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
September 10, 2010 marked the opening day of Brouwer’s Cafe’s 2010 Hopfest. This was the fifth installment of Seattle’ festival of hops. We like it a lot – so we put in a full day.
Our preview was well-read, but unfortunately, several of the beers showcased alluded most of the crowd. Moylans Wet Hopsickle and Green Flash Palate Wrecker never seemed to hit the taps at Brouwers, while Black Raven’s Dry-Hopped Trickster and Wisdom Seeker, and Russian River’s Blind Pig, each ran out fairly quickly.
But, most of you were able to get a taste of much of our Top 5 beers, stated below. For this year’s festival – the diamonds were in the rough.
For our tasting experience, we took on a table of 4 people. Two Beer Blotter writers, Amateur Hour’s Erik Baldwin and a nice rotating seat of various friends who found the time to join us over the course of our 7 hour day. As time went on, we had a few extra people. So, some rounds include more beers than others.
We took to 10 total rounds of hop madness, pitting different types of beer against each other. We went rare, we went unknown, and we went frighteningly strange (here’s looking at you Elysian Idiot Sauvin). After 10 rounds, we think we found the beers you need to seek out and try. Want to know something great? Washington brewers showed up; they showed up strong.
So, here is our 10 round excursion and Top 5. Enjoy:
Round 1: Russian River Blind Pig, Black Raven Wisdom Seeker, Iron Horse Chinook Cask
Timperial: It had been quite a while since I last tried Blind Pig, and my memories of it were only so-so. Since there are a lot of respected beer folk out there that are incredibly fond of it, I figured I better get a refresher. It’s still boring. Ok, not really, but it’s not nearly as good as Pliny, and that’s where I’ll leave it. The Iron Horse cask was a little too yeasty to be truly enjoyed in all of it’s glory. Wisdom Seeker was the number one beer to get on my Guide to Hopfest. Our waiter didn’t even get a word out before I ordered it. It is, without a doubt, in my top 5 Imperial IPAs of all time. Perfect hop profile with a sizable dose of malty sweetness. A balanced imperial IPA is no easy task, and local heroes Black Raven made it happen.
Winner: Black Raven Wisdom Seeker
Round 2: Firestone Walker Union Jack Firkin, More Wisdom Seeker, Snipes Hopped Up
Timperial: Union Jack is an amazing IPA, simply one of the best around. There was no way that I’d miss out on sampling it in firkin form. Sadly, I much prefer the standard issue. It seemed that the gravity pour depleted the hop essence that is normally so perfectly crafted. Sometimes when you shoot, you miss. Beer Blotter has a serious love affair with Snipes lately. We were really excited to try Hopped Up, but I found it to have some off flavors. This is a very rare case with Snipes. In reviewing my notes from the event, I had noted that Hopped Up tasted like peperoni. I shit you not, I wrote that! Take it for what it’s worth.
Winner: Black Raven Wisdom Seeker (again)
Round 3: Mikkeller Trifecta – Single Hop Centennial, Chinook and Cascade.
Timperial: This little triple threat was high on my to-do list for the day, and I was very happy to have two close friends in my midst to share with. I honestly thought that they were all excellent. I remember saying “God I love Mikkeller!” several times while sampling. I, personally, was most fond of the Chinook, which was the one that I thought I would like least (not sure why, I love piney notes in my IPAs). I think it actually had the least traditional IPA qualities to it, which is probably why the rest of the group did actually like it least. I’ll never be surprised when I stand alone with my overly-sweet and malty IPAs.
Winner: Mikkeller Centennial Single Hop
Round 4: Georgetown Lucille Cask, Elysian Idiot Sauvin & Black Raven Dry Hopped Trickster
Timperial: Lucille is a great IPA and the cask version was no exception. I found it to have pronounced notes of resin and earth that may have just been illuminated with the warmth of the bar top cask. Idiot Sauvin allowed me to pop my Nelson Sauvin hop cherry with style. It was very unique and enjoyable. Ultimately, the grapefruit bomb that was set off in my mouth with each sip of DH Trickster made it the best in round for me.
