|Happy Birthday to me!|
When I went to the WOCAAW a few weeks ago, I was looking forward to the opportunity of purchasing a rare bottle of beer either from Sam's personal collection or just straight from the brewpub. While we were in Rehoboth Beach having lunch, I saw that they had a bottle of 120 Minute IPA from '07. 2007 was one of the most special years of my life because it was the year I got married, the year I took my first plane ride, as well as my first trip to Hawai'i (among myriad other amazing great experiences and moments) and so, for me, it holds a special place in my heart. Thus, when I saw that one of my favorite beers had that particular vintage available, I jumped on it.
I decided to pair the '07 120 Minute with one of the very first bottles of the same beer that I purchased back in 2011. The Analog-A-Go-Go was my first experience with the beer and I made sure to take advantage of the chance to buy multiple bottles at the brewery. I drank a few and decided I would try to cellar the others (sans the cellar--we're in a duplex, after all!). I thought it would be a great opportunity to try the '07 and the theoretically well-aged '11 side-by-side to examine their similarities and differences. Plus, I wouldn't need to drink anything else for the night! I decided to use my '12 WOCAAW tasting glass for the '07 because I picked both up at the event and then the '11 AAGG tasting glass because that was also where I grabbed the '11 bottle. It seemed fitting and it offered me a great chance to enjoy equal sips from equally appropriate glassware.
|They are the same...and yet different!|
|'07 on the left, '11 on the right|
As disparate as the beers were in appearance, their noses and flavor profiles varied to an even greater degree. The '11 had a smooth, velvety alcohol pop to it that offered a hint of the hop bomb that awaited. The '07, on the other hand, had a rich, syrupy, scathing alcoholic punch that fired directly out of the tasting glass and into my nostrils. I had expected the mouthfeels of both to have been smoothed out by the aging and, though they were, the '07 was surprisingly thick. As a matter of fact, the flavors that came through that initial sip were a near perfect marriage of the 1995 vintage Samuel Adams Triple Bock that I had had a few weeks ago and the familiar hot, alcohol-laden IPA smack that the 120 Minute is famous for.
In contrast to its elder brethren, the '11 tasted almost exactly like a fresh batch of 120 but smoother. It still was undeniably an IPA but there were new flavor notes that were poking through--a delicate sweetness that pervaded each sip that ordinarily doesn't accompany a glass of the potent potable. The '07, on the other hand, had transmogrified into something that seemed more like a blend of a powerful barleywine and an American strong ale than an imperial IPA. Undertones of dark, vinous fruit began to emerge alongside a suddenly thick and almost malty foundation. The hops were still there but they were no longer the dominant feature with so many new nuances vying for tastebud attention.
Overall, I enjoyed them both thoroughly and I can say that I will likely never have two bottles of 120 Minute side-by-side ever again. Clearly attempting to turn an 18%+ abv behemoth into a session beer is ill advised but it certainly made for an interesting evening. Midway through my taste comparison, I wound up falling asleep upstairs in our living room. The problem was that I didn't know that I had fallen asleep and so I thought my dream was reality. When I blinked in the dream and was then suddenly looking out at the television from atop the chaise, I was totally confused as to where I was and how I got there. It was a 120 Minute IPA induced Inception moment.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a totem to examine...
--Beer Whisperer Matt