Beer Review 0326: Dogfish Head Burton Baton Imperial IPA
There haven’t been many Dogfish Head (Milton, Delaware) beers that I haven’t reviewed, but Burton Baton, a 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) Imperial IPA, seems to have slipped through the cracks.
To get to the bottom of Dogfish’s Burton Baton, we must first look to Ballantine Brewery, founded in 1840 in Newark, New Jersey, by Peter Ballantine, an immigrant from Scotland. While Ballantine became known for their Pale Ale, they also had a beer called Burton Ale, which was aged 10-20 years in wooden tanks prior to bottling. Brewed similar to a Barleywine, Burton Ale was never commercially sold; instead, it was given as gifts to Ballantine distributors and VIPs. People are still collecting these bottles today — in fact, some who have tried it say the beer is still complex in flavor, although faded, with up to sixty years of storage.
Today, Pabst Brewing Company owns Ballantine. But Dogfish Head have taken Burton Ale to a new level — naming their beer Burton Baton, a show of respect of the brewing ‘baton’ being passed. The Dogfish brew is a blend; one part is an English-style old ale, while the other part is Imperial IPA. Both threads are fermented in stainless steel tanks, but combined in a 10,000 gallon oak tank, where the liquid sits for one month while being dosed with a massive amount of hops (over one pound per barrel). As previously mentioned, the ABV is 10%, and the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) come in at 70.
Burton Baton pours an average size head, bright white and creamy in texture. The beer is a vibrant golden-amber color, and it’s so hazy that it is opaque. I didn’t notice any substantial particles or sediment, and the lacing was excellent, leaving behind spider webs of suds from top of my glass to base.
The aromatics are interesting on this beer, to say the least — with the bottle being dated June 8, 2102, this one has about eight months of age on it, which has subdued the grapefruit and pine hops to mere background notes to a big refrain of woodsy oak and butterscotch. There are hints of vanilla and a mild alcohol presence, which combine with a large caramel wash to make this nearly creme brûlée. Think of this like a sweet dessert served on a plank of wood, with a side of hops that have been watered down. It’s quite pleasant.
On the taste, there’s boozy warm caramel that shadows off into shades of grapefruit and general citrus hops. This beer is sweet and confectionary-like, but it has a woodsy balance that gives off a nice edge that stops the sweetness from being cloying. The finish comes on with a big hit of oak and strangely enough, burnt toast. This extra brown toast continues until the beer completely fades from the palate, leaving behind just a raw oak. The alcohol is present, but not overly so, gently warming the body. Burton Baton is full-bodied, with a medium mouthfeel — and a creamy texture.
I’ve had other oak aged Imperial IPAs and haven’t been too impressed with the style. This beer is impressive, and it ages well, becoming a woodsy malt bomb in just eight months. I would love to review this one ultra fresh, to see if those grapefruit and pine hops come out to play. Toss a bottle of this in your next mix-six pack.
Dogfish Head Burton Baton Imperial IPA, 90 points. Price: $3.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.