When I hear someone mention Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, my ears immediately perk up as they are one of my favorite breweries and I am always listening for the next creation or release of one of its unique beers. Sam Calagione founded the brewery 23 years ago and has produced such a vast array of beers during that time that it would be hard to remember them all. Dozens of them have been draft-only releases and of those, some never saw the light of day beyond the brewery and tasting room walls.
What I look for more often than not is what is called an extreme beer, a beer that uses a vast array of sometimes unique ingredients and always pushes the limits of the ABV, sometimes ranging in the 15-20 percent alcohol by volume range. Past mentions in the category, and some of my favorites have been Oak-aged Vanilla World Wide Stout, a 16-18 percent ABV stout aged in oak and conditioned on fresh vanilla beans, Bourbon Barrel-aged Palo Santo Marron, a beast of a beer with an amazing bourbon barrel feel and taste and 120 Minute IPA, a hop lovers dream clocking in at 15-20 percent ABV, and continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops for two solid hours.
That is why today, I am thrilled to be tasting one of the newest release from Dogfish, Fruit-Full Fort, a 15-18 percent ABV Belgian inspired beer infused with raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry and elderberry.
The base for this beer was a prior release, Fort. Originally released in 2005, the beer was once again a Belgian-influenced beer brewed with insane amounts of raspberries. Fort was brewed from 2005 until 2011 and then took a hiatus until being brewed again from 2015 on. Fort comes in at approximately 16 percent ABV and 49 IBUS and this newest incarnation of this beer, Fruit-Full Fort increases the IBUs by one and adds the additional styles of berries to add more fruitiness to the beer and to create a more multi-dimensional brew.
I am mentally prepared for this beer as I know it will be one of the biggest sippers I have probably had. A medium-hard pour barely produces any head at all and after a few minutes a light foam ring with a pinkish hue forms on the very outer edges of the inside of the glass and remains there for the duration. Aromas are bold and the first I receive is a slightly stinging aroma of fresh berries, especially blackberries and raspberries. I am sure the elderberries and boysenberries are present but I am not very familiar with those flavors as much. Yeast raises itself to the top of the aroma chain immediately and fights for dominance with the berry essences. The color is like dark red berries but has a slightly brown tinge that tones the brilliance down a bit.
First sip reminds me that the ABV is nearing 18 percent and has the feel of a light-bodied brandy or maybe a bold, complex cabernet. The berries remain players and the residual sugars stay with them and I now think of having a rich dark chocolate dessert that would go great with this. There is also a big tannin presence like a big red wine and a jammy feel like well made preserves.
Carbonation is obviously very low as should be expected and the mouthfeel is warming and sweet. The finish is light, sweet, bready and full of berries and even as the beer warms, the big alcohol feel remains about the same all the way to the end.