Beer Review 0263: Devils Backbone Azrael Belgian Strong Ale

Devils Backbone are an up and coming brewery, located in Roseland, Virginia. They have been brewing since 2008, and have already expanded into a dedicated production facility, in addition to their brewpub.

Their flagship beer, a Vienna Lager, won silver at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and just last month, it took gold at the 2012 GABF. Devils Backbone also took home gold for being the top small brewpub and small brewer.

The brewery has very limited distribution; in fact, I’m not sure you can get this beer in bottles outside of Virginia. I picked up a couple of bottles a few months ago on a trip to Blacksburg, Virginia. I reviewed the Vienna Lager and was highly impressed, giving it 90 points and wishing I could get it locally to enjoy as an everyday beer.

Azrael, the beer up for review today, is a Belgian inspired Golden Ale. Oddly enough, I can’t find any information about this beer on the Devils Backbone website, so this one is kind of a shot in the dark. According to the bottle, this beer is 7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and for a brewery that has just started putting product in bottles, they are doing it right with the bottled on date stamped directly on the side of the glass.

Pouring produced a very small, frothy, and quickly fading head. The beer was pale yellow in color, with a very clear body that was absent of any particles or sediment. Lacing simply didn’t exist.

On the nose, the aromas were all about the yeast. There were the classic Belgian bubblegum and banana scents, along with a touch of clove, and some hay/straw malt. There were also splashes of a peppery spice, a bit of nuttiness, and a small amount of herbal hop. Azrael smelled really good, but there’s nothing groundbreaking or new or even overly remarkable here.

Hitting the palate, this beer starts slightly tart, featuring pear flavors coupled with orange, and twangy yeast. The middle of the mouth turns very sweet, so much so that it dries out your mouth, and brings on a long lasting finish that is ample with chewy pear and a crisp, small bit of bitterness that kills the sweet. This beer was medium-bodied all around, with a creamy mouthfeel and average carbonation.

This is simply a solid beer. Nothing amazing, just good. Nice flavors, a bit too sweet, but with a pleasant finish that you wouldn’t remind returning to.

Devils Backbone Azrael Belgian Strong Ale, 84 points. Price: $2.05 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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