Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Some Devil

Back in mid 2008, Victory Brewing Company decided to play around a bit with their most popular beer: HopDevil Ale. They kept the hops exactly the same but substituted in a new yeast strain, Brettanomyces (or Brett), that is more "wild" in it's nature and as such would hopefully bring some new characteristics to the beer. The result was WildDevil, and it is now being bottled and offered on a wider scale. So, let's crack open a bottle and see how it stacks up against the original, which has always been one of my favorite Victory offerings.

It pours a medium amber color with a big frothy head that dissolves fairly quickly. Aroma is a bit mellower than expected, but nice. There's a fruity, juiciness (apple?) here that might even hint at bubble gum at times. This is much more muted than the HopDevil, and I suspect the flavor will be the same way.

The first few sips confirm my suspicions. This yeast has tamed the flavor for sure. There is still a nice hop presence that bites with citrus flavors and perhaps even a bit of that apple again, plus there's a spicy kick as well, but the palate is hit no where near as hard as with the HopDevil. Missing the most are the pine notes. The Brett helps to bring out some funkier, off-tasting flavours as well. I don't want to say this one is sour, because it's not, but there are definitely some tart characteristics floating about that mix with a very bread-like finish and aftertaste. There's a nice, fluffy and bubbly feel here that's almost Saison-like at times.

I've got to say that the Brett mellowed this beer out a lot, and in a good way. It's a bit more drinkable than the HopDevil but on a completely different level. I don't know that it's got that much of a Belgian feel to it as Victory has described (Stone Brewing Co.'s new Cali-Belgique IPA was much more Belgian-inspired/flavored than this one), but that isn't a knock in any way. I also don't understand why many people have noted that the WildDevil is barely distinguishable from the HopDevil. They're two completely different beers in my opinion and both are well worth your time.