Founded in 1995 by Sam Calagione, the Dogfish Head Brewery based in Milton, Delaware sits among a small pantheon of craft breweries that have managed to compete, at least on some level, with the big boys while maintaining an allegiance to the experimentation and creativity that makes craft brewing more an exercise in artistry than in bottom-line thinking.  From the day that we enjoyed our first sips of Dogfish Head’s IPA line – defined by absurd IBU levels courtesy of a proprietary continual hopping device known as Sir Hops Alot – the brewery earned a place in our hearts as a true go-to outfit.  Dogfish’s Indian Brown Ale earned a permanent spot on the top shelf of the castle ‘fridge.  All was well with the world.  And then things got weird.  

While we applaud forays into the absurd, Dogfish Head has, from time to time, pushed the limits of this Baron’s gustatory threshold.  Two major letdowns included the raspberry-flavored strong ale, Fort, and Festina Peche: sphincter-clenchingly terrible and sticky saccharine, we abruptly abandoned our love affair with Dogfish Head and, save for an occasional frolic and detour, came to consider the brewery’s suds expensive offerings that were more than likely to disappoint.   Until today.

The Baron welcomes Dogfish Head back into his heart courtesy of Burton Baton, a 10% ABV, 70 IBU English-style old-ale/imperial IPA blend. “Lush and enjoyable now… this beer ages with the best of ’em,”  the label promised.  It didn’t disappoint.  Dogfish ferments each style of brew separately in stainless tanks, then transfers them to oak tanks for a month’s worth of combined fermentation.   The result is all the bright circus notes of a good Imperial IPA combined with subtle hints of wood and vanilla.

The brew poured an unusual electric orange with a finger of rich cotton head that gradually dissipated.  On the nose were pungent notes of toast, tobacco, pine, and citrus.  The flavor was sublime: dried fruits, particularly raisins, with citrus, carmel, and a subtle splash of bourbon. Mouthfeel was velvety and chewy, pleasing and sure.  If there was one drawback, it was an overabundance of ethanol on the nose and the tongue.  Delicious as it was, it’s a boozy offering at heart and after one I was satiated and relaxed: a wonderful sipping brew.  I give Burton Baton three and a half hops.

Welcome back, Sam.  And, to borrow from Douglas Adams, thanks for all the (Dog)fish.


  1. I would also add the Black and Blue to the list of Dogfish Head abominations.

    Though, I think we’re sometimes a little hypocritical re: DFH. We chastise other breweries for being too “meh” and then we do the same to DFH for being too “out there”. I guess the answer, like all things in life, lies in some happy medium. Or maybe we’re just dickheads who like to find fault with everything. Probably the latter.

    Regardless, one of my favorite “new” trends in brewing is the idea of combining styles into one “superstyle”. So the Burton Baton intrigues me to no end. I suspect DFH will be on the forefront of this brave new world and that they’ll create a number of exceptional brews (like the Baton) and a number of highly questionable ones (perhaps some sort of Russian Imperial Lambic). Whatever…DFH keeps Aleheads on our toes and that’s half the fun.

  2. enjoying a Dogfish head Raison D’Etre a strong Belgian style Ale right now, its brewed with Raisins which is something new and exciting for me on a Tuesday night.

  3. One of our favorites. If you like the D’Etre, they make a stronger version of the brew called the Raison D’Extra which I think is even better. The Raison D’Etre was one of those beers that showed me how wide-open the world of brewing could be. Raisins and beets in beer? And it’s actually good? Nice work, Dogfish Head!

    Now, as we’ve noted many times, DFH has a tendency to take these experiments a little too far. But as long as they produce something like the D’Etre every once in awhile, I’m all for it.

    Glad you’re drinking on a Tuesday night, Abba. I cracked into a St. Rogue Red with dinner last night. Like Dogfish Head, Rogue is one of those breweries we disparage a lot. And like Dogfish Head, when I drink one of their better offerings, I remind myself that we really don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about. That was a just a good beer, through and through.

  4. Picked up a six of Raison D’Etre per your recommendation, Abba. Terrific brew. Many thanks!

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