Dogfish Head, Burton Baton

Grade: B-
Dogfish Head Brewing Co.

Pours clear as a bell, dark amber/orange with a rocky, persistant tan head. Aroma of some spicy, citrusy hops, with some herbal, earthy notes mingled in. Some vanilla in the nose as well, with slightly sweet, bready malts backing it up. Mouthfeel is heavy, with only a little carbonation noticable. The flavor is an interestingly balanced mix of sweet caramels and agressive hops. The vanilla from the oak is extreamly pronounced, probably the most noticable of all the oak beers I've tried so far. The sweetness is still very present, and while not quite cloying, it's damned close to it. The caramel, toffee, and marmalade flavors linger on the tongue.

There is an odd drop off in the flavor progression however. In the front of the palate, the oak and the hops lend a domineering flavor profile. The back of the palate holds that lingering sweetness. In between, there seems to be nothing at all. There is the initial blast of flavor, then nothing, then the lingering finish. What can cause this, I can't begin to guess (well I can, but I need to keep this relatively brief). The hopping here is trying it's best to counter the sweetness from the malts. I am willing to give Dogfish Head the benefit of the doubt however, and say that the beer I have in front of me might be old, and the hops may have fallen out of it as it aged, leaving it sweeter than intended. The alcohol isn't overly agressive in the flavor, but there is a warming sensation as you drink. The oak character here is probably one of the most subtle I've seen used in beers. The vanilla and some of the earthyness comes through loud and clear. I think it aids the hops quite well, offering a harmonizing note to the spicy, herbal, and slightly citrusy flavors.

However the sweetness overall is a blaring signal that this is a Dogfish Head beer. With the exception of the 60 Minute IPA and a select few others, every Dogfish beer I've had has been way too sweet. Thick in the mouthfeel, cloying, and generally not quaffable. I had a 9 year old Dogfish Head 120 Minute once, and I wanted some pancakes to pour it on. Viscous, thick, and sweet are words I use to describe most of their beers. While this beer is more in line with an Imperial IPA (read: hoppy and big) it falls a little flat in the hop department, and ventures too far into the sweet department. I've had (and reviewed) beers that have all that big warming body, oak with it's earthy vanilla notes, and hops that were green and fresh that you want in an oak aged double IPA. While some of those elements are here, I wouldn't hold Burton Baton up as the prime example of what an oak aged double IPA should be.