Beer Review 0523: Dogfish Head American Beauty Imperial Pale Ale

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It’s been over a year since Milton, Delaware’s Dogfish Head have released a new beer in their music-inspired series. The latest offering pays homage to The Grateful Dead — named American Beauty, after their classic 1970 album, the beer is a limited release and is brewed with ingredients suggested by loyal fans. Earlier this year, Dogfish solicited ideas for ingredients to go into the beer; with over 1,500 different ideas, organic granola was the top choice. The beer itself is classified as an Imperial Pale Ale, and is brewed with all-American hops.

If you’re new to the Dogfish music series of beers, I have reviewed all of them. Here they are in order of release:

Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew Russian Imperial Stout, 100 points in a redux review
Robert Johnson’s Hellhound On My Ale, 92 points
Pearl Jam Faithfull Ale, 73 points
Dogfish/Dan The Automator Present: Positive Contact, 94 points

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I’m a big fan of the Dogfish music beer series — with Miles Davis and Pearl Jam being two of my favorite musical artists, you can see why. Grateful Dead kind of fall where Robert Johnson does in terms of my listening habits; I like The Dead and respect them, but probably don’t turn them on as often as I should. If you’re unfamiliar with The Dead, the group formed in 1965 and became known for their incredible live performances. The group performed over 2,300 concerts in their thirty years as a band, and promoted a strong sense of community among their fans. They had many followers, affectionately known as Deadheads, who would follow them on tour for weeks and months on end. The Guinness Book of World Records estimates that The Grateful Dead played to around 25 million different people, with audiences of up to 80,000 attending a single show. The Dead, like fellow music series brew group Pearl Jam, varied their setlists nightly so no two shows were the same, and culled their song lists from a group that exceeded 500 unique tunes. A long, strange trip, indeed.

And with that, it’s time to turn on some Grateful Dead and check this beer out. A couple of other vital stats: American Beauty is 9% ABV (alcohol by volume) and hits 55 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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The pour produces a large, dense, creamy and soapy head composed of both large and small bubbles. The head has long staying power, hanging out atop the beer all throughout sipping. American Beauty is beautiful indeed, showing a nice deep golden-orange color, exceptionally clear, and free of particles and sediment. Lacing is excellent, leaving behind thick, puffy wads of foam. This glass will require some scrubbing to clean.

On the nose, I’m instantly hit with a grape jelly note. Is this yet another Dogfish beer that has hints of Midas Touch, another beer brewed by Dogfish that is a herb/spice beer? I’ve written about this phenomenon before; it seems like several Dogfish releases lately have been based on Midas Touch, which I rated in January of 2011 and gave 83 points. But, back to American Beauty: it’s got significant hops, but balance is definitely the name of this game: the hops are grassy and herbal, pairing nicely with moderately sweet bready grain and caramel. The dash of grape jelly adds to the sweetness, but there is some astringent grapefruit, and… key lime pie! This aroma might sound crazy, but it’s not, just unique. And nice.

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The first flavor I picked up on: grape jam. It also initially has some grapefruit and alcohol, before opening up to a deeper, more bitter grapefruit in the middle that is laced with soft grassy notes and some caramel. The beer kind of goes back and forth, bitter to sweet, before settling in on a bitter finish, drying out and concluding with grass, grapes, and dry herbs. As it warmed, the final notes were like hoppy grape bubble gum. I found the beer to be medium-bodied with a medium, creamy texture, which is likely thanks to the granola. While the granola is not present in taste, this beer has an almost silky body, which doesn’t crumble next to the large presence of alcohol. I wouldn’t call this boozy, but you do start to feel the 9% ABV after a few sips.

This is a nice beer, and I do think it is worthy of The Grateful Dead. However, a couple of things: maybe it’s just my palate, but is Dogfish using Midas Touch as a base beer for a bunch of other beers? Here’s a list:

DOGFISH HEAD BEERS THAT SEEM TO CONTAIN THREADS OF MIDAS TOUCH
Dogfish Head Sixty-One IPA, 75 points
Dogfish Head Ta Henket, 71 points
Dogfish Head Pearl Jam Faithfull Ale, 73 points
Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu, 87 points

The reason why I make a big point about this is The Grateful Dead are all about off-the-cuff, improvisation — come on Dogfish! Surely I’m not the only one noticing this. Also, while American Beauty has enough body (which I am crediting to the granola) to support the 9% ABV, it’s a little much in taste. These Dogfish music series beers take on a certain spirit that beer drinkers have to love — to quote The Dead, “Reach out your hand if your cup be empty; if your cup is full may it be again.” Seek it out, pull out a vinyl, pour a glass, and turn it up.

Dogfish Head American Beauty Imperial Pale Ale, 89 points. Price: $12.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.

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