Three Floyds Brewing Dreadnaught Imperial IPA

July 08 2011 - 10:45 AM

Perhaps the toughest beer review to write is for a beer that ranks among one's all-time favorites.  Each review is a document, and omitting a thought would leave a hauntingly incomplete statement. I'm sure I will regret this in time, but it would be veritably sinful for me not to pen some thoughts on one of the best beers in America, Three Floyds Brewing's Dreadnaught. I'll give it a shot.

Dreadnaught is their signature imperial IPA and was recently rated as one of's Best Beers of 2011, an annual list of which it perennially stalks the top.  Of course, this fact is a bit alarming as the intense pursuit of this small batch beer amongst the beer community raises questions about its future availability.  Trust me, the fuss is justified.

I have fortunately had this beer in several formats lately, on tap at Local Option, and also out of a bottle several times.  Elite beers drink spectacularly out of a bottle and their bottled contents rival or sometimes even equal their tap pour. Dreadnaught does not disappoint in any format and the bottle leaves its charms unblemished.  From the tap it poured a hazy orange with a feathery white head.  Grapefruit, orange peel, and pine odors stream from the glass, and a faint melon smell from the subtle malts is detectable.  Dreadnaught is sternly carbonated but never gets to be overly harsh or biting, the carbonation is just there.  Its contents are wispy, feathery, and never too full-bodied. Its perceptible weight compares to a champagne, just a bit heavier. 

Pine and citrus flavors dominate the flavor profile.  Hop bitterness prevails upon the palate but not without some shepherding down the throat from those delicate, melon-like malts that seamlessly bond to the hops.  Hop acids gradually build up on the tongue but never overwhelm. Every flavor supports the integrated whole. 

Among my favorite moments of drinking this beer was drinking it from a bottle at Glenn's Diner and Seafood House on Montrose Avenue, Chicago's best kept seafood secret.  They fly their fish in every day, offer outstanding crustacean dishes, and let you open bottles of libations for $5.  For appetizers we had their lauded clam chowder featuring clams of stunning sweetness, along with lightly breaded calamari that practically dissolved in your mouth.  My main course was a North Atlantic Char covered in shrimp and a spicy glaze. 

We drank the Dreadnaught out of thin miniature water glasses, about 6 inches tall, that were not too wide and left room for the head to develop.  They resemble the glasses Three Floyds uses in the brew pub for 9 oz. pours of Dreadnaught and seemed ideal.  From the bottle, I tend to get a bit more of Dreadnaught's sharp, crisp, champagne like biscuity bitterness than on tap, where it seems rounder and more feathery.  The Dreadnaught was perfect for the meal, providing a steely foundation for the cream sauce, and a clean accompaniment to the lean white fish and shrimp.   Outstanding.

If you do not like IPAs, there is a strong chance that this beer will change your mind.  If you do like them and haven't tried it, Dreadnaught will alter your landscape.  If you have had this before, you are now craving one.  Dreadnaught is simply one of the best, most complete beers in the world.  It, not Dark Lord, may indeed be Three Floyds' crowning achievement on an already unprecedented brewing resume. 

–Mark Sheppard