Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dogfish Head - Midas Touch

Dogfish Head Brewery is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. On the one hand, they make some of the awesomest beers on the planet (the 120 is in my top 3). On the other hand, they make some of the worst beers on the planet (what's up with their poor belgians?). And, they like to muck about (Blueberry Ales, Chicory Stouts, etc.) and they haven't found beer that they can't make an "imperial" version of. In many respects they are the prototypical modern American craft brewery. They hate conventional beers (god forbid someone just want to drink a plain ol' pilsner - no, got to make it an imperial pilsner, whatever that means), love their hops, and tend to misunderstand lagers and belgian beers.

Having said all that, if you're in the mood for an imperial pilsner or some oyster in your stout, few do it better than Dogfish Head. So, they get an "A+" for creativity, even if the end result could often have used an editor before allowing it to go to market (note: guys, just because you brew an entire fermenter of the stuff does not mean you have to sell it).

They have two interesting fermented beverages which are not "beers" at all. Sure, they look like beer, they're fermented like beer. But to approach them as beer is to come away sorely disappointed. The Midas Touch is one of these. (BA. RB.) The person who gave it to me had the following things to say about it: "Have another beer ready to wash the taste out of your mouth", "drink it over a sink, so you can pour the rest out", "the worst beer I've ever drank." And that was before I tried it. So, needless to say, since I usually trust this guy's judgment, I was a bit apprehensive.

We interrupt this review for a brief history/mythology lesson. Midas was a King of Phrygia residing in Pessinus, which is now Ballihisar, Turkey. His kingdom was known for its great wealth and generosity. The myth alleges that Dionysus' (the greek god of wine) teacher (a drunk with powers of prophecy) wandered away and was found in Midas' garden (an alternative holds that Midas kidnapped him to gain a prophecy). Midas then returned him to Dionysus who granted Midas anything he wished; Midas, of course, wished that everything that he touched would turn to gold. When he hugged his daughter and she became a gold statue Midas went back to Dionysus and asked to have his powers removed. Dionysus consented and told Midas that to wash off the powers he would have to bathe in the river Pactolus. As a result, the sands of the Pactolus became rich with gold (this is true, the sand of the Pactolus River is gold) and became the basis for the world's first gold-based currency. (didn't see that coming did ya!?).

In any event, in 1957, researchers at University of Pennsylvania uncovered a burial chamber that was thought to belong to "the" King Midas (it has been disproven). In this tomb was discovered a drinking vessel containing a fermented grape and barley based residue. Based on the ingredients revealed by an analysis of this cup, Dogfish Head has created a drink that they call the "Midas Touch Golden Elixir".

As I said earlier, the reviews weren't good (e.g., "the worst thing I've ever tasted") and I can tell you that it is not the worst thing I've ever tasted; the winner of that dubious award is the Jones Soda Brussel Sprouts Soda. In fact, the Midas Touch was downright drinkable. As I mentioned earlier, you have to approach this drink as something other than beer. For that reason, I chose a champagne flute as my drinking vessel of choice. It poured a clear, golden and bubbly with a head that dissipated quickly. It smelled of wine and clover with a hint of sweetness and barley. While the taste was somewhat cloying (it is 9% ABV), it was actually pretty decent. The high carbonation keeps the intensity from settling on the tongue, and the grapes and honey give it a mild sweetness that is offset by the barley and yeast. Surprisingly, the saffron doesn't seem to lend much color at all, though it manages to assist the barley in muting the harsh grape-y/alcholic taste. I wouldn't want to drink a six-pack of this, but as a novelty it works well. And, really, that's all I've really come to expect from Dogfish Head anymore - novelties that work well.


  1. As I have said before and will say again, Dogfish is the "Ryan Adams of Beer." When they are on, they are on. But they don't just put out only that which is "on." They put everything and let you do the sorting.

    I tried the Midas' Touch last week. If I hadn't been told, "Try this beer," I would not have guessed it was "beer." It was "odd, fermented drink with lots of bubbles," not beer. Also, not worst thing ever. Not even worst fermented drink ever. I didn't even shut my eyes and shudder, but I agree. I will not be stocking my next party with cases of it. I would have mutiny.

  2. I thought this was the best beer I ever had. It is absolutely smooth, flavorful and delicious. So glad I happened upon it.

  3. its a fine beer (or whatever label the debate on how to categorize it yields)... respect that it is a 9 percenter, thus, is a sipper... aka... enjoy the flavors. Swish it in your mouth a little. This beer fits well in the beginning or middle of a session. And true, one or two will do. It pairs well with Unibroue Trois Pistoles. Then follow with your lighter beers. Bottomline, it has a nice unique flavor, and ya feels alright after partaking. Enjoy.

  4. Clearly, some beer drinkers need to open their minds on what is good and what isn't. I love beer -- everything from pilsners and lagers to ales (especially IPA) and porters (which I once brewed at a do-it-yourself brewery). But I'm also a lover of wine, so perhaps that makes a difference.

    I think Midas Touch is awesome, but yes, I wouldn't call it a beer. Although I wouldn't use it as a replacement for a party, I definitely plan to stock up on it and can't wait to introduce it to all of my beer-loving friends (and maybe some enemies!).


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