Dogfish Head’s (Milton, Delaware) Red & White, a high alcohol wheat beer that spends time aging on wood, is probably my favorite beer from the eccentric brewery. I reviewed it back on May 14, 2012, and awarded it 95 points, which is classic on my rating scale. At that time, I decided to squirrel away a few bottles and return periodically — two years later, we’re making that second trip, and it is the subject of this review.
Brewed only once each year, Red & White uses a Belgian yeast strain, and sees additions of coriander and orange peel. The beer is a blend — 11% of the final beer is aged in Pinot Noir barrels, while the other 89% rests on oak barrel staves. You could call this an Imperial Wheat, as it comes in at 10% ABV (alcohol by volume). Sam Calagione, Dogfish’s founder, came up with the idea while attending a wine dinner, where he departed wanting to make a beer that had vinous qualities.
My initial review went as follows:
Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 14 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 33 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points
Final Score: 95 points, or classic on my rating scale.
With two years in the bottle, and without having been disturbed since I laid it to rest in 2012, let’s crack into it.
Pouring makes for a small, soapy, bright white head that lasts atop a beautifully vivid golden-orange beer. The body is cloudy, as you might expect from a wheat beer; there were no particles or sediment, but there were plenty of yeast dregs at the bottom of the bottle. Lacing was pretty good for such a high alcohol beer; there was a respectable sudsy layer at the top of the glass before all the action tapered off.
Possibly the most disappointing aspect of this aged beer was the nose, which has taken a sharp decline in complexity. I remember this beer having hoppy notes, funky yeast, and a large spice presence — not today. There’s some general malt sweetness up front mixed with a bit of orange peel. The alcohol is heavy, almost boozy; there’s plenty of the oak barrel, and a slightly wine-like scent going on. Think woodsy, ashy oak and a bready sweetness. As it warms, some coriander starts to mingle. Sweet, plenty of alcohol, but dialed-down when it comes to the scents you’re here for.
On the taste, it’s more of a return to form — orange peel, coriander, and sweet grain hit up front, with a touch of light caramel sweetness. Eventually, the sweetness starts to win out, and it’s more of a toffee/Tootsie Roll thing going on, which I find typical in some aged beers, especially Barleywines — but this drinks a lot like a Belgian Tripel, not so much in yeast flavor, but in how dry it is. There’s notes of grape skin and oak barrel that come through, and the finish is warm (not boozy!) with dry orange peel and very sweet bready yeast. Red & White is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.
This beer has changed a lot, and I’m more inclined to like it fresh. There’s significantly more grape and wine-like flavors here than I remember, which I suppose is what Mr. Calagione was after; however, a fresh bottle is more beer-like and seems to be easier drinking. Perhaps my tastes have changed some. Drink it fresh if you want a beer with some wine qualities; try it aged for wine with beer qualities.
Dogfish Head Red & White Wheat Ale, 87 points. Price: $13.99 US for one 750 ml. bottle.
As I mentioned in my previous review, a few days ago I asked for suggestions about what beer I should drink for my 150th review. lifeasamusical asked for Red & White by Milton, Delaware’s Dogfish Head — I have another beer in mind for my 150th, but since this was requested, I will go ahead and gladly review it.
Straight up honesty: I’m going to try to be as impartial as I can on this review, but I have had this beer before on numerous occasions, and it is exceptional.
Red & White is a Belgian-style witbier, brewed with coriander and orange peel, and fermented with Pinot Noir juice. This is a blended beer, with 11% of the concoction aged on Pinot Noir barrels while the other 89% spends some time on oak barrel staves.
This beer is a limited release from Dogfish, and comes out every February in the big 750 ml bottle format. Coming in at 10% ABV (alcohol by volume), Dogfish’s Sam Calagione came up with the idea for Red & White while attending a wine dinner. He wanted to make a beer that had vinous qualities; according to Sam, whenever there is peanut butter and chocolate in the same room, he’s going to mix them.
The pour brought forth a beautiful golden orange sunset colored beer, topped with a large bright white head, soapy in texture and composed of large, tight bubbles. The body of the beer was slightly clouded but had no particles or sediment. And right from the first diminish of the head, the lacing was spectacular; thick, solid sheets running down the glass. This is one impressive looking beer — you’ll want to grab the glass and see what’s going on here.
Aromatically, there’s a ton going on here. The first thing my nose noticed was some fairly thick whiffs of background hop — grapefruit and pine, which surprised me. Then there’s a big blast of orange, coriander, and a slight suggestion of clove; this one is grainy and has a definite funky yeast presence, along with a wine quality that reminded me more of a white wine than Pinot Noir. Speaking in general terms, this one is also a touch boozy, and has hints of spice and sweetness.
Red & White is a difficult beer to describe on the palate. There’s just so much going on here, and although this is a hugely complex beverage, none of the flavors are muddled, lost, nor is any one more dominant than the other. You get the orange up front, along with the coriander. It starts out very sweet, but the mouthfeel isn’t overly sticky, it’s more creamy. The middle of the taste offers a graininess, then opens into the Pinot Noir-like finish — think the conclusion of a red wine mixed with orange peel, and when combined with an alcohol warmth that hits the back of the throat, you’re left with a bittersweet finish that just brings a smile to your face. Oh, and there’s hints of oak, too; see, I told you…there’s just a ton going on here.
True to form, give this beer to a wine lover and see what happens. I think you’ll have a winner. Honestly, out of the powerful Dogfish Head repertoire, I think Red & White might be their most overlooked and unappreciated offering. This beer just delivers in all categories, and I know I look forward to this release every single year. In fact, I would love to see what some age would do to this beer, but I can never keep my bottles around long enough to find out.
Dogfish Head Red & White, 95 points. Price: $13.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.