Dogfish Head Study Hall – Library Alehouse; Santa Monica, CA
It’s LA Beer Week, and I’m trying to make the most of it on my limited budget and weird work schedule. Most nights out for me occur mid-week, so it’s hard to find drinking buddies who can go hard on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and not have to work the next morning. Me, I don’t mind showing up bleary-eyed on a Sunday morning if it means having fun with friends on a Saturday night. Try calling one of them on a Tuesday for Dogfish Head Study Hall 3.0 when it’s MY weekend. All you’ll hear is the sounds of chirping crickets and overwhelming silence.
I think we all know that Dogfish Head is my favorite craft beer brewery in the country. President of Dogfish Head Sam Calagione is a graduate of Muhlenberg College (just like me!), he gave an epic sermon called “Fuck Wine” at the Extreme Beer Festival in Boston seven or eight years ago, and they brew some of the best beers I’ve ever consumed (World Wide Stout 2001, Bitches Brew, Festina Lente, Palo Santo, Burton Baton and Fort all rank in my top 50 according to my incredibly outdated RateBeer profile). The opportunity to try ANYTHING I haven’t consumed before is enough to make me happy. Especially now that I’m in LA, which doesn’t have quiet the variety of distributed beers New Jersey had. In 2010 I paid to attend the Dogfish Head tasting at Morton’s downtown. Yesterday afternoon I got a text that there was a “Study Hall” being held at Library Alehouse, so I raced across town after work to see what the event was all about.
I walked into the bar and grabbed a menu. There were 18 different beers on tap, and the official menu listed ABV, price, size of pour, and brief descriptions of each beer. There were also four different flights available for purchase. Of the 18 beers available, I’d previously tried eight. There was no need for me to try Burton Baton, Bitches Brew, Sah’tea, Black and Blue, Punkin, Festina Peche, or Chicory Stout. The prospect of trying 10 beers was much less daunting than 18, but considering the ABV of most Dogfish Head brews it was a bit unsettling. While I waited for my date to arrive I pounded a Red and White (Belgian-style witbier brewed with coriander and orange peel and fermented with pinot noir juice), then a Theobroma (ancient ale brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chilies and annatto). There was a great hit of spice at the finish, I was really impressed by it. My third beer was a Sixty-One (same recipe of 60 Minute IPA but with the addition of syrah grape must). I was somewhat buzzed by the time the little lady showed up. We grabbed a table, some fried pickle chips, a burger and a burrata/beet salad and I don’t remember really tasting anything but the pickle chips. From there I sampled the Chateau Jihau, the Noble Rot Saison, and some Punkin. Then I ordered for myself a flight of the Olde School Barleywine, Palo Santo Vintage 2011, and the two biggest hitters of the night: 120-Minute IPA (2012 vintage) and 2013’s 120-Minute IPA.
The Barleywine was strong at 15% ABV, and the Palo Santo at 12% was no slouch either, but the 120-Minute IPAs can touch 20% ABV. The 2012 vintage was incredible. There was a huge candied, caramel-y, malt flavor that imparted an incredible amount of sweetness to each sip. I got more sweetness and citrus than hops from the flavor, but it had a strong hop aroma. It was smooth and had a bit of the warm alcohol finish that high-ABV beers often feature. God, it was good. The 2013 varietal was no less impressive. It wasn’t as sweet — in fact I found it quite savory — more bitter and citrusy in the taste without as much malty sweetness. Each one was great, I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favorite but I think I lean ever-so-slightly in favor of 2013.
Like I said, after the flight it’s hard to remember whether the burger and fries was any good. I paired my ridiculous beer selection with the Alehouse burger, which is topped with girdled onions, gorgonzola, arugula and aioli. I think it was good? The curly fries were solid. I’ll go back on a Monday when the burgers are $3 off and the crowd probably isn’t as insane as it was last night.
In the end, I got to cross 8 of the 10 beers I hadn’t tried off the list. Positive Contact and My Antonia eluded me. Not bad, right?
I’m already looking forward to next year. No, I’m not an alcoholic. I’m just a big fan of the brewery and I’m always happy to try what I haven’t tried before. Maybe next year they’ll un-retire Festina Lente or Fort so I can keep my bottles in New Jersey cellared. Also, why didn’t they ever re-do Liquor de Malt? I got so drunk on that I spilled a considerable amount of that 40oz. bottle on my mother’s carpet. God, that was a fun night. And remember how they came in those amazing stamped brown paper bags? Ugh, Dogfish Head. You’re the best.
Also…what a hangover this morning. Brutal!
Ash Ra Tempel – After The Flood [MP3]
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