Saturday, 8 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 8- AleSmith Horny Devil

Good evening all. Today I drove out to Plymouth to walk around the Christmas market and do a bit of shopping, but despite the carols and the pre-fabricated snow-capped huts I'm still no closer to replicating that Christmas spirit I've felt in previous years. Maybe tonight's offering will change that- it's Horny Devil, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale from AleSmith Brewing Company (San Diego, California). This beer has been brewed with coriander and a Trappist yeast and has garnered a lot of critical acclaim over the last 10+ years, so as usual my expectations are high; add to that the suggestively interesting name and we should be in business with this one! Review after the pics....

Horny Devil (11.0% ABV) pours a golden colour with a wispy white head that quickly settles to a thin halo around the inside of the glass. The aroma is very light, with spicy phenols, coriander, apricot, marzipan, biscuit malt, candy sugar and some bittering hops in the background. It has that usual aroma of a Belgian beer interpreted by an American brewery (another prime example is Stone/Dogfish Head/Victory's Saison Du Buff)- the power of the yeast is relatively subdued, and it smells like the brewers raided their spice cabinets and whacked the contents in in an attempt to get something vaguely resembling phenolic spice. Forgive my potentially-harsh criticism, it's just something that I've observed with the few Belgian-inspired American offerings I've had in the past. Once the nose has become accustomed to the spice and the slight fruitiness, it quickly starts to smell like a Helles lager with the characteristic honey-sweetness and bittering/noble hop background. The taste delivers more of what I was expecting, with plenty of Belgian yeast character, coriander, apricot, funk and some caramelised sweetness. The phenols hit the palette immediately along with the coriander spice, and as they start to diminish the funk and light apricot tartness becomes the focal point. The sweetness is constantly in the background, balancing out the spiciness and funk nicely. Despite the high ABV percentage the alcohol is very well hidden, and this beer is as drinkable as any authentic Belgian Strong Pale Ale. The mouthfeel is slightly thick and the beer is moderately carbonated, with the yeast creating that usual creaminess and effervescing carbonation that you would expect from a Belgian beer. Overall, this is a pretty decent offering that I wasn't too impressed with at first, but the more I drank it the better it became. The lack of initial aroma led me to believe that this would be a sub-par offering, but fortunately the flavours I encountered during drinking were enough to make me retract this opinion relatively quickly! Maybe I overchilled it initially, but with each sip the Belgian character became more prevalent and it was soon elevated to the same levels as offerings like Duvel, Delirium Tremens and De Dolle Arabier.  Definitely recommended, but if you haven't already then try the aforementioned offerings and a few more authentic examples before giving this a go. 

Until next time....

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