beer is Dead Guy, a decent beer that almost no one in Beervana would call Oregon's best. Yet to the brain trust in Colorado, this is our pièce de résistance.

It's the cross we bear. Our beer is the best, but like our region, no one knows or will or can ever acknowledge it. To the rest of the country, we have the delusions of grandeur typical of parochial backwaters where people just don't know better. And since there are so many parochial backwaters where the locals have delusions of grandeur, I don't blame em.

Fair enough, but I'm still saying Dogfish Head is a good but forgettable beer. A solid B but nothing more. Take that, Delaware!