Devil’s Backbone Brewery is nestled up against the mountains just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. It is not well known outside of Virginia except for the hardcore beers enthusiasts who know this small countryside breweries award winning ways on the world stage. The 2012 World Beer Cup gold for Vienna style lagers was given to DB’s appropriately named “Vienna Lager”. This award was preceded by the 2009 Great American Beer Festival gold at the prominent Denver contest. Additionally DB has received awards for their pilsner and hefeweizen. It would be too easy for me to review and brag about the Vienna Lager, so I have selected their Belgian inspired strong golden ale, Azrael. A quick googling of Azrael informs me that this beer is named after the Angel of Death (At least in the eye of Sikhs and Muslims). If this were a hot wing challenge I may back away, but I think I will take a chance as the rendering of Azrael on the label is an alluring blonde. Famous last words in many stories; however, I press on.
A Strong Belgian Ale is generally spicy, hoppy, and fruity with a high alcohol volume. This particular beer is 7.8% ABV and the brewer promises a dry spice and the usual hints of fruit. Popular Belgian Strong Ales you may be familiar with include Duvel (translates to “devil” – I see a theme), Delirium Tremens, and Brooklyn Breweries Local 1. None of which are known to go easy on the drinker, so moderation with this style is important.
When I pour the 12 ounce bottle into my chalice, I am surprised by how light a golden color this beer is. When I think of strong beers, a light straw color is not what I am expecting. This must be part of the trap by the prior mentioned blonde angel of death. I proceed cautiously and try to detect the scents of Azrael. It is very sweet and pear comes through along with a little citrus. Seems safe to drink, so I continue. The Belgian yeast strain is unmistakable, very slight spice, what I thought was a pear scent tastes more like a green apples, and I taste heavy cloves in the after taste. As for mouth feel, once again I would point out how light this beer is and it has minimal but persistent carbonation. After a few more sips, Azrael is proving to be easy drinking and I could see how this could get you in trouble fairly quickly. Overall, I would rate this beer 3.25 mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale.
For more information on Devil’s Backbone Brewery, visit their website here: http://www.dbbrewingcompany.com. I am scheduled to visit the brewery in November, so look out for my brewery write-up later this year. Cheers!