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Victory HopDevil – Dancing with the Devil

4 September, 2009 2 comments

Regular readers will know that I’m not normally given to IPAs. Some are, and go ape when presented with a well-hopped beer. De gustibus non est disputandum, quoth the scholar, and I agree. There’s no point my arguing with a hop-head because I don’t enjoy the fiercely hoppy brews, any more than his arguments about malty ales will sway me.

That said, the Davis Food Co-op recently introduced a couple of beers from the Victory brewery in Downington, PA, and it just happened to be on a day when I was working in the Beer department. I can honestly say that I’ve never heard as many “Ooohs” over the discovery of a new beer on the shelf. All those who’d transplanted themselves from the East Coast seemed to have heard of the brewery, which evidently has a good reputation, and a well-deserved one, if my sampling of this is anything to go by.

It’s often said that the best evangelists are the converted, and that was true in this case. One conversation with someone who said “I don’t normally like very hoppy beers”, and I was determined to try it. There was also the convincing argument that I needed to sample more East Coast beers, the Co-op being naturally heavy on West Coast brews. So, into the shopping trolley went one six-pack of what the brewery described as “menacingly delicious” HopDevil, and off home to try it.

Now normally if I bring IPAs or the like home, it’s Christine who enjoys them most. But not this one.  I surprised myself by really enjoying that first glass. It’s a gorgeous beer – the red-gold colour and the quite luscious-looking head give it an immediate appeal, and that beauty ain’t just skin deep.

Dancing with the Devil

Victory HopDevil

Victory HopDevil

I served it straight from the ‘fridge, pouring into a pilsner glass. Sticking my nose in gave me a snootful of citrus and flowers. The first taste was all hops – yes, it’s quite bitter, but that’s the point, isn’t it? This isn’t a brew that lets you forget that it’s meant to be hoppy – it hops around like a March Hare, leaving hoppy footprints everywhere in the mouth. There’s some residual malt, not quite sweet, more a little bready. But that’s hardly the point – this is an IPA, and boy, it doesn’t let you forget that for an instant.

The nose is forward, as the winetasters say. Some citrus, some spice and flowers, a little fruitiness without being overpowering. But let’s not forget that taste. There’s never any doubt that this is a libation to the gods of hops – what sweetness is there quickly gives way to that bitterness, and never gives up. Those hops dancing a marathon fandango on the palate, and coupled with the crisp mouthfeel and the fizzle of carbonation, left me wanting more.

The only downside is that partway through the second, I started to get a little bored. I wanted something to balance it out some, but that is no fault of the beer, which continued to refresh me, but my natural tendency is to want a little more variation, and this brew didn’t quite give me all of that. As it warmed up it mellowed a little, but the bitterness was still too far in front. Maybe if I’d stuck with just one, I’d have been happier, but still I’m going to give this a B+ rating as it was most pleasant for a while.

Would I drink it again? Yes, I would – but I’d have a six-pack to share with friends as I’m unlikely to drink that number in a week, and the fridge ain’t that big. Oh, and I’d have something to eat with it. Maybe an Indian curry would be just the thing.

In short, if you’re a hop fan, try this one. At 6.7% alcohol, you won’t be drinking a six-pack, but you should still head out into the late afternoon sunshine, pour and enjoy.

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Categories: Beers Tags: , ,

McMenamins Sunflower IPA

20 April, 2009 Leave a comment
Sunflower IPA

Sunflower IPA

Picture, if you will, a hot California summer’s afternoon, sun beating down from cloudless blue skies. Now imagine the cool of the evening, when the temperature drops below 80°F (about 25°C for you metric types), and the beer that you’d ideally like to drink whilst relaxing after supper, possibly in a lawn chair by the pool. I don’t have to imagine it – we are currently in the midst of an April heat wave, and though I claim to be acclimatised to the heat, I still have some way to go. With daytime temperatures into the 90s (32°C), no-one in their right mind will want to be drinking anything other than a light thirst-quencher.

I have to say that the drinkers of pales ales may say that I am rarely in my right mind, but even with my preference for the darker beers, even I want something lighter when the temperature hits this point. Thankfully, my lovely wife brought a good selection of McMenamins back from Oregon last week, one of which was this delightful IPA. I say delightful, because even though I’m not normally a big fan of the hoppier beers, this one struck me as so far removed from the crowd that it rates my special attention and recommendation.

So, what’s it like? Nectar. If ambrosia is the food of the gods, this is surely their pale ale. With an opening aroma of strawberries and even a teeny hint of roses, it’s a fragrant delight even before the first sip. I almost wanted to sit and sniff at it as it warmed up, but I resisted that particular temptation, and dived in, so to speak. There’s a sweetness that matches the strawberry, followed by the hop bitters, which for once in an IPA, wasn’t unpleasant to my taste buds. I wanted to just roll it around my tongue to get the most of it all, but being thirsty and hot enough, I drank it down.

But it gets better. It looks gorgeous, that coppery amber body, with a good creamy-white head. The mouthfeel is wonderful, with a sparkle that made my cheeks laugh, and yes, it does quench the thirst as well. The hops are clearly in evidence, but they mellow in the mouth rather than hang about with a bitter astringency, as with many IPAs. I’d happily drink this beer on its own, it’s that good, with a nice body and great flavours. I’d also pair it with a good meal; I can imagine it best with something spicy – a curry, chile or strong cheese plate. Couple it with a warm day in the garden, and you have Heaven in a glass, for sure.

I’m giving this an A, simply because it’s such a great balance of hop and malt. It’s interesting enough to drink by itself, it feels good and it’s worthy of your attention, even if, like me, you generally avoid the genre. Beyond the pale? In this one special case, yes. It’s only a shame I’m unlikely to be able to get more locally.

Categories: Beers Tags: , ,
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