Beer of the Week: Dogfish Head Squall IPA
One of the great many things about homebrewing your own beer is bottling. Well, not the bottling process, per se -- cleaning, drying, and filling 50 or more bottles with beer can make you long for the simpler process of just getting a keg and force carbonating the whole batch so it's ready to drink in minutes. But the aside from giving you a tangible product of your homebrew efforts, bottling a beer does something to change your brew that can't be matched by kegging.
Before bottling, brewers add what's called priming sugar to the batch (alternatively, they add a little bit of wort, which is unfermented beer). Once the beer ends up in the bottle and is capped, the yeast that's still alive in the brew goes to work on the sugars sugar, creating carbon dioxide. That Co2 is what actually carbonates the beer, giving it the tingly fuzz and thick head you crave. And everyone craves thick head.
Of course, other nifty things happen when carbonation takes place in the bottle. Additional aromatic flavors can be introduced. And unlike filtered beers, which are relatively yeast-free when they hit the bottle, "bottle conditioned" beers are given an extended life span thanks to the presence of yeast. That yeast also enables these beers to change over time. I can't tell you how different my bottles of homebrew taste at different aging intervals. One beer I brewed, a pale ale, was tinny and plain after only a few weeks of conditioning. But after about six months of hanging out in the bottle, it became a whole other animal.
All this is why Dogfish Head's latest entry, Squall IPA, is really enticing. It's an entirely bottle conditioned, unfiltered version of their 90 Minute IPA, meaning it was carbonated and finished in the bottle. The difference the conditioning process makes on the brew is clear from the first sip: It's spicier, warmer, and fuller-bodied than its filtered younger brother. While Squall retains 90 Minute's fruity, sweet aroma, to me it's a more aggressive beer reminiscent of drinking a quality batch of homebrew.
Of course, there's also the fact that Squall IPA will age great in a bottle, preferably for a year or more. Since it just came out, I highly recommend grabbing a few bottles; sample some now and store the rest to crack at different aging intervals. If you want to get fancy with it, you can even take notes on how the beer has changed over time. If you're not already a homebrewer, it might give you an appreciation for the difference between homemade beers and the filtered ones you purchase in the store. Not to mention, I think the label is pretty bad ass.
Squall is 9 percent alcohol by volume. Pick it up at Total Wine and Spirits (about $8.99 per 750 ml champagne bottle).
Another quick note: Bottle conditioned beers usually have yeast sediment built up in the bottom of the bottle, and as a result can pour slightly murkier than filtered beers. This is good! Whether you like the taste of yeast sediment or not (it's a preference), yeast contains lots of B vitamins which are good for you. For best results, store bottles upright so these "dregs" sink to the bottom. Pour smoothly and stop when you hit the dark brown stuff. Enjoy!
Here's a quick video about Squall from Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione.