The Dogfish Head Sixty-One graciously walks the not-so-fine line between wine and beer. In fact, its first iteration was just beer with a bit of wine poured in. If you ask anybody who knows their beer (or wine), they’ll tell you that this is not acceptable under any circumstances. However, the geniuses at Dogfish Head Brewery have pulled it off.
Dogfish Head has grown to be one of the most popular and well-respected East Coast microbreweries over the past two decades. It is known for producing offbeat brews with untraditional ingredients such as wattleseed, myrica gale and lingonberries. (Does anybody even know what those are?) Recently, Dogfish Head has expanded its business to include spirits and even a hotel dedicated to its own food and drink creations — the Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware.
The Sixty-One is a prime example of their exotic ales, and the story of its creation is just as interesting as the beer itself. Apparently, Dogfish Head president Sam Calagione and his neighborhood friends have a tradition of getting together at a local bar and having a round of the brewery’s standard 60 Minute India pale ale. One time, Calagione also ordered a glass of red wine and poured a bit into each of his friends’ pint glasses. The mix became part of the tradition, and Calagione decided to capture the idea in a bottle and offer it as the Sixty-One — 60 Minute IPA plus one sip of wine.
After a year of research and development at Dogfish Head, the recipe for the Sixty-One was complete with Syrah grape must. The result is a surprisingly exceptional ale.
The beer pours a beautiful amber with a purplish tint that you’ll never find in a more traditional beer. The head is thin but retains well, and an average level of carbonation can be seen.
Classic IPA aromas of citrus and pine stand out as well as a trace of malt. The nose also contains a strong Syrah character which is nice but might be confusing if you were not told what you were drinking.
The taste of the Syrah is not what some cliche beer reviewers call a “note.” It’s a bold, tangy wine flavor that almost puts this beer in its own category. The traditional hoppy bitterness of the 60 Minute IPA is present, but the finish is noticeably sweet and smooth. The bitter hops, touch of malt and decent amount of carbonation give the beer a crisp, satisfying mouthfeel.
If you’re looking for classic flavor, go with Dogfish Head’s Indian Brown Ale or 60 Minute IPA. However, if you’re interested in trying something experimental, the Sixty-One is a great beer to start with before delving into the rest of Dogfish Head’s eclectic collection. The Sixty-One is available in four-packs or 22-ounce bottles year round. Keeping a few on hand means that you’ll never have to choose beer or wine to accompany your meal — you can have both!