October 28, 2014

Victory Variety Pack Round-Up: HopDevil

Brewed By: Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, Pennsylvania 
Purchased: 12oz bottle from Victory's Variety Pack bought at Binny's in Chicago, IL; 2014
Style/ABV: American India Pale Ale, 6.7%
Reported IBUs: ?

I realize that reviewing Victory's heritage brews is like reviewing Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale or Anchor Brewing's Anchor Steam. Here's the thing. The four beers contained in this Variety Pack (PrimaPils, HopDevil, Headwaters Pale Ale, Golden Monkey) are classics in their own right. But the times, they've been a-changin'. So it reasons that what was once a classic might be viewed differently today than in retrospect. You know. Plus this is my blog/LiveJournal. If you don't like it, suck on deez nuts. But  About Victory
Victory Brewing Company is a brewery based out of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. The brewery was founded by Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, two avid brewers and lovers of beer. Although Victory opened on February 15, 1996, the duo were brewing brewing beer long before opening their own company. You can read more about their accomplishments on the brewery's about page. The brewery uses German malted barley and European and American whole flower hops (the use of whole flower hops is one unique aspect of Victory). Victory is currently working on expanding to Parkesburg. For more information about Victory, check out their website or their Facebook page. 
Like the PrimaPils, the HopDevil is also a classic, with the review from the Bros going back to 2001. This beer is brewed with a 2-Row German malt base, and whole flower American hops. 
Victory HopDevil

This is pretty much your typical American IPA circa early 2000s epitomized in appearance. The copper tones are dark, the ambers are various ranges of orange, brown, red, and copper, and the head is caramel-tinged. The lacing and carbonation is on point...in many ways this beer is heritage and mundane, but I think most people who really enjoy beer stopped giving a shit about the appearance pre-2008 BJCP, so whatever.

This has a heavy aroma. It dials up the pine and orange, and the malt base is really welcome. I was just about to shit on the aroma for lacking sweetness, but the malt base is surprisingly present and provides some nice rye notes in conjunction with the hops. The aroma still has the forest-like, crushed leaves, pine-orange character typical of the era. I don't know what hops this uses, but it doesn't use any of the sweet ones. Probably Cascade or Centennial or both, and that's about it. Still...despite my reservations, this has really nice depth in the aroma. It's not like Finch's very average IPA, or Dark Horse's Crooked Tree

The malt depth is what makes this beer worth your time. This has a pretty standard pine/citrus attack that is earthy and dank, with some resin to boot. The malts provide all sorts of complexity with some shifts towards dark breads, rye, and sweeter notes that even vaguely suggest caramel or dark cakey desserts. Maybe even fruit cake. It's like...in the year 2014...there has been a proliferation of hops. This beer falls back on some American standbys, and wins you over with Victory's unique malt base.

6.7% is about right...it's drinkable, clean, refreshing, blah blah. The heavier hops don't hold this beer down or back, and it has good palate depth and complexity. The bitterness is actually really well integrated against the complex malt backing which is largely unobtrusive but also present. Victory clearly know how to engineer thoughtful beers. I do have to hand that to them. Up front: a nice attack of citrus and pine that is largely in the earthy range; that shifts into really nice peppery spice, rye, dark breads, and more hops; the back end kicks up the bitter and resin, with some resiny pine and lemon coming along for the ride. The finish is actually really nice and this one grows on you if you can get past the aroma and first few sips.

Rating: Above-Average (4.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Light Above-Average. This one is actually growing on me the more time I spend with it...which is a good thing. This is a fairly robust and complex American IPA, and something that was probably on the cusp at the time. Considering that this relies on one or two American hops, it has a lot of complexity. Some of that definitely comes from the malts....I'm even getting some brown sugar notes as this warms up. In my mind, this beer is really about where and when. I wouldn't reach for this as my go-to IPA, but when paired with heavy or rustic foods, I think this would hold up well. That's my 2 cents.


Random Thought: Overall, the Victory Variety Pack is pretty solid at 20 dollars. It features a bunch of above-average classic beers, but nothing that is going to rock your world. Actually...I haven't had anything from Victory that has really blown me away. Just a bunch of Above-Average beers. Maybe that's okay. Anyway...

October 27, 2014

Sapporo Premium Beer

Brewed By: Sapporo Breweries in Tokyo, Japan (or wherever it's contracted)  
Purchased: 12oz bottle from a 6-pack bought at Binny's in Chicago, IL; 2014 
Style/ABV: Japanese Rice Lager, 5.0%
Reported IBUs: ?

This is my beer. This beer has ushered me through countless sushi and Chinese food meals. This light, cheap, refreshing rice lager is a little slice of beer culture...and frankly, one of the best macro lagers available. And it's made by Sapporo, my guys!
Sapporo is the oldest brewery in Japan; and was first brewed in Japan by German-trained, lager brewer, Seibei Nakagawa. Sapporo Premium beer was brought to the USA in 1964 to save sushi lovers like me. 
The Sapporo Premium is a staple and classic, and features rice in place of corn. DAE Japan? This beer pours into a nice dark gold color, kicking up two+ fingers of dense, off-white head. This actually has head retention, and leaves webs of lacing. It's like a Lager...with hops. What a concept.
Sapporo Premium Beer

This actually smells quite hoppy out the gate, especially at lower temps. In particular, you get a lot of grassy hops, floral hops, and some cracker/biscuit that is going to totally betray you when you taste it and realize this beer is rice-based. It smells incredibly bright, clean, vibrant, and fresh....words that often DO NOT describe the typical saccharine sweet and skunky pale lagers that typically cross paths with hobos and 7-11.

