Beer Review 0336: Olde Hickory Seven Devils Scotch Ale

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Seven Devils is a Scotch Ale brewed in honor of the folks who live in a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains said to be “as cold as seven devils.”

Olde Hickory Brewing is located at the foot of those Blue Ridge Mountains, in Hickory, North Carolina, making this a local brew for me. Founded in 1994 by Seven Lyerly and Jason Yates, production started on a seven barrel system and quickly outgrew, forcing upgrades.

Still, this brewery isn’t in a giant mega facility, instead choosing to make beer in small batches, 800 gallons or less at a time. Just to show you how small batch Olde Hickory are, most of their seasonal bomber size bottles are hand dated. Distribution for their beers seems to be limited to Tennessee and North Carolina, so most of my readers might have trouble finding anything from them.

Seven Devils is a base of one of their retired brews (Nessie’s, a Scottish Ale), and it is aged in bourbon barrels. The beer is 8% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is released once per year in limited quantities.

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The pour kicked up an average size, extremely fizzy head that quickly faded into not even a thin cover. The color was a very dark ruddy brown, with lighter amber edges. Body was extremely hazy, making this drink opaque, but there weren’t any visible particles or sediment. Lacing didn’t exist.

On the nose, there’s the unmistakable aroma of bourbon up front, coupled with a candy sweet caramel and milk chocolate blast. Solid right from the start! Further exploration reveals some coconut and dark fruit, specifically raisin, which combines with a dash of cinnamon to make a Cinnabon aroma like you’d smell in your local mall or airport. On the very back end, there’s a touch of a nutty component. Pungent and extremely nice.

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Tasting, the thin, fizzy head was a true indication of what I had feared — a thin to mildly medium mouthfeel. But wait, that doesn’t hurt this beer; in fact, I think it actually helps it by keeping the sweetness in check and not making it cloying. Plenty of candy bar caramel and chocolate up front, then comes the bourbon, which brings on some coconut and even a mild note of vanilla bean. As Seven Devils warmed, it brought on a dark fruit note before finishing on a creamy caramel and bourbon barrel crescendo, leaving the taste buds happy and begging for another sip. Medium-bodied, the mouthfeel was medium…but nearly thin, with a foamy, fizzy, and gritty feel when swirled.

Folks, this one is super yummy and I’m impressed by how much great flavor Olde Hickory packed into what has to be considered a texture that is just too thin for this style. But trust me, I think that actually helps the drinkability; the flavors are certainly complex enough and this was a joy to drink. Stands toe-to-toe with Founders Backwoods Bastard (my rating of 96 points), another prominent barrel aged Scotch Ale.

Olde Hickory Seven Devils Scotch Ale, 95 points. Price: $8.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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