More Beers from Devils Backbone Reviewed: Kilt Flasher, Flor de Luna, Single Hop IPA, Smokehouse Porter, and Berliner Metro Weiss Sour

Virginia-based Devils Backbone cannot seemingly be stopped. We just checked out seven new beers from the company, now it’s dropping another five — a regular release (Kilt Flasher) and four new Rare Series Adventure Pack releases. Let’s dig in.

Devils Backbone Kilt Flasher Wee Heavy Scotch Ale – A bold wee heavy, with big malt notes backed by notes of coffee, roasted nuts, and a lightly brown-sugared finish. It’s a powerful beer, but it’s quite a familiar one that tastes a lot like any number of similar brews. I wouldn’t say anything about imitation and flattery, per se, but while this wee heavy is on point, it doesn’t distinguish itself entirely. 8% abv. B+

Devils Backbone Flor de Luna Belgium Style Blonde with Jasmine – A blonde ale made with Belgian yeast, with jasmine added. A curiosity, indeed! The jasmine is far from apparent; rather, the heavy malt character is powerful from the start, along with some a pungent, yeasty underpinning. The heavy farmhouse character makes this one lean a bit too closely toward the sour world, but your mileage may vary. Even on the finish, any sense of jasmine is fleeting. Not that I am clear on why you’d want that in your beer, anyway. 6.3% abv. C+

Devils Backbone Single Hop IPA – A west coast IPA from the east coast — brewed only with Equinox hops. Strong, bitter, and piney, with a bit of a mushroom kick. The finish is earthy and quite lasting, with notes of resin and slate. A solid but not wholly distinguished IPA. 7.9% abv. B+

Devils Backbone Smokehouse Porter Smoked Porter Ale – Two types of smoked malts plus three unsmoked malts give this beer a burly, nutty, and, yes, appropriately smoky character, where mushroom and lightly herbal notes add some pizzazz. Smoked ales can so easily become overblown and sticky with barbecue flavors, but Devils Backbone just about nails the classic German style with this one. 5.7% abv. A-

Devils Backbone Berliner Metro Weiss German-Style Sour Ale – Quite tart, with juicy citrus and a pungent sourness right from the start. Lemon, grapefruit, and orange notes are intense, giving this a heavily fruity — yet entirely sour — essence from start to finish. A simple example of the style. 3.9% abv. B

about $17 per 12-pack / dbbrewingcompany.com

Review: Breckenridge Brewery Pumpkin Spice Latte Stout

One late arrival from Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery, a festive, nitrogen-charged seasonal inspired by the classic pumpkin spice latte. Breckenridge Brewery’s Pumpkin Spice Latte Stout is “stout made with dark roasted malts and carefully roasted, cold pressed coffee beans. Vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves delicately complement the taste of rich pumpkin.”

Results: Coffee dominates the malty, roasted nut-heavy experience, but the rather thin stout is also moderately fruity at times, and just lightly scented with cinnamon and clove notes. Any serious “pumpkin spice” character is relegated to the back end, which offers a smattering of spices, but also heads sideways into a lingering aftertaste of overripe apple and banana.

5.5% abv.

B- / $12 per four-pack of 15.2 oz cans / breckbrew.com

Review: Three Holiday Ales for 2016 – Bear Republic, The Bruery, St. Bernardus

Holidays always bring out the specialty brews to the delight of many beer and ale aficionados, including me. Most of these beers and ales are good for any fall holiday and work well into New Year’s Eve. Here are three ales are sure to please you as much as they did me. I recommend them all as nice sipping beverages.

First up is ‘Twas the Beer Before Christmas, a December 2016 release from Bear Republic. It is extremely rare, with only 384 bottles produced, and it is only available through Bear’s Wild Club. Its description: “Peanut butter roast malt character, dried apricot dustiness, clean tartness, cognac from Old Baba Yaga.”

This ale is barrel aged up to eighteen months. It consists of a combination of Bear Republic’s Old Baba Yaga, Tartare Noir, Tartare Apricot, and Epic. It is a light sour, though it has a thick, chocolaty head and dark brown body. When held up to light, a nice red sheen shines through.

The sour comes over lightly on the nose, bringing tart cherries to mind. However, it is not an overpowering sour but does make the mouth water with each sip. As the beer warms to room temperature, the sourness lightens to a nice tartness. The peanut is not immediately prevalent, but there are also hints of oak throughout. 8.7 % abv. B / $30 per 750ml bottle

Next we have 9 Ladies Dancing from The Bruery. It is a Belgian strong dark ale. Its description: “Inspired by flavors and ingredients found in tiramisu, including lady fingers, 9 Ladies Dancing mimics the Italian dessert by whipping together flavor combinations and layers of its own. This includes notes of vanilla, chocolate, and coffee.”

This ale has a dark, nutty brown body with a nice, creamy, ivory head. The scent has a light chocolate overtone. The taste is smooth with the cocoa nibs and vanilla flavors coming through, followed by soft spices. I left a glass in the refrigerator, exposed to air, for a half hour which brought out the chocolate and coffee notes with stronger clarity. This is a beverage to sip, with friends, in front of a warm fire on a cold night. 11.3% abv. A / $11 per 25.4 oz. bottle

My personal favorite is a Belgian Abbey from St. Bernardus: St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. Its description: “St. Bernardus Christmas Ale offers a spicy, mint-like flavor profile exuding the tastes of warming alcohol, fermented molasses, apricots, licorice, and marzipan that are highlighted by the perfect balance of brewing sugars.”

