The Hop Brief: Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales’s Burton Baton
Enjoyed on 9/30/2010
Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales
Location: Milton, DE
Beer: Burton Baton
Presentation: 12 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped
Style: American Style Imperial India Pale Ale blended with an English Old Ale
Hops: Warrior, Glacier
This is a blended beer that we’ve been brewing for the past several years and it’s recently been gaining in popularity.
For Burton Baton we first brew two ‘threads’ or batches of beer: an English-style Old Ale and an Imperial IPA. After fermenting the separate beers in our stainless tanks, the two are transferred and blended together in one of our large oak tanks. Burton Baton sits on the wood for about a month.
When enjoying the Burton Baton, you’ll find an awesome blend of the citrus notes from Northwestern hops melding with woody, vanilla notes from the oak. The wood also tends to mellow the 10% of the beer – so tread cautiously!
Beer Advocate: A- (4.13)
Rate Beer: 98 (3.74)
When I had this beer at Brouwer’s Hopfest I had forgotten how delicious it was. If you saw our review of said fest here, you probably noticed that it was our second favorite out of everything we tried, which was nearly 40 hopped up brews. It would be wrong of me to say that I’m surprised, after all, DFH is a force to be reckoned with. One can only fantasize about how those results could have been effected were 120 Minute IPA involved. Honestly, I don’t think that it would have mattered, at least for me. Never-the-less, ever since my re-discovery of the Baton, I have been unable to mosey past it in the bottleshops without grabbing one.
When you break this beer down to its core elements, it’s quite clear that Sam Calagione stepped into my psyche, rummaged around a bit, and popped out with a beer manifesto perfectly penned to make my knees wobble. I am gaga about old ales, gonzo about imperial IPAs and gung-ho about wood aged beers. Have your read my review of Great Divide‘s Hibernation, or my review of Russian River‘s Pliny the Elder? If you have, you probably got a sense of my intense passion for the styles. To blend the two, well, leave it to Sam to come up with that one. Yes, maybe it happens more than I know. Possibly, breweries do it and don’t advertise it as such. If they do, they should inform me and me only. I’ll keep that little nugget in the vault and acquire my fair share of the congenial cocktail for continued consumption.
If you haven’t done it already, I would highly recommend going to the Burton Baton page on the DFH website and watching the video of Sam describing the beer. The most interesting part is being able to see the wood vat that the beer ages in. It’s pretty epic.
A standard pour conjured a respectable head that rose like an ominous yellowish-white fog about an inch above the liquid. It took about 5 minutes to settle down to a thin foam and ring. The lacing is impressive, a dense slathering of porous paint on the inside of the glass. I gentle swirling of the brew causes the transparency of the glass to wither. The fluid itself is of a mysterious, cloudy amber hue that seems to vary from murky pond water brown to bright sunrise orange depending on the angle you hold it to the light.
The scent perplexes the mind with its unfathomable depth. I know not where to begin… The initial moment my nose hit the scent, I thought the wrong beer was in the bottle. There seemed to be coffee and cocoa emanating…from an IPA? As it warms just slightly, those notes seem to fade to the peripherals. Somewhere between then and when it’s warm enough to fully and properly experience, there are strong shots of lemon, blood orange, pine, and sweet baking doughs. The booze can be sensed early after the pour. Low temperatures do nothing to hide the 10%. It’s surprisingly medicinal, or nearly petroleum like with potency. To call this balanced in the nose is almost laughable. I mean yes, there is a gargantuan helping of lupulin here, and the gods themselves where heavy-handed with the malt bill, but to use the word balance seems to place some sort of neutrality tag on a beer that is far too massive to even fit on known scales. This is a beer for warriors, for Vikings, for kings of men. Wait, I haven’t even smelled it at proper temp yet let alone tasted it.
As it warms a bit more, a medicinal, syrupy hop quality really dominates, but all the while drizzled upon sweet buns hot out of the oven, soaked in rum. Sometimes granny gets a little nuts in the kitchen. Even more warmth leaves only the malt backbone and a nose hair singeing alcohol.
The mouthfeel is just as the smell would suggest, slick with sugars and minimal with effervescence. In this case, that’s what’s appropriate, and points are won for consistency. The words that I want to use to describe the flavors are bouncing around my head faster than I can collect them. The most striking of all is the re-emergence of what was inhaled at the very onset. Coffee? Again, I thought this was an IPA, and no, not a Cascadian dark version. Yes, there is some tinge of brown in the color, and lest we not forget the old ale swimming in our midst, but roasted malts? Clearly, nothing is off-limits for DFH.
The sweetness factor alone is multifaceted. I get a slight bubble gum quality along with the baked sweets. There is caramelized, near burnt sugar, which seems to play with the coffee and the hop bitterness to make a valiant attempt at blotting up the salivary glands. There are moments when my palette is left feeling chalky dry, but inevitably, the sugar cascade reigns supreme. No matter the juxtaposition in precipitants as I swallow, there is an undeniable need for more sips. Though, I must admit, that desire for more is mostly beset on the intrigue factor – intrigue for what happens before the swallow, to greater understand the ever emerging nuances in flavor.
And I mustn’t dare leave out the hops. Sure, they are in there – the piney, citrus aromas, the battling bitterness units… there is no mistake that this is a strong IPA, but the overall hop profile seems to lie in more of a supporting role. If you told me there was hop extract in this beer I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. There just isn’t enough room for the hop to substantially play on my taste buds. I couldn’t even begin to contemplate the varieties used, let alone where they may sit in the addition schedule. Does that hurt the score? Well, maybe to a very finite degree, but like I said, this is an IPA and there is no question about that. For the malt profile to be so brutally steadfast and for the ‘IPA’ moniker to still be obvious, how could one hold issue?
The aftertaste is the only flaw I can find here, but believe me, I’m stretching. The “burnt” flavors seem to latch on with the most strength after the fluid has passed. It’s a deep flavor that tells of the darker malts and the conditions of the wood that once housed the brew, or so I assume. 99% of the time, the byproduct of these elements brings me to my knees with delight. Here, I’m forlorn. For me, it’s not too different from being offered a fine cigar…or a Tom Waits album. I so badly want to have the experience enlighten me, but sadly, I just wasn’t built for it. I was, however, built for hop candy, and this is one of the supreme examples of just such a beer.
Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.97
Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.98
Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.95
Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.79
Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.96
Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.90
Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.55