Monday, March 15, 2010

Victory Wild Devil

It's not often that I get upset that I can't find a beer, generally I will just pick something else up since I like to try new beers all the time. This beer got to me though, I went searching far and wide in the city of Pittsburgh to find more. The inopportune holiday season pushed this fine product off the shelves and left me craving more. Feeling like a crack addict on hard times I actually wrote to Victory asking where my next fix was. I was quickly assured that demand was high and with the holidays many retailers had held back orders to fill their shelves with more seasonal fare.

So why does Wild Devil get me so flustered? What is it about a simple IPA that gets me all weak in the knees? One word "brettanomyces." I'm sure that has caused a few head scratches, but let me explain. Brettanomyces is a strain of yeast that is generally regarded as a plague to the brewing industry, causing off flavors that ruin the balance of a beer and show that the brewer was less then diligent in his sanitation regimen. In fact Brett is the reason for the name of this brew as Brett is a commonly occurring strain of wild yeast. Why do I love this yeast so much then? Well I think good ol' Brett has gotten a bad rap, Brett is also responsible for some of the flavors in lambics, Gueuze and Flanders ales and when a recipe is tailored to the, let's say unique, flavors Brett produces something wonderful occurs. Brett creates flavors that sound absolutely horrible when they are described like wet horse blanket, band-aid, and burnt plastic, but in actual practice they are quite delicious.

My first impression of this beer was, "Wow this is beautiful!" If you have read my other posts then you should know that I don't often describe the look of a beer, but this deserves a description. The color is somewhere between a gold and orange, a little light for my tastes but I was intrigued. The head was an off white, a stark contrast to the bright crisp white I am accustomed to. I generally don't care much about head retention or lacing but this beer is what changed that for me. As I drank the head barley dissipated at all and the lacing left behind was heavy to say the least, when I was done you could see the amount I drank with each sip, it was amazing. The smell and flavor are dominated mostly by the "funk" Brett produces, difficult to put into words but easy to put on the tongue. Next up was the hops, as Hop Devil's evil twin the hops take hold over much of the flavor as well, a nice citrusy bite with a little spicy burn as well. Biscuit and carmel malts dominate the hop profile balancing out this crazy concoction.

I applaud the brewmasters at Victory for making lemonade out of lemons here. They took what is widely considered a horrible plague and turned it into liquid gold.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Westmalle Dubbel

Ah Westmalle, the trappist abbey that gave us the terms dubbel and trippel to describe our beers. Tonight I have decided to review the first and my personal favorite of the trappist dubbels.

The dubbel from Westmalle is incredibly complex, it mixes some nice fruity esters (similar to plum or raisin) with some spice I can't quite put my finger on, along with a wonderful malty characteristic and a little hoppiness in the end it really shines out as a bacon of what the Belgian's can accomplish in their brewing.

One of my favorite characteristics of this brew is also a favorite of mine with good wines (reds mainly,) the temperature it is served at has a profound effect on it's flavor. Refrigerator temps tend to make it taste sharper bring out a little more of the hop characteristics and move the malts and fruity esters aside. When you let a glass of this sit for a little while two wonderful things happen, 1 the glass warms and it allows the flavors to meld, 2 the beer oxidizes a little and brings out the spice more. My serving suggestion is to get yourself a nice chalice style glass, or at least something with a nice wide mouth, pour it trying to leave a little at the bottom (this is a bottle conditioned brew and there are active yeast as well as something called trub that lies on the bottom) and just let it sit for maybe 5 minutes. I know 5 minutes seems like a long time but your mouth will thank me.

As far as the yeast and trub go, I for one kind of like the flavor it brings but many people do not. My suggestion for dealing with it is to try leaving it at the bottom of the bottle, then once you finish your glass pour the remainder in and give it a taste, that way you can decide for yourself. the yeast and trub are not harmful in anyway, in fact brewer's yeast is rather good for you, well at least hippies think so and they brought us granola so who knows.