Having the coolest title sponsor in MABRA means talking about beer even more than wheel choice.
This is the best time of year for racing. Everyone is enthusiastic and the season is full of potential. There’s no need to obsess over points yet. And the weather is phenomenal.
This is the worst time of year for not racing. While my teammates are in the saddle, I’m stuck on the couch recovering from hip surgery. By the way, if your non-racing significant other thinks dealing with your training and bike banter is bad, have him or her talk to my wife about living with a cyclist who can’t ride. Things are getting a little Overlook Hotel-ish around my house, despite the pleasant weather.
But things aren’t all bad. In fact, while sitting at the bar at our , things were pretty good. I may be in no shape to write race reports or review new gear, but I’m fully conditioned for sitting on a barstool and downing a few pints. So I went to sample a few new and seasonal offerings from Dogfish Head that are perfect for outdoor imbibition this spring.
** Sixty-One **
Dogfish Head is well known for having interesting stories behind their beers. Chateau Jiahu , for example, was crafted following molecular analysis of 9,000-year-old pottery found in northern China. Whoa. Sixty-One (6.5% ABV), on the other hand, was created after what sounds like a prank. Sam Calagione, founder and president of the brewery, poured a bit of Syrah (a spicy red wine, for all you philistines) into his friend’s 60 Minute IPA . Messing with a 60 is a punishable offense if you’re anyone but Sam, but after some experimentation, including subbing the wine with Syrah grape must (the pre-fermented juice), he may be onto something.
I stress may in this case, as Sixty-One won’t be for everyone. The first sip of this ruby-colored ale was a bit disconcerting. I think a big reason for this was that I got the story first, and know and love the 60 Minute IPA that Sixty-One is derived from. (Going back, I’d drink first and learn later.) The initial taste was quite fruity, as if the beer cancelled out the spicy robustness of the Syrah grapes (or maybe it’s lost by using must rather than wine) and the must cancelled out the bitter citrus of the Northwest hops. It tasted like a fizzy version of a Beaujolais wine, which can be light, slightly sweet, and fruit-laden. As I continued drinking, it became more beer-like as the fruitiness took a back seat to the hops. Conclusion: This brew isn’t for me, but I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it up at a barbeque, where I think it would get a lot of positive attention. In my mind, it’s more of a gateway beer for non-beer-drinkers, but it’s also an interesting addition to the brewery’s beer-wine experiments, which include the very good Red & White .
** Firefly **
Brewed for Delaware’s Firefly Music Festival —which has a respectable lineup for a festival in, well, Delaware—the eponymous Firefly (5% ABV, 25 IBUs) English-style pale ale is made with Marris Otter barley and English heritage hops before being dry-hopped with Calypso. According to the Alehouse’s erudite bartender, Firefly was brewed to keep drinkers alive in the midsummer heat of the festival, which had previously—and I’m sure disastrously for some people—served mostly high-alcohol beers.
Firefly pours a pleasant golden color. It is restrained on the palette, advancing a slightly floral aroma followed by mild malt taste. The light body and low ABV keep it refreshing, as does the subtly bitter finish provided by the Calypso dry-hopping. Equally important, though, is what this beer is missing: rice. Rice is the ingredient that gives mass-produced “light” beers their funk (I won’t even try to be diplomatic). Some will argue otherwise, as the linked article goes into, but rice ruins beers like clip-on aero bars ruin a Cannondale SuperSix. With Firefly, Dogfish Head has made a light ale that is thoroughly pleasing from start to finish.
Conclusion: Unlike Sixty-One, Firefly may very well be a beer for everyone. I’m a recovering hophead, having restored balance to my palate after venturing down the Green Flash rabbit hole, and I would drink Firefly all day. It could be the biggest seller at Nationals Park as well as a recurring presence on my pre-cookout shopping list. This is firmly a warm weather session beer.
In a video introducing Aprihop , Sam says, “We wanted to make a fruit beer for people who hate fruit beers.” And that’s pretty much the simple story behind this not-so-simple beer. Aprihop is at first glance a traditional American IPA with a high (7%) ABV and aggressive (50 IBU) bitterness imparted from Amarillo dry-hopping. But, as the label states, it’s also brewed with real apricots. And that’s what makes it so interesting.
Aprihop has an inviting, dark amber color topped with a healthy white head. The first sip is predictably hoppy, with the boldly bitter, grapefruit-like flavor typical of Amarillo hops. But there’s also a velvety texture not typical of IPAs. Very quickly that texture gives way to the apricot undertones, which are suitably subtle and do not suffer from the sweetness found in other fruit beers. By adding apricot, Dogfish Head makes what would be a great IPA even better—the fruit complements the beer’s initial flavor rather than competing with it. Finally, despite its hoppiness and comparatively elevated ABV, this beer is highly drinkable; I don’t think I’ve ever had just one in a sitting. This beer is meant to be gulped.
Conclusion: Aprihop is a unique and exceptional ale that I look forward to every spring and buy enough of to last into summer after it’s gone from stores. The name describes the brewing method more than the taste—it is a beer made with fruit rather than a fruity beer. If you’ve been avoiding this because you don’t like fruity beers, go get some right now. In fact, if you haven’t had it for any reason, go get some right now.
* * *
So, while everyone else is racing and training, I’m doing glute squeezes (my own glutes, not some podium girl’s ) and drinking beer. If you want to take a break from all your training or follow up a hard ride with a well-deserved ale, get your saddle-sore butt to Dogfish Head Alehouse and explore their offerings. Also, mark your calendars for their on April 29 and 30. Because bacon.