Thursday, April 26, 2012

Damnation – Russian River Brewing Company

Edit: so, I had thought I had a bottle of Damnation 23 because it has a small 23 on the front, but apparently real batch 23 bottles have a large, prominent 23.  Checking the back, this is actually batch 72, which is not a multiple of 23, this last second check called for a slight re-write…  On to the review of Damnation by Russian River…

Russian River is one of the great American breweries, and Vinnie Cilurzo is one of the all-time great American brewers, perhaps one of the greatest brewers in the world.  Cilurzo, who started brewing at his family’s winery in Temecula, CA in 1988, started his first craft brewery in 1994 (Blind Pig Brewing Company) and became the brew master at Russian River Brewing Company in 1997 back when it was owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars.  In Vinnie and his wife Natalie bout the rights to the Russian River name in 2003 and by 2004, they opened the Russian River Brewing Company brewpub at its current location in Santa Rosa, CA.  They have since expanded, opening a production brewery in 2008, and now distribute in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Pennsylvania in addition to their home state of California. 

Unfortunately, they do not deliver in the Midwest, so my trip to California last week was a rare chance to find a bottle.  I was hoping to find the legendary Pliny the Elder, which the liquor store was out of (apparently, they sell out the same day the shipment comes in).  However, I did manage to get a bottle of Damnation, which is well known beer in its own right.  There may be some confusion in that in addition to Damnation, Russian River also has Damnation 23.  The difference is that while Damnation is a Belgian Strong Ale, the Damnation 23 is a reformulated version that they do every 23 batches as a Belgian Tripel.

I am not keen on all the differences between Belgian beers, but I believe that a Tripel is differentiated from a Belgian Strong by being more full-bodied, with less hop bitterness.  However, both styles use Pilsner malt, Belgian candi sugar, and likely the same Belgian yeast strain.  The 23 however is aged in Oak Barrels, whereas the more common Damnation is not.  Damnation is also a 7.75 ABV beer while 23 is 10.75%.

                Over to the rating sites.  On Ratebeer Damnation has a 98 overall and 96 for the style.  On BeerAdvocate it has a 92.

They say:

               Inspired pretty much by Duvel and other strong golden ales of Belgium. It is medium-bodied, has a fruity/banana bouquet, and a dry, spicy finish.
Original Gravity:
Alcohol by Volume:

And the bottle says:

               Damnation – n . 1. The act of damning. 2. The state of being condemned to eternal punishment in Hell.

                In the great beer producing country of Belgium, there is a tradition among some brewers to name their brews something unusual.  Often the name is curious, sometimes diabolical, and occasionally just plain silly.  Damnation is a hand-crafted Golden Ale with an exquisite bouquet of fruit and spice with mouth filling notes of citrus, malt, cedar and earthy hops.  The smooth dry finish lingers until your next sip.

Damnation is refermented in this bottle to create its fine carbonation.  Spent yeast cells form a thin layer of sediment in the bottom of the bottle, adding more complexity and flavor.  Pour slowly, allowing the natural yeast sediment to remain in the bottle.

I say:

Damnation pours light golden with a very creamy white head that has excellent retention.  It appears to very fizzy with champagne like bubbles constantly streaming in it.  The aroma is of peaches, light malts and a light peppery spiciness.  Damnation is full bodied, sweet, citrusy, and malty with definite cedar notes throughout.  There is a very slight hoppiness, culminating in a dry, cedar finish.

This is definitely a great Golden Belgian Strong Ale that is easily as good if not better than Duvel, the beer that it was inspired by.  I wish that I had access to more beers from Russian River so that I could experience all that they have to offer.  As I mentioned earlier, Vinnie is one of my heroes and I really hope that Russian River starts to distribute in the Midwest in the near future.

That’s all for this post.  I am not sure what the next post will be, but it will be up in the next few days.  Happy Drinking!!!

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