Dogfish Head – Hellhound on my Ale

Tasting: November 3, 2011
Style: Imperial IPA

Hellhound on my Ale

Blues guitarist, Robert Leroy Johnson (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – 1986) would have been 100 years old this past May. Although the details of his death are disputed, it is widely held that he was poisoned at the age of 27. He is prominently mentioned as a member of the famed “27 club” — named for musicians that died tragically at the age of 27. The “27 club” includes Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Wilson, Janis Joplin and most recently, Amy Winehouse. But what makes Johnson so interesting is the legend of his rise to fame. According to this legend, Johnson brought his guitar to the crossroads at midnight and sold his soul to the Devil. In exchange for his soul, Johnson would create blues that would make him famous. You might remember the movie “The Crossroads”, which was the story of a young musician’s search for Robert Johnson’s 30th song. However, Johnson’s fame came long after his death as he would have been 50 when his fame skyrocketed in 1961 and here again, at the 100th anniversary of his birth, the flame of his notoriety is rekindled again. The 100th anniversary has been marked with a reissue of his complete 29 song portfolio — and I guess to a lesser extent the honor of having Dogfish Head name a beer in his honor. This one is called Hellhound on my Ale– which coincidentally is the partial title of one of Robert Johnson’s most famous songs – Hellhound on my Trail.

Dogfish Head takes the “100” and applies it in a few places — this ale has 100 IBU, 10.0% alcohol by volume, an SRM (color) of 10.0 and it is dry-hopped with 100 kilos per 100 barrels. I guess I should drink this bomber in about 100 gulps or just give it 100 points. They’ve also added lemon to this ale as an homage to Robert Johnson’s mentor – Blind Lemon Jefferson.

The label also invites you to read more about Robert Johnson by visiting www.robertjohnsonhellhoundale.com.

This one pours a ruby colored brown with an off-white head. The lemon certainly accentuates the hops on the aroma. The taste is crisp and dry, meaning the flavor comes in and ends abruptly after I swallow my first sip and I’m left with no residual mouthfeel. I’ll have to do it again. Sip number two — the lemon is an interesting addition to this beer, it weaves itself nicely with the grassy/earthy bitterness of the hops. I don’t get much of malt here but it is subtly present and faintly gives me some caramel. On the negative side – it is a bit fizzy and the alcohol does a little devilish burn in your mouth. I’d call it a nice beer. I’d love to give it 100 points to go along with the theme – but I can’t — 84 points.

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