The weekend’s beer run found me back at the Four Seasons Beer Store, looking for something especially especial. I had the RateBeer app on my iPod touch and some money in my jeans. The plan was to buy a beer for review and have a little left over to get something extra for the beer fridge, as it was running quite low.
I entered the store and strode to the craft cooler section where the microbrews and ciders and wine coolers and Cheladas all resided in a seemingly logical order. My initial intent was to buy a decent craft beer in a reasonable quantity (sixpack) for a reasonable price, write the review on that beer and have plenty left over for that “backup” beer for when I wanted just a bit more.
I spotted a sixer of the new New Belgium Dig summer seasonal (5.6%.) I figured, yeah, that would be cool. 5.6% for six beers with a reputably good taste should do the trick. I also grabbed a sixpack of a canned craft beer, Paddy Pale Ale, one of the ones that impressed me at that recent beer-tasting event that my buddy Jeff and I attended.
With quantities of cold beer in hand, I strode through the craft aisle with my treasures under my arms and looked for something that I perhaps hadn’t seen before. And there it was. Something that I hadn’t seen before. Right in the same spot that the 3Floyds Behemoth was a few weeks before.
DogFish Head now had the primo spot in this mini-bomber section. Right there in the front was DFH’s Hellhound. Grabbing a bomber and looking closer at the label I read that this was DFH’s Robert Johnson’s Hellhound On My Ale. There must be a story behind that.
I checked the ABV at 10%: (nice) and read bits of the side label which highlighted much of the information. What I held in my hand (and I found out later) was a repeat performance of last year’s initial release of the same beer from DFH. It was a tribute brew to Robert Johnson, a bluesman in the ‘20s who is said to have changed the way blues have been performed ever since.
Phew! Fourteen bucks a bomber! But it’s DogFish Head. I decided to put Dig back in the cooler where I got it from and go back, face the bombers and decide just what the hell I was gonna do. Screw it. I had my check book. I grabbed two bombers of Hellhound, took Paddy with me and paid the man.
I regretted my decision, but still thinking of Behemoth at $19 a bomber which I missed, I felt like I was still coming out with my head above water. Back home, it was bombers into the fridge and wait for the beer time to come.
Spaghetti leftovers with plenty of bread paved the way for a 10% beer that I didn’t know what to expect as far as taste was concerned. When the time finally came, I made my way to the Manly Garage which at the time was at 64°. I started a small fire in the Sotz, and with a DFH snifter glass poised and ready, I uncapped the first bomber.
The beer poured amber in color, almost orange. A big, fluffy head arose to an inch high and was off-white, thick and creamy. Carbonation was brisk and composed of millions of micro-bubbles rushing upwards. The aroma was mild and had only the slightest hint of hops.
The first sip was rather odd. it was like no other beer that I’ve tasted before. The body of this beer was pretty hefty. A bunch of different malts had to have been used to produce this big body. But what was amazing was that the malts were darker than the usual IPA malts used and so, gave the beer a somewhat brown ale side flavor. The swallow was damn near brutal with the sting of hops. No taste sensation of citrus just yet but that’s OK. I could wait for the palate to get accustomed to the new visitor.
First impressions on this beer were how diverse it was. There was the big mouthfeel at the beginning. The liquid felt thicker than usual. Some sensations of subtle sweetness (but no lemon) tastes were added during the intake. The transfer to the middle and then the malts took over. Brown malts like in an amber ale. The sublime swallow and exhale. The swallow seemed to be key here in that the true flavor of the malt character comes out into the open and also the hops ride roughshod all over the back of the throat. Rough. Like a wood rasp. As the charge of beer went down, I could only wonder in amazement at what the hell just happened and what factors were responsible for this taste.
Halfway through the first glassful I still couldn’t get over how remarkable and different this beer was. Reading the label showed numbers all of which were multiples of 10.
2011 marks the 100th birthday of Mississippi Delta bluesman Robert Johnson, who according to legend, sold his soul down at the crossroads in a midnight bargain and changed music forever. DogFish Head pays tribute to this blues legend by gettin’ the hellhounds off his trail and into this finely-crafted ale. Hellhound is a super-hoppy ale that hits 100 IBUs in the brewhouse, Alc. 10.0% by Vol., 10.0 SRM in color and dry-hopped with 100% Centennial hops at a rate of 100 kilos per 100 barrel brew-length. To accentuate and magnify the citrusy notes of the Centennial hops (and as a shoutout to Robert Johnson’s mentor Blind Lemon Jefferson), we add dried lemon peel and flesh to the whirlpool.
By the end of he first glass, I could feel the slight heat in my gut. Interestingly, there was absolutely no taste of alcohol in any of the sips. Assuredly the sign of a well-brewed beer. I would have to agree that this beer conforms perfectly to the style of an Imperial IPA, but the malts couple with that fact give this beer its ability to stand out from the crowd. Some DIPAs focus on perfect malt/hop balance, others focus on medium body with citrusy flavors. Still others are an all barbed wire hop extravaganza. This beer is all of the above. I’m still amazed at how DFH did this.
Searches for a DFH Hellhound clone recipe revealed little to nothing. One can only speculate on the malt bill and the amount of Centennial hops to add. Hitting 100 IBUs and 10 SRM while shooting for 10% ABV seems far beyond the scope of my expertise as a neophyte homebrewer. Guys can talk about your barrel-aged Trappist homebrew clones all you want, but given a set of guidelines to hit a specific set of numbers with no recipe is far beyond my expertise and imagination. I really gotta hand it to DFH for brewing this beer based on the numbers given.
How can I summarize this? Let’s just say that if you’re looking for an Imperial IPA that’s different from all the rest, Hellhound is the one. If you’re looking for a maltier blend of an Imperial IPA, Hellhound is the one. If you’re looking for an adventure for your palate, Hellhound is the one. If you’re looking for a nice, light summer sippin’ beer, look elsewhere. This beer will twist your tongue and flip your lid.
Mr. See owned a saw and Mr. Soar owned a seesaw.
Now, See’s saw sawed Soar’s seesaw before Soar saw See, which made Soar sore.
Had Soar seen See’s saw before See sawed Soar’s seesaw, See’s saw would not have sawed Soar’s seesaw.
Taste: A+ > Like sparring a round with Mike Tyson while you both are wearing marshmallow gloves.
Smoothness: A > Slick as a pole dancer’s leg on debut night.
Drinkability: A > The unbelief lasts through the entire experience.
Bang for the buck: B > A little pricey, but well worth the bragging rights.
Paid price: $13.99 per 750ml bomber
Brewer’s website: Dogfish Head Craft brewers, Milton Delaware
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: (sniff) Citrusy. I can smell the bitter. Like the rind. (sip) Oh yeah, this is real bitter and that’s all I’m getting. (sip) It’s like eating the outside of a lemon or orange just to eat the peel. (sip) It’s dry, it’s really dry too. Blech. Now I’m going to have to eat chocolate. (Beer and a shot… of chocolate.)
Sam talks about Hellhound
BeerGeekNation guy Chris Steltz reviews in a video from last year
Robert Johnson performs