This ale is bottle conditioned. It has a rich brown body with a red overtones. The sparkling ivory head is velvety and large.

Initially the sweet scent of malt come forth and warms as the ale gets to room temperature. Overtones of crisp apple intensify with the warming as well. There are no notes of wood or citrus. I noticed a light zing on the tip of my tongue at the back end of each sip. However, there are no lingering aftertastes.

This ale brings to mind pleasant images of watching holiday carolers. 10% abv. A / $11 per 25.4 oz. bottle

Review: Allagash Curieux and Hibernal Fluxus 2016

It’s time for something old and something new from Allagash, the Portland, Maine-based producer of some of the country’s most coveted craft brews.

Allagash Curieux – This was Allagash’s first barrel-aged beer, which starts with its Tripel Ale and goes from there for eight weeks into bourbon barrels. The aged beer is then blended back with a portion of fresh Tripel to form Curieux. Results: The nose is beautiful, wine-like with notes of figs, dates, and dried fruits. The body is malty and rounded, loaded with all of the above fruit notes, and rounded off with vanilla and burnt caramel. Slightly effervescent on the finish, the finale is cleaner and less cloying than expected, despite the whopping 11 percent alcohol. Altogether it’s a great entry to barrel-aged beers. 11% abv. A- / $18 per 750ml bottle

Allagash Hibernal Fluxus 2016 – This is the first of a new annual release from Allagash, a Belgian-style stout brewed with figs, inspired by a recipe devised in 2008 by a member of the Allagash bottling line. It’s a coffee-dark brew that offers aromas of coffee beans, dark chocolate, and spices. The body is where it kicks in with light fig notes, lacing them with malty molasses, hazelnuts, and some maple syrup notes. That all sounds really heavy, but Hibernal Fluxus is surprisingly well-balanced, thanks to a relatively low alcohol level and a deft interplay between it’s various components. All told it’s one of the best beers of the year. Grab it while you can. 8% abv. A / $17 per 750ml bottle

allagash.com

Review: Firemans Brew IPA

L.A.-based Firemans Brew is back with its first new beer in over a decade. Being that this is a California brewery, it’s only fitting that it’s an IPA, made with Cascade, Columbus, Chinook and Galena hops.

A touch maltier than many IPAs, it has a distinct but mild mushroom note on the nose, tempered with a bit of brown sugar, odd notes of dried fruits, and some green vegetable character. The body however is all hops, as expected, lacing in resinous pine with more of those out-of-place dried fruit notes. The finish is lasting and heavily bitter, with a touch of residual molasses.

6.5% abv.

B / $9 per four-pack of 16 oz. cans / firemansbrew.com

Review: Stone Enjoy By 12.25.16 Unfiltered IPA and Xocoveza

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More new stuff from Stone, just in time for Christmas.

Stone Enjoy By 12.25.16 Unfiltered IPA – Like Stone’s other “Enjoy By” IPAs, this beer has a limited shelf life of a matter of weeks. For Christmas, Stone’s limited edition bottling is stuffed full of a whopping 12 different varieties of hops and is bottled unfiltered. The hazy double IPA takes on a distinct pineapple note up front, but the overall level of bitterness is surprisingly restrained. The finish offers some cereal character but is balanced by a ton of fruit, helping it to drink at a much more reasonable abv than its actual 9.4% would suggest. A / $8 per 22 oz. bottle

Stone Xocoveza – This oddity is a winter-spiced mocha stout, built around cocoa, Mostra coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and milk sugar. It’s a boozy, beery take on Mexican hot chocolate, which turns out both quite pleasing and holiday-appropriate. A powerhouse of a beer, Xocoveza is heavy with raw coffee ground notes, smoky cigar tobacco, and bitter chocolate shavings, making for an appropriately wintry, fireside experience. Something like may sound like it is probably best enjoyed in small quantities, though the overall experience, smoothed out by that lightly sweet milk sugar, is easier going than you would expect. 8.1% abv. B+ / $16 per six-pack

stonebrewing.com

Review: Breckenridge Brewery Chocolate Orange Stout and Christmas Ale

breck-nitro-chocolate-stout

Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery is out with two new seasonals, a nitro chocolate orange stout, and a classic Christmas ale. Let’s give both a try!

Breckenridge Brewery Chocolate Orange Stout – You might expect a nitrogen-charged stout flavored with chocolate and orange zest to be heavy, even overwhelming — but Breckenridge’s nitro choc-orange stout is anything but. Light on its feet but velvety without being overpowering, the brew lets the bittersweet cocoa notes shine the most brightly, with just a hint of citrus on the back end. The main event is nutty and malty, but could benefit from more spice to liven up an otherwise somewhat muddy middle. 6% abv. B / $12 per four-pack of 15.2 oz cans

Breckenridge Brewery Christmas Ale – Christmas ales can often be overloaded with baking spices, brown sugar, and evergreen notes to the point of undrinkability, but Breckenridge’s version plays things a bit cooler. Yes, all of the above are present in the mix, but the caramel and spice notes are tempered. The likely reason: “Unlike other holiday and winter beers on the market, Breckenridge Brewery does not add any spice to Christmas Ale, rather the spicy characteristics come from the Chinook and Mt. Hood hops.” Relatively bold on the tongue — enough to stand up to the cold weather outside — it’s got enough bitterness on the finish to counterbalance the festive notes that come before. 7.1% abv. A- / $9 per six-pack of 12 oz bottles

breckbrew.com

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