Dogfish Head’s new Sixty-One definitely fits their tagline of “Off-centered ales for off-centered people.” Perhaps more than any of its peers, Dogfish Head seems to revel in creativity, trying to deliver entirely new experiences for its consumers. The results are sometimes more novel than delicious, but its successes range from interesting takes on established styles (90 Minute Imperial IPA, Worldwide Stout) to completely original experiments. There’s ApriHop (made with apricot), Black and Blue (blackberries and blueberries) and Chicory Stout (chicory, coffee and licorice root).
With a nod to their flagship 60 Minute IPA, Sixty-One is a continually hopped India Pale Ale brewed with Syrah grape must. It’s not the first time the brewery has created hybrids of beer and wine, a tradition that began with founder Sam Calagione would pour a bit of his favorite wine into the glasses of 60 Minute when he gathered with friends. Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch incorporates Muscat grapes, the Red and White is fermented with Pinot Noir juice, and Raison D’Etre uses raisins. Unfortunately, the Sixty-One is the least successful wine mash-up so far.
Pouring a dark pinkish, almost roset hue, Sixty-One is distinctly wine-like on the nose with a sweet grapeness on the front end. The finish is all IPA hops, though, giving it a rougher quality than its soft color would suggest. In other words, it’s secure enough in its beer-ness to wear pink.
Like a group of snooty wine connoisseur at a beer fest, though, the flavors don’t get along particularly well. The full-bodied dark fruitiness of the Syrah grapes erase the pleasant citrus notes of IPAs like 60 Minute. It’s an off-centered alteration but not necessarily an improvement.
What does go great together is music, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy recorded a song called “Sixty-One” honoring the beer’s origins. It’s available with a four-pack of the beer purchased directly from the brewery or brewpup.
The beauty of new creations is that taste is relative. If you’re a wine-lover looking for a little bitterness, Sixty-One might just be your gateway. But there are better grape-infused beers out there—and some of them are brewed right in Milton, Delaware.
Brewery: Dogfish Head
City: Milton, Del.
Style: IPA / Fruit Beer