Friday, November 14, 2008

Awesome Beer of the Week: Russian River's Damnation

I was about to write that this post is almost a week late, then realized that the election eclipsed the post before what would have been Monday's post... so this is seriously late.

Well, whatever. This week has been hellish and awesome, and so it's only fitting that the Awesome Beer of the Week is Damnation by Russian River Brewing Company.

It's been said that Southern Tier is the East Coast's Russian River, which makes a good deal of sense to my limited experience: RR's Damnation, like ST's Heavy Weisen and Imperial Oatmeal Stout, is an original, balanced, ballsy take on beloved existing flavors. Being an East-Coaster, though, Damnation is the first, and remains the only, beer of theirs I've tried.

I should probably note at this point that Russian River has two beers – Pliny the Elder and Pliny The Younger, both Imperial IPAs – in the top ten of Beer Advocate's "Best of BA". Though that list is heavily biased towards stronger, higher-alcohol, "Imperial" brews, it's still amazing to have two beers in the top ten. There's another brewery with that honor, but it's the Belgian Brouwerij Westvleteren, whose beer is not technically available commercially. As in, you have to personally travel to the Abbey to purchase it and they will only sell you enough for personal use. Predictably, their strongest beer (a Quad) is called the "Holy Grail" of beer-drinking and has the highest rating on the site.

Long story short, Russian River has about the best reputation you can have.

Damnation did not disappoint. The only way I can describe it is to say that it's part Saison, part Tripel, with a dose of something that transcends both. It's certainly Belgian-inspired: though it doesn't quite fit into a single style, it's got the warm banana and yeasty flavor, along with a good dose of citrus. Just, the balance between the warmth and the particularly sour (and sour-smelling) citrus is uncharacteristic and seriously fantastic. You can taste the alcohol but it's still thoroughly easy to drink. All in all, it manages to be refreshing and drinkable without sacrificing complexity or virility.

The crowning blow, though – the real killer – is that it finishes with vanilla's aftertaste. Not a vanilla aftertaste, mind you, though that'd be cool too. I'm talking about that warm, tantalizingly delicious jolt that accompanies a good lick of vanilla ice cream. Truly, it's holy hell. I mean, they can do that?

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