Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Russian River Damnation Batch 23

No, this isn't a re-review. Every 23rd batch of Russian River Damnation receives a special treatment where more hops are added and then the beer is aged on oak chips to turn it into a Belgian Tripel proper (or at least that's what they claim). This beer was sent to me by back in October 2011 and has been in the fridge ever since its arrival. I don't know why I waited SEVEN MONTHS to drink it, but it definitely set the record for the longest a bottle has been in the fridge. Was it worth the wait? Watch and find out!

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (667) - Albany, New York, USA - MAY 22, 2012
You tend to associate "oak aged" beers with stouts, but what about a Belgian Strong Pale Ale? That’s the concept behind Russian River Damnation Batch 23 - a unique twist on their regular brew where every 23rd batch is brewed with extra hops and aged on oak chips with a stronger final ABV and is consider a tripel. I can’t say that this brewing technique made the beer any better, although the net result is certainly an interesting and unique beer.

NOTE: I had this beer in my fridge for literally seven months. It’s possible I didn’t get the same experience one would receive if drinking the beer fresh.

I received 375ml corked and caged bottle from a friend in the San Francisco area (thanks, Sean!). I poured it into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Bright orange hue, mostly translucent with slight haze, although fine, spastic carbonation is visible. Initially forms a huge, fluffy, white head which eventually settles down and does not leave much lacing on the glass.

Smell: Mild hop citrusy notes and light flower/candy fragrances.

Taste: I had no idea what to expect with Russian River Damnation Batch 23. I thought the regular version was a good beer and an extra hoppy brew aged on oak chips could only make it better. I was surprised to find this beer was only as good as the original brew. More hops definitely are noticeable with a light citrusy flavor throughout the palate, especially of orange and a subtle tropical fruit juice cocktail at the core, too. A quick hop bite through the middle with a kiss of candy sweetness on the finish. There’s a mild vanilla taste in there as well, likely due to the oak chips.

But much like the regular Damnation, this beer isn’t quite as complex as you’d think. It’s these same few flavors repeated, without much development. Thankfully the alcohol is extremely well masked and the sweetness is never sticky or cloying. I did get a minor hint of black pepper, but nothing comparable to a Chimay White, etc. It’s satisfying for sure, but for such a unique and rare beer you’d expect something a little more impressive.

Drinkability: The mouthfeel is quite thin and crisp like an authentic Belgian tripel. The clean aftertaste is a nice change of pace, although it’s not what I would consider extremely smooth since carbonation does get stuck in the throat after each swig. While I wasn’t completely wowed by the palate of Russian River Damnation Batch 23, I definitely have to give it kudos for being so drinkable for such a hefty brew. At 10.75% ABV is there no alcohol presence here at all. Just a slight warmth in the throat, but no alcohol distraction in the palate.

Grade: 7/10

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