Beer Review 0210: Devils Backbone Vienna Style Lager

Devils Backbone (yes, Devils without the apostrophe) is a brewery located in Roseland, Virginia. They are relatively new to the beer scene, opening in 2008. In 2011, the brewery expanded to a nearby second facility in addition to its brewpub.

For a young brewery, Devils Backbone have won quite a few awards, including three sliver and one gold medal at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival (GABF). They won more gold in 2010 — the beer we’re reviewing today, their Vienna Style Lager, took home a silver in the 2009 GABF and GOLD this year at the World Beer Cup.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t much information about Devils Backbone on the Internet, so we’ll just get to the beer. Vienna Style Lager is 4.9% ABV (alcohol by volume) and has 18 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), and is brewed using a multi-stage mash process that is supposed to provide a subtle toasty sweetness.

I picked this bottle up while on a beer run in Blacksburg, Virginia — Devils Backbone is not distributed here in North Carolina, and I’m not sure if you can get them outside of Virginia at this time. The brewery has only recently started bottling beer.

The pour issued up an average size head, lasting and soapy in texture. The beer itself was a dark amber, and as the chill haze wore off, looked like sweet tea. This is a filtered beer, brilliantly clear and free of particles and sediment. Lacing was thin, leaving a couple of thin patches on the glass as I sampled.

As pleasant looking as the brew was, the nose was equally as nice, giving up malty sweetness with some caramel and bread-like notes. Further in, there were some grains and biscuit scents, along with a slight herbal/floral aroma from what seemed like a gentle amount of hops. Yes, it’s a lager, but it smells very much like an Amber Ale; generally sweet, not too complex, and not very pungent.

On the taste, the palate gets an extremely smooth brew, thin and light in texture, but full-flavored. There’s our old friend caramel, coupled with a gentle carbonation and some grains, with just a slight bitterness. This cleans up on the finish, which is, well… very clean, and just a touch sweet. And although it’s clean, the finish does linger a bit nicely, like a toasty buttery yeast roll.

Thumbs up Devils Backbone: This would make for a perfect session beer that’s full on flavor but light on ABV. The simple but tasty flavors are refreshing and make me want to be a repeat customer. I’d keep this all the time in my fridge if I could. (Come on distribution!)

Hand this to your buddy next time he or she suggests Bud/Miller/Coors.

Devils Backbone Vienna Style Lager, 90 points. $1.95 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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