Beer Review 0581: Dogfish Head Immort American Strong Ale

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If you didn’t pounce on the latest release of Dogfish Head’s (Milton, Delaware) Immort Ale, you might have to wait a while; this brew, which has been crafted each year since 1997 (one of the oldest offerings in the Dogfish portfolio) will not be brewed in 2014. It’s not known when it will reappear, if ever.

Conceived at the Dogfish brewpub (located in nearby Rehoboth Beach) in 1995, Immort Ale uses maple syrup from Red Brook Farm, Dogfish founder Sam Calagione’s family farm. This American Strong Ale is also brewed with peat-smoked barley and vanilla, then is fermented by a blend of English and Belgian yeasts, and finally aged in oak tanks before bottling. This is a big beer — the ABV (alcohol by volume) is 11%, and the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) rate 50. Immort Ale was released each winter in four-packs.

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Pouring makes for a nice looking beer capped with a large, lasting, creamy head. The beer is murky-amber in color, with red highlights when held up to a bulb. The body is fairly hazy, but there are no particles or sediment to be found. Lacing is very good, leaving a nice, even coating down the non-sipping side of the glass.

The nose features all of the advertised flavors in scent format — we’ve got lots of sweet caramel and maple syrup, along with a light hint of smoke. There’s even a touch of chocolate that begins to develop more as the drink warms. There’s a definite vanilla bean character and I connected with the oak, which is pleasant and slightly charred. The malt is bready and there’s also bready yeast, along with orange peel. The 11% alcohol is completely hidden. Immort has a nicely complex aroma that tells a story as it warms.

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On the palate, the beer is very smooth up front in regards to flavor; there’s plenty of vanilla and orange peel, and maple syrup/caramel sweetness. Oak and vanilla begin to shine through and the tone abruptly changes in the middle of the mouth, turning from smooth and sweet to very full-bodied (nearly overpowering) and boozy. There’s lots of peaty smoke and when coupled with the already-present oak character, it turns moderately medicinal. The smoke doesn’t mingle with the high alcohol easily, and the finish is sharp with heavy oak and very sweet caramel overpowering the opening easy-going flavors. As it warms, the very tail end of the finish begins to develop some dark chocolate and dark fruits. Immort Ale is full-bodied, with a medium, foamy texture.

I thought this beer to be very nice up front, but things went downhill the further I got in. Perhaps some age would smooth the overbearing boozy and sweet flavors, but I could easily see oxidation playing too much of a role should you cellar one of these. I think this is worthy of a try, but by the end of the 12 ounces, my palate was tired and I was ready to move onto something less medicinal and forceful.

Dogfish Head Immort American Strong Ale, 86 points. Price: $13.99 US for a four-pack.

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