The Dogfish Head Fort; a giant Belgian Ale brewed with a ridiculous amount of pureed raspberries. Would you expect anything less from Dogfish Head? Well, you shouldn’t. Dogfish Head has a huge range of beers right now, and many of them are high alcohol, rich beers primed for ageing. The Fort is a perfect example. What is a ridiculous amount of raspberries you ask? Over one ton of them! Its works out to be 20 pounds per barrel produced.
This though is no ordinary fruit beer. It is not some mild wheat beer sweetened with touches or even heaps of fruit. This is a beer crafted to be rich, large, and definitely in charge. The one ton of pureed raspberries are added during fermentation so that the yeasts can do their job in a playground of sugar.
Sam Calagione, Founder and President of Dogfish Head, claims it to be the strongest fruit beer in the world at 18% abv, and it very well may be. It really is an exciting experience, and Sam is adamant that this beer will age supremely well and will really hit its stride after a few years. I have only had the opportunity to enjoy a fresh bottle, but when I am ready to shell out the $20 that each 750 ml bottle costs, you can be sure I will be cellaring it.
Uncap the bottle and you will instantly notice that the air around you now has the perfumed scent of sweet fruit fields and tart raspberries. But then pour it and this beer erupts into a massive world of deeply rich aromas with pungent fruit and Belgian Flavors.
The pour is very lively rushing a stream of tiny carbonation everywhere the beer exists, but it does not lift a significant head. On my first pour I actually got close to no head, but then the second, more vigorous pour did yield about a half inch or white fluffy head. Both though showed only traces of lacing after a few minutes. It can be difficult for a beer of this strength to maintain its head, so I was certainly not worried. Especially not after peering into the deep ruby red beer that sat in front of me.
It glowed amber orange in the light showing traces of gold and hints of garnet out of the light. It really was a beautiful beer that drew me in close. I poured it cool around 7C (45F) expecting that it would be both refreshing when cool, and soothing when warm. Something told me I would not be pounding back this 18% monster.
The nose is an absolute rush. You barely need to come close to it; a gentle waft from a foot away will bring you bright sweet raspberries, pale malt sweetness and hints of spice and alcohol. Get right in there and you are absolutely consumed by rich fruits. More than just raspberries come to play this game now – mulled cherries, blackberries and bits of warm apple are there along with vanilla and light caramel. The malts are there but hidden under the sweet power of the fruit. It shows a brisk wall of tartness and still the warmth of alcohol, but no where close enough to bing down the fruit. Notes of spice, maybe white pepper appear in the end, but still, this beer is dominated by a ton of raspberries.
I will warm when you go into drink this beer, do not expect a fruit Lambic. Cause it is not. In fact, if you put the Fort vs a Lambic in a boxing ring, the Lambic would be TKO’d by the first round. But you should be ready for it after smelling it.
First comes the undeniable power of Belgian ales. Powerful, brightly tart Belgian yeast and pale malts open your tongue to sweetness and funk. After only a quick second the fruit begins to pour in almost erasing that initial sensation. Once it touches your cheeks it is all uphill from there. The rich and sweet flavors of cherries and backberries wash in first followed soon by a more tart raspberry crack. It all comes in very smoothly offering itself and several flavors bound together in unison and harmony. The apples that I got in the nose are gone, but the spice and pepper is here in the back of my mouth. It adds a necessary crispness and a touch of balance to this supremely sweet beer.
Sweet yes – but sugar sweet, no. It is very natural and shows no signs of medicinal sweetness or artificial flavors as many fruit beers tend to. As it warms up a touch the depth of the fruit is revealed and more spice like cinnamon and clove step to bat. A warmth of brandy like alcohol washes by your tongue making you a touch more sensitive to the soothing tart of the raspberries.
Although it is very sweet and juicy, it is actually relatively dry and quenching. Very fine carbonation definitely helps this, and the pepper, tart flavors and a subtle hint of hops all help make this beer drinkable. Without that it would be too one sided and over aggressive.
I enjoyed this a lot, but enjoyed it on its won. Next time I have a bottle I will be pairing it with either a flourless chocolate cake, a chocolate raspberry tart, or beef ribs. Yes, beef ribs. The sweet savory flavors of the tender beef coated in sweet and tangy BBQ sauce will be amazing with this sweetly tart powerhouse. Make sure you have a bib.