The average hophead would be quite satisfied to drink the 18% ABV, 120 IBU beer that is Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA. Problem is, the brewery’s founder and president, Sam Calagione, doesn’t brew beers for the average hophead — he brews “off-centered ales for off-centered people.”
Maybe that’s who he was targeting when, at an event called the “Lupulin Slam” in 2002, Sam slapped together a makeshift stainless-steel water filter, filled it to the brim with Cascade and Willamette hops, and then drowned them in 120 Minute IPA. He did so hoping to show that the East Coast could brew IPAs that rivaled those of the West Coast, and it worked; the hop-infused 120 Minute IPA was the beer of the night. Hopheads were taken aback by how fresh and resinous the beer’s hop presence was, even if it did seem like it could strip the enamel off of your teeth. Randall the Enamel Animal was born.
Now, eight years later, Dogfish Head has unveiled a new version of the Randall which features two barrels and is designed to reduce foaming. The new Randall was simultaneously used in eight different tapping events at eight cities across the country last Wednesday, and in true Dogfish Head fashion, each event featured a different beer with different ingredients packed into those filters. You’ve had Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron, but have you had it after it’s been run through coffee beans or freshly-brewed coffee? You’ve had Punkin Ale, Dogfish Head’s fall seasonal, but have you had it infused with cinnamon sticks and fresh-roasted pumpkin seeds? Olde School Barleywine with prunes that have themselves been drenched in 1997 J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale?
Despite being described as an “organoleptic hop transducing module,” the science behind Dogfish Head’s Randall is pretty simple: the alcohol in the beers strips the flavor of the filtered ingredients. Some craft beer drinkers on Twitter and Beer Advocate have written that they think the Randall is little more than a gimmick. After all, why not just dry hop a keg of the beer you want to “Randallize”? Or why not brew the beer with the Randallized ingredients in the first place?
You’ve got to remember that the continual-hopping regimen that Dogfish Head uses to hop all of its IPAs was first done with an old, vibrating football game that gradually dumped hops in during the entire boil. The football game was soon retired for more serious, purpose-built devices like the Sir Hops Alot and later the Sofa King Hoppy, which they still use. The names are silly, but no one would say the same of Dogfish Head’s 60, 90, or 120 Minute IPAs. Dogfish Head might use an “off-centered” approach, but it’s hard to argue with their results.
Still, maybe you think an “organoleptic hop transducing module” is just another part needed to make your DeLorean hit 88 miles per hour. If you’re still skeptical, you should find one of the bars that received a new Randall, or just ask your favorite bar to purchase a Randall so you can taste for yourself. Dogfish Head builds and sells the Randall 3.0 at cost ($375).