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Double BeerRevues: DFH Hellhound and Black N’ Red

Two days a year, I work with the hubster to install signs in a local restaurant chain throughout the northern VA area.  That means lunch at Dogfish Head Alehouse, and boy did we pick the right weekend.  They had not one…but TWO of their newly released, limited, highly acclaimed, most sought after, hard to come by beers on tap.

Black & Red

I’d heard heard the name of this beer and thought it was probably a blend of DFH’s Black & Blue and Red & White.  Not even close.

“Black & Red is a velvety smooth dry-minted stout with a serious fruit problem! “

In my opinion, the Black & Red is more like an imperial chocolate stout with loads of raspberry and mint flavor.   At 10.5 ABV, this brew is smooth, rich, thick, decadent, sweet –  dessert in a glass, a sipper.  The chocolate from the grains is definitely there, but not prominent.  Instead, it provides a fantastic backdrop that complements the abundance of raspberry and mint – a beautiful combination of flavors that make this beer more of a stand alone aperitif.  I certainly wouldn’t pair it with a tuna salad sandwich.  I also did not detect any roasted flavor from the grains (even thought it’s mentioned in the DFH description), – in this case that’s a good thing.  I also love that there’s a slight tartness from the raspberries – so my first sip was similar to biting into a fresh dark chocolate dipped raspberry with a sprig of mint.  They actually used 100 lbs of organic mint from Washington’s Green Grocer, which was added to the secondary fermentation.  It starts out smooth and sweet, and finishes smooth and sweet.  This beer is just exceptionally brewed – just be ready for an intoxicating, euphoric, harmonious, flavorful beer experience.   Only available on draft – you’ll have to seek this one out!

Hellhound

This beer was brewed to commemorate the 100th birthday of Mississippi blues legend Robert Johnson, who supposedly sold his soul at the crossroads in return for fame and fortune, and upon achieving it, died at a young age.

“Hellhound is a super-hoppy ale that hits 100 IBUs in the brewhouse, 10.0 ABV, 10.0 SRM in color, and dry-hopped with 100% centennial hops at a rate of 100 kilos per 100 barrel brew-length. To accentuate and magnify the citrusy notes of the centennial hops (and as a shout out to Robert Johnson’s mentor Blind Lemon Jefferson) we add dried lemon peel and flesh to the whirlpool.”

Of course 100 IBUs represents 100 years, but keep in mind that’s 100 IBUs in the brewhouse, and 58 IBUs on tap.  Regardless, Hellhound is a very hoppy beer, and also very different from any other hoppy pales or IPAs I’ve  had.  At 10 ABV, I expected an imperial style beer – heavy, rich, and strong like the Black and Red which falls at 10.5 ABV.  I can’t imagine two more different beers – of course in flavor and style, but also in mouthfeel, alcohol strength, and drinkability.  My initial thought was “earthy”.  There’s an upfront earthiness that accompanies the strong flavorful, but not necessarily bitter, hoppiness of the beer; which is then followed by an abundance of citrus notes from the lemon and the centennial hops.  It’s a medium bodied beer, not dry and not sweet, not a session beer, not a sipper – just very drinkable, very complex, and very unique.  Hellhound is even more enjoyable when its slightly warmed and consumed with food, as the hop and citrus flavors are much fuller and more pronounced, but still complex.  This one will soon be released on a limited basis in 750 bombers for over $20 a bottle – a great one to split with fellow beer loving friends.

Both the Hellhound and the Black & Red are “must try’s” for any craft beer lover, and especially for DFH fans.  Both are different from any other DFH beer I’ve had, but still classic DFH in that they embody the brewery’s artful ability to blend and balance flavors, and create strong beers that are smooth, complex, unique, and delicious.

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Top 5 Valentine’s Day Brew Picks

Over a decade ago, the idea of pairing beer with chocolate was unheard of.  Today, the choices are endless – imperial stouts,  dessert IPAs, belgian quads bursting with candy sugars.  So this Valentine’s day, forget the wine and pair your Valentine’s sweets with a specially selected Valentine’s beer.  With so many to choose from, perhaps a few suggestions are in order.  Here are my top 5 Valentine’s Day brew picks.

5. 120 IPA by Dogfish Head

This is a rich, thick, sweet, decadent beer that pushes the ABV envelope.  Enjoy it like a fine cognac, sip slowly – it’s a powerful fruity, malty brew balanced with a generous hoppy bite.  Pull out the brandy snifters for this one, it’s dessert for hopheads.

4. Curieux by Allagash

Besides looking like an expensive bottle of liqueur, Curieux lives up to its opulent appearance.  This is Allagash’s belgian tripel aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels.  This beer is clean, sweet,  fruity, full of character and laced with bourbon and vanilla.  Not your ordinary tripel, Curieux is special and deserves to be enjoyed on upscale occasions.

3. Chokolat by Southern Tier

Just buy a bottle of Southern Tier’s Chokolat and a box of strawberries (maybe some whipped cream) and you are set.  This beer is thick, smooth, creamy, sweet, and packed with unbelievable high quality belgian chocolate flavor.  Need I say more?

2. Gravitation by Smuttynose

My first experience with this beer was at SAVOR in DC.  It was paired with dark chocolate cups filled with a tangy sweet mango cream.  It had to be the most amazing beer/food pairing I’ve ever had, and for that, Gravitation has earned a permanent spot on my top 5 list.  Gravitation is a belgian quad, sweet with belgian candy sugars and dried fruit flavors, but in true Smuttynose style, its a strong beer that isn’t overwhelming.  Just unique and complex and absolutely outstanding when served with fruit and chocolate.  It’s also a seasonal that doesn’t hang around long once released.  So if you find it, grab a few bottles to keep around for special occasions like Valentine’s day.

1. Riserva by Weyerbacher

I realize sour ales aren’t everyone’s favorite, but I LOVE sour beers, so for me this is number one.  Weyerbacher’s Riserva is a rich, sweet, malty sour ale brimming with raspberry aroma and flavor.  Regardless of the wild yeast, I don’t consider this a funky beer – there’s no horse blanket here.  The sourness is well balanced with the malty sweetness and the fruit.  It’s just a delicious unique beer that’s worth exploring with your significant beer loving partner.

Any of these east coast beers are sure to win some hearts, but if all else fails, then go for the 90 proof raspberry whipped cream, available in the refrigerator section at your local liquor store!

Happy Valentines Day and Cheers Beers!

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