Winner: Black Raven Dry Hopped Trickster
Round 5: Midnight Sun XXX Black Double, Midnight Sun Hop Dog Wheat, Stone Dry Hopped Ruination & Big Time Action Jackson
DSR: This is where it starts to get a bit blurry in Timperial memory bank – so I am taking over. This was an exciting round as we finally decided to into the Midnight Sun collection. Midnight Sun has become one of our favorite brewers, ever since beginning to ship beer to Seattle in the past year. They do so many inventive, off-the-cuff beers. The best part – they are always delicious. Again, they didn’t fail with either of the two beers served during this round.
The Hop Dog Wheat was extremely refreshing, with a smooth malt complexity that was inviting this late in the day. XXX was the top choice of our good friend Erik Baldwin (Amateur Hour). XXX is a monster of hops with a delicious roasty flavor. We all liked it – but it wasn’t spectacular. It took the title in an otherwise weak round. Stone’s dry hopped Ruination tasted exactly like Ruination out of the bottle. Big Time’s Action Jackson lacked serious flavor.
Winner: Midnight Sun XXX Black Double
Round 6: Two Beers Fresh Hop, Full Sail Lupulin, Dogfish Head Burton Baton, Russian River Pliny the Elder and HUB Ace of Spades
DSR: More people show up – more beers to try. Two of the more famous Imperial IPAs are selected – Pliny the Elder and Ace of Spaces. Pliny experiences endless acclaim from West Coast beer drinkers. HUB’s big IPA fared incredibly well last year at this same event. That was the launching pad for HUB’s popularity in the region. Over the past few months, HUB has penetrated the Seattle market and we see it often.
We tried HUB’s Ace of Spades back in July, at Saraveza’s IPA Fest. That time, it failed to impress. We held out hope that it was just bad luck with a bad batch and tried it in Round 6. Again,. it failed to impress anyone at our table. Most people felt it was just another IPA.
The one that did impress: Dogfish Head’s Burton Baton. The Baton has been around for awhile and many have probably tried it – if you haven’t buy it tonight! This beer is a huge IPA, aged in oak barrels. The beer is actually part Imperial IPA and part Old Ale, blended and stored on wood. Everyone enjoyed this beer, especially wood fanatics, who thought it had just the right amount of woody flavor. Hands down, the victor.
Winner: Dogfish Head Burton Baton
Round 7: Boundary Bay Imperial IPA, Avery Maharaja, Walking Man Homo Erectus, Ninkasi Maiden Shade & Double Mountain Molten Lava
DSR: Round 7 and 8 were the “ok, its time to get these beers” rounds. With a nice group of 6 at the table, we were able to expand our orders and clean up the rest of the list. Some old favorites made it into this round, as Boundary Bay, Avery and Walking Man Imperials were ordered. Hopefully, many of you have had a chance to try Maiden Shade. Its a peculiar, but undeniably refreshing, beer.
In this round, we had division among the people. The Beer Blotter contingent has a widely known obsession with Boundary Bay’s Imperial IPA. On most occasions, I will admit that this is my favorite Imperial IPA to drink. It simply never disappoints. On this occasion, its the same old greatness we have come to expect. The only problem is that my palate has become shot. Now, it takes twice the flavor to curl my brow. Luckily, Boundary Bay continues to offer a dense flavor punch in the mouth, with one of the best malt to hop balances on the market. There is no doubt that this will be the BB.com selection.
But, we must acknowledge the group-think mentality that we had hoped to espouse. The crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of Walking Man’s Homo Erectus. Having just visited the brewery with many of the people at the table, it made sense that there was some positive support for the Stevenson, Washington brewer. Walking Man makes some of the best beer in the State of Washington; it is undeniably the best rated Washington brewery on RateBeer.com. We agree that Walking Man’s Imperial IPA is a damn good beer, but it lacks the punch that Boundary Bay routinely packs. Regardless, we give the people what they want and a tie results.
Winner: Walking Man Homo Erectus (crowd) & Boundary Bay Imperial IPA (Beer Blotter)
Round 8: Midnight Sun Meltdown, Skagit Bourbon Barrel Reverend, Southern Tier Unearthly, Naked City Ace in Hole, Stone 14th Anniversary & Port Brewing 4th Anniversary
DSR: Well now, Round 8 is here. I can barely tell that we have tried almost 30 hoppy beers. This round is probably the most widely anticipated. For the people who hadn’t yet tried Port Brewing’s Anniversary or Southern Tier’s Unearthly, it was a momentous occasion. For those who were interested in the two intriguing Washington IPAs, there were goosebumps.
