East Meets West: Reviewing Dogfish Head’s Fort and Higher Math

DFH Fort and Higher Math

Craft beer is crazy, stupid, fucking beautiful — and it has been ever since Dogfish Head came on the scene in 1995. While famous across the country for IPAs like 60 Minute and 90 Minute, it’s the brewery’s “off-centered” offerings that set it apart and keep the Delaware-based craft beer pioneers relevant in a market dominated by West Coast IPAs. Perhaps you’ve heard it asked, “Wherez the hopz, bro?”

And despite our decidedly West Coast bias here (sorry for the shameless pun-based brand-awareness plug — we’ll be noting that in our next confession), we couldn’t help but wrap our lips around a pair of bottles from DFH when a colleague brought them back from a recent trip to D.C.

Presenting, for our discerning taste buds, Higher Math and Fort. The first is described as an “ale brewed with chocolate and sour cherries,” and tips the scale at a massive 17% ABV. The 20th Anniversary beer from Sam Calagione and crew is meant to evoke memories of his first home-brewed beer, but there’s nothing nostalgic about this forward-thinking ale.

With an abundance of sweet and sour cherry in the aroma and a huge, burnt-brown sugar nose right up front, this feels like a home brewer’s experiment right from the start. A very good, creative, inventive homebrew that feels like the fruition of a late-night, barleywine-induced brewer’s fever dream.

There’s more and more fruit in the initial sips, and enough alcohol heat that you can’t forget you’re drinking a 17% ABV beer (although drink a few of them, and you’ll forget a lot more than that).

If there are flaws, they’re covered up by layer after layer of flavor and alcohol. Is it stylistically accurate? Who knows. This beer defies classification beyond “interesting.” It’s hard to imagine drinking more than one (or in our case, half of a shared bottle), but that’s part of the beauty of this beer and Dogfish Head in general.

This beer would be just as good paired with short ribs (as DFH’s website suggests) or reduced and incorporated in the barbecue sauce itself. Like Kanye West, it’s a distinct, unique and brilliantly creative force — and like Yeezus, it’s probably not for everyone.

That doesn’t appear to be the goal of Fort, which is decidedly simpler and more drinkable.

A Belgian-style ale brewed with a “ridiculous amount of raspberry juice,” Fort is exactly as billed. The big fruit aroma smells like a smoothie, and it tastes like sweet fruit jelly. Each and every sip is a blast of raspberry after raspberry — did we mention this beer tastes and smells like raspberries?

It’s simple, straightforward and tart in comparison to Higher Math. Stacked next to the anniversary ale, it’s dull—but that’s not really its fault. It’s not fair to call it a beer for people who don’t like beer (because, um, it’s a beer, so that doesn’t make any sense), but you don’t have to like beer to like Fort. You do, however, have to like raspberries. Lots, and lots of raspberries.