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DFH 120 Minute IPA

By Andy Murphy
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dfh-120-min-glass-w-bottleNot that I needed an excuse, but this one-a-day beer challenge has given me a great reason to discover new beer. However, what really gets me going is the thrill that comes from finally drinking an as-yet-unexplored legend.

I’ve indulged in Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA and 90 Minute IPA already this year, but I had a fair amount of trouble tracking down a bottle of 120 Minute IPA. The IPA is brewed in limited quantities, and I spent many of my beer runs chasing Dogfish Head rumors and 120 Minute IPA sightings from liquor store to home brew supply house and back. This monster of a beer had nearly become my White Whale before I stumbled across several bottles stocked at my usual beer supplier.

If any beer deserves legendary status, it’s the 120 Minute IPA. This Imperial India Pale Ale clocks in at around 120 IBUs and between somewhere between 18% and 20% ABV. That range for ABV is because Dogfish Head has tweaked the recipe over the years — and from what I can tell, they’ve settled on about 18% ABV as the right balance. My bottle is young (filled May 2009) so I’m assuming it is 18% ABV. As for the IBU rating — don’t let that 120 rating intimidate you, because this beer’s sweetness overcomes just about every bit of bitterness.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

According to the label, Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA is:

“…the holy grail for hopheads. This beer is continually hopped over a 120-minute boil and then dry-hopped every day for a month. Enjoy now or age for a decade or so.”

With such a high alcohol content and an enormous amount of preservative hops, that “decade or so” may not be such an exaggeration. But really, who could wait that long? I strained my patience just waiting for the beer to warm up on the counter for 30 minutes. (To enjoy its full flavor, that patience is strongly recommended.)

I poured the entire 12 oz bottle into a tulip glass, watching as a decent, creamy foam formed for such a strong beer. The liquid looked pale yellow as it poured, but what pooled in my glass was a clear, liquid amber.

The aroma is sweet with brown sugar, muscat and apricot; softly spicy and more than a little boozy. It’s a warm, satisfying smell that conjures to mind the afterglow of a decadent meal dispatched amid good company.

120 Minute IPA isn’t the kind of explosively bitter beer that makes your taste buds cry uncle. It takes a lot of sugar to ramp a beer to 18% ABV, and this Imperial IPA shocked me with its sweetness. My first sip snaked around the front and sides of my tongue, lashing out with a daring sweetness that left my tongue tingling. Brown sugar mixed with juicy apricots and grapes to form a clique that completely excluded the hops promised by the label. The sweetness subsided slightly as I sipped, and its alcohol warmed my throat and belly. Whether the bitter sensation at the top of my palate and back of my tongue is caused by bitter hops or mere alcohol, I dare not guess. Nor do I care, at this point in the experience.

The promise on a “holy grail for hopheads” had be expecting a strong hop taste or an extreme bitterness. But once I accepted the 120 Minute as a sweet, boozy, circus mirror version of an IPA, I began to enjoy how rich, unique, and — well — deliberate it tastes.

Stone’s Ruination IPA is perhaps my favorite 100 IBU beer, balancing both bitter hops and citrusy malt. Lagunitas’ Hop Stoopid is 102 IBU, and it also used sweetness to balance out the hoppiness. But where Ruination dares the drinker to keep up with its bitter hops, and where Hop Stoopid comes across as a gimmick, the 120 Minute IPA bypasses those arguments completely and challenges the very notion of what an Imperial IPA should taste like.

The 120 Minute IPA is the very definition of extreme beer.

To hear Sam Calagione discuss the 120 Minute IPA for three minutes, click play on the video below!

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Categories : Beer a Day, IPA Monday



I’ve got two bottles of 2003 120 Minute IPA sitting in my fridge. I’d like to pick up a bottle of 2006 and 2009 and do a comparison of the three. Could be amazing!



Recently went to a Dogfish Head brewpub and couldn’t believe the difference between the bottle of 120 and the draft they had on tap. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the bottle version was far superior. Whatever goes on in the bottle is really important for this beer to really shine.


A truly extreme beer, extremely well crafted, extreme IBU’s, extreme abv. I’m cellaring a six of these right now. Can’t wait to see what they taste like in 6-10 years.


ahow, it’s my sincere hope you’re planning to get a group of beer lovers together for that tasting. :-) That’s a lot of powerful, expensive beer!

mdkelly, how big did they serve it on draft? A tiny snifter, or a full glass?

Peter/Simply Beer - let me correct you; you have six bottles AND an amazing amount of patience. Are you planning to drink some as they mature, to chart the progression?


Tracking down the elusive 120 is tough, but worth it.

Try the Whole Foods Market on River Street in Cambridge. They always have a few bottles. That’s my secret location. Don’t tell anyone.

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