At cooler temps especially, this is just a treat to sip on. It has a lemony zest like club soda, with some nice funk and malt backing from the rice. This does provide some of that "lager funk" typical of the style, but it's much cleaner and more refreshing than other examples. There's a touch of apple in here, completely intentional. And the grassy and floral hops that were in the aroma show up in the taste. This really punches in all the flavors you'd want from a Lager, without any of the saccharine sweetness, skunkiness, or weird gasoline flavors that you might find in a 40oz of malt liquor. 

You have to be a cold hearted bastard to rate this beer like it's some sort of fancy thing. This is the epitome of clean, functional beer...sort of like Japan. I mean, what sort of weird tentacle candy that doubles as a dildo for young men will they think of next. This is just light-bodied, refreshing, clean on the palate, and fairly complex for the style. How many Lagers provide that clean Lager funk and malt base, with some gentle apple notes, and then bring it all home with crackers, biscuit, and grassy/floral hops. This is my sushi slayer, and maybe my desert island Lager.

Rating: Divine Brew (5.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Strong 
Divine Brew on this. Leave it to Japan to make the quintessential sushi-beer pairing. Ignore BeerAdvocate or RateBeer in regards to this beer.

Random Thought: You do want to drink this beer fresh. 

Victory Variety Pack Round-Up: Golden Monkey

Brewed By: Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, Pennsylvania 
Purchased: 12oz bottle from Victory's Variety Pack bought at Binny's in Chicago, IL; 2014
Style/ABV: American-style Tripel, 9.5%
Reported IBUs: ?

I realize that reviewing Victory's heritage brews is like reviewing Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale or Anchor Brewing's Anchor Steam. Here's the thing. The four beers contained in this Variety Pack (PrimaPils, HopDevil, Headwaters Pale Ale, Golden Monkey) are classics in their own right. But the times, they've been a-changin'. So it reasons that what was once a classic might be viewed differently today than in retrospect. You know. Plus this is my blog/LiveJournal. If you don't like it, suck on deez nuts. But  About Victory
Victory Brewing Company is a brewery based out of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. The brewery was founded by Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, two avid brewers and lovers of beer. Although Victory opened on February 15, 1996, the duo were brewing brewing beer long before opening their own company. You can read more about their accomplishments on the brewery's about page. The brewery uses German malted barley and European and American whole flower hops (the use of whole flower hops is one unique aspect of Victory). Victory is currently working on expanding to Parkesburg. For more information about Victory, check out their website or their Facebook page. 
The Golden Monkey is a big-ass, American-style Tripel brewed with 2-Row malts and whole flower European hops. They also throw some coriander seed into this one. This is another classic example of an American-style Tripel, albeit one that the Bros didn't like very much back in 2001/2002. Oh wells. 

This pours very much like its name implies: into a golden body, kicking up two fingers of dense, fluffy, golden-tinged head. This is nicely carbonated, and looks the part of a Tripel, albeit less cloudy than some of the Belgian ones. This is conditioned, however, and you do get some yeast sediment in your glass.
Victory Golden Monkey

The aroma here is also classic Tripel, with vibrant grains, clove, banana, funky yeast esters, and deep hops that include notes of citrus, lemon, and coriander. This actually smells really appetizing, especially for a fresh beer. Part of the allure of the style is that you get these aged bangers from Belgium, but us Americans tend to ratchet up the candy sugar and ride the booze and spice train.

This is super drinkable, with big clove and yeast funk crashing down like a tidal wave. It coats your entire tongue, and also delivers some really clean grain and bready notes. This is stupid drinkable, as the style should be, and you would never guess this is 9.5% until it knocked you on your ass. Along with all the clove is a ton of lemon, floral and grassy hops, and some notes that are probably wheat malts (but go unlisted on Victory's website). This is actually super clean, despite being a very straightforward affair.

And despite being straightforward, this has fulfilling palate depth and complexity. It's just big and drinkable and refreshing...without any of the bullshit. Granted, it's not very adventurous, but it doesn't hit you over the head with too much spice or any of that. It lays out the clove and big funky yeast; and then rolls into some coriander spice, dough, bread, banana esters, and big lemon and floral hops; the back end fades with wheat, more clove, and a surprisingly estery and bready finish. I like this beer a lot.

Rating: Above-Average (4.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Light Above-Average on this. I really like how simple but refined this beer is. It's not blowing anyone away, but this is a good effort for an American Tripel that has a few bells and whistles...namely a super smooth body, coupled with an insane amount of clove funk, and lots of depth and complexity. I'd bang this again, and pair it with some white pasta, meats, and cheeses. Fantastic, available brew. If you are stumbling onto this beer and are new to the Tripel style, check it out.

Random Thought: One more to go...