Saturday, March 13, 2010
Time To Drink: Dogfish Head Fort
What is a beer? Not really an existential question, and not one that people outside of beer geek circles spend a while lot of time contemplating. But with the release of the "strongest beer in the world," the Sink The Bismarck "quadruple IPA" from BrewDog brewery in Scotland, it's been asked a lot lately, both by beer geeks and the mainstream press. Is an alcoholic beverage that clocks in at 41% ABV really still a beer, or is it some other category of beverage - not quite a spirit, certainly not a wine, but "beer" doesn't quite get it either?
I'm not going to delve into that heady discussion (get it? heady? beer?? No?). But that question was running through the back of my mind as Suz and I tasted Fort by Dogfish Head brewery. Touted as the strongest fruit beer in the world, this 18% ABV monster uses over a ton of raspberries during fermentation, and that was obvious from the second we poured some from the large format (25.6oz) bottle into some wine glasses - the raspberries hit you right away. But so does the alcohol, which was very clearly present on the nose. The head - tiny, tight bubbles - dissipated quickly, leaving the lovely, rose-gold, slightly opaque liquid alone in the glass.
Fort is "strong" in French, and this beer is certainly that. Suz noted it more closely resembled a currant liqueur like Chambord than a framboise style Belgian beer. Lightly carbonated, the finish was long, and almost cloyingly sweet. That alcohol on the nose wasn't as obvious in the taste (but it was pretty obvious based on the buzz we had after finishing the bottle). But that sweetness builds on the palate, and becomes overwhelming eventually. It's pretty clear that this type of beer is not suited to a couple of people knocking back 12.5oz of the stuff while playing Scrabble (let's just say two letter words were about all we could conjur at the end of that game).
So when should you drink this? With three friends (a 6oz serving each seems right), from a white wine glass, while eating a great chocolate dessert (Suz suggested a dark chocolate mousse, which would be right on - bitter chocolate and sweet raspberries = yum). And I think that gets at the question about whether these types of beverages should be thought of as "beer" - we have to change the way we think of what beer is, or can be. Pop the cap on one if these and chug it down at a tailgate, and you're going to be in for quite a shock. But serve it like a dessert wine, or, in the case of the Sink The Bismarck, like a fine dram, and you begin to experience the beer the way the brewers intended. Some initial research can help determine your approach to these beverages, and result in some increased knowledge about what being a beer really means.