With its relaxed eclectic environment and commitment to beer diversity, Goleta’s Mercury Lounge is no stranger to housing obscure tasty beverages-but East Coast IPAs?
In a free tasting at the beginning of the month, The Mercury unveiled its personal four-beer collection of Delaware’s finest Indian Pale Ale from Dogfish Head Brewery. Priding itself on an award-winning combination of a distinct IPA taste and a plethora of other naturally grown flavors, Dogfish Head’s 23 different recipes are quickly becoming a stalwart in the brewing industry. However, similar to the snail-like journey of Sam Adams from the East to West Coast, Dogfish Head’s availability in California is limited. In fact, The Mercury is the only place in Santa Barbara County today where you can try the famous Delaware-based beverages.
Dawn O’Brien, owner of the Mercury Lounge for almost 14 years, had been reading about Dogfish Head for years before she finally got her hands on it. “I’ve always liked their philosophy,” O’Brien said. “They are fairly green and very eccentric : and people just seem to love it.” Between their 23 different staple, regional, and seasonal brews, Dogfish Head brews have one distinguishing quality - a continuous hopping technique, in which a conveyor belt adds hops to the wort-filled barrel for an allotted time for each brew.
The self-proclaimed flagship beer-the 60 Minute IPA-benefits from a single, constant hop addition of Warrior, Amarillo, and “Mystery Hop X,” for a total of 60 minutes. Although it’s one of the lightest of the bunch at 6 percent alcohol by volume, the IPA’s combination of a citrus and a hops aftertaste makes for a delightful after-work indulgence. The 60 Minute IPA was also rated the No. 1 “Best IPA in America” by the Men’s Journal in 2007.
If the classic IPA taste alone isn’t worth the hype, the 9 percent alcohol Midas Touch - a recipe said to have been discovered in King Midas’ tomb from nearly 2,700 years ago in Turkey - might set Dogfish Head Brewery apart from all other beers. Featured on History Channel’s Modern Marvels show on brewing, this beer is brewed with barley, white muscat grapes, thyme, honey, and saffron, a combination found after studying the remnants of an ancient urn. For a 2,700-year-old recipe, the brew surprisingly has the smooth dry body of an IPA, but finishes fruity like a fine white wine.
Also available at the Mercury is the limited release Palo Santo Marron, a big, brown, wood barrel-stored ale. Stored much like wine and fermented with organic sucanat sugar, the Paraguayan Palo Santo-crafted dark hardwood barrels add a distinctive vanilla and caramel complexity to the ale’s 12 percent body.
Chuck Haines, a part-time bartender at The Mercury and UCSB’s director of housing, explained Dogfish Head’s journey to Santa Barbara. “I’m a huge fan of Dogfish Head,” Haines said. “I read about the beer once in Beer Magazine and could never get my hands on it. Then, I found it at Central Market in Texas and tried it. Ever since then, I’ve been ranting about it to Dawn : why can’t we get that in the bar?” Haines’s favorite Dogfish Head of all, the 90 Minute IPA, was also available for tasting. Voted No. 1 by the New York Times, the beer has a big malt backbone that can stand up to its extreme 90-minute hopping rate.
Haines said the only place to get the beer outside of The Mercury is at BevMo! stores, although Whole Foods will sometimes shelve the beer. Although The Mercury currently only sells bottles of Dogfish Head, Haines hopes to soon have kegs shipped right to the bar.