Port Brewing made this Anniversary Ale for its 4th year in business. We first had it back at 5 Guys, Burgers and Fries, which was held during Seattle Beer Week. The beer is everything that you have come to expect from Port Brewing: viciously pungent, densely lupulined, and incredibly sweet. We cannot say no. Unearthly is a lesson in fermentation cessation. The beer is purposely crafted to leave a lot of residual sugar, which nicely complements the high alpha oil content of its hops. The problem is that the Oak-Aged version is so amazingly incredible that it overshadows its un-oaked version. Because of that, this beer wasn’t too much to talk about.
We were very excited to try Naked City’s Ace in the Hole, a fresh hop made with Sorachi Ace hops. Sorachi Ace is a Japanese varietal, but it is now grown down in Prosser, Washington. This beer had almost no malt, allowing the aromatic hops to dominate the sip. We give it a thumbs up. Unfortunately, it had to perform next to Skagit River’s Bourbon Barrel Reverend EB IPA. At this juncture in the night, a bourbon washed IPA was exactly what the doctor ordered! The beer had a rich malt complexity to match the tartness of the bourbon barrel. Everyone at the table was intrigued, and the BB.com people were floored. We love this beer and encourage you all to seek it out. Nice work from the guys in Mt. Vernon.
Winner: Skagit River Bourbon Barrel Reverend EB
Round 9: Silver City Whoopass, Big Sky Imperial IPA, Left Hand Twin Sisters & Port Townsend Dry Hopped Imperial IPA
DSR: Round 9 has an impressive guest list. These are all very big IPAs, packed with booze and lots of flavor. While we typically love to drink Whoopass, it failed to turn heads at the table. The same was true of Big Sky’s Imperial. Not much to it.
The other two beers were quite the opposite. Left Hand’s Twin Sisters is packed with Sorachi Ace and a bevy of other typically bitter hops. I was surprised when I checked the hop bill, which Left Hand provides for all its consumers on its site (we love it when brewers do that – kudos to LH). Twin Sisters has a light spice due to the rye malt and bitter hops, which was a nice juxtaposition with the utterly profound fruitiness of our next beer. At 9.6%, its toasty.
Port Townsend: thank you for showing up. Over the past few years, we have watched Port Townsend grow into a more diverse, more risky and more delicious brewery. Their IPAs had lacked at tastings in the past, but the last few visits to the brewery, and showings like this, suggest that they belong near the top of WA brewers. Port Townsend’s Dry Hopped Imp. IPA was incredible. The fruitiness was something unmatched by any other beer at the table. We tasted grapefruit, tangerine, mango and melon. Mixing that with a mild malt base allowed the hop oils to burst in your mouth. Every person at the table was impressed. We confirmed this the following day (see below).
Winner: Port Townsend Dry Hopped Imperial IPA
Round 10: The Re-Run – Port Townsend Imperial IPA, Port Brewing Anniversary & Skagit River Bourbon Barrel Reverend.
Round 10 came on a second day visit to Brouwers to try some of the favorites. This trip included a new party who had trust problems over our Skagit and Port Townsend selections. We wanted to make sure we were not making a “tipsy” choice.
Well, we stuck with our guns. Our new guest thought that Port Brewing’s Anniversary could not be beaten – she was wrong. Port could not withstand the incredible flavors offered by Skagit and Port Townsend. The two local grogs floored our new guest and our selections were vindicated.
Winner: Skagit River Bourbon Barrel Reverend EB (Again.)
The Beer Blotter Top 5:
- Black Raven Wisdom Seeker
- Dogfish Head Burton Baton
- Skagit River Bourbon Barrel Reverend EB
- Port Townsend Dry Hopped Imperial IPA
- Boundary Bay Imperial IPA / Mikkeller Centennial Single Hop
Honorable Mentions: Midnight Sun XXX (voted #1 by Amateur Hour), Left Hand Twin Sisters, Port Brewing Anniversary and Walking Man Homo Erectus.