Beer Review 0552: Victory DirtWolf Imperial IPA

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The story of Victory Brewing Company (Downington, Pennsylvania) goes all the way back to 1973 — granted, the two principal founders were only in fifth grade, meeting for the first time on a school bus that would take them to a new school. Friends like that are hard to find; the two remained bonded as they went to college, on opposite sides of the coast.

Their names are Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, and when Bill finished college, he explored making beer using his father’s home brewing equipment. It just so happened that Ron was into beer, too, and gave Bill a home brewing kit for Christmas in 1985. A friendly rivalry ensued, but the passion for beer caused both men to quit their jobs in the corporate world and seek out brewing.

Bill did his brewing studies at Doemens Institute in Munich, Germany, while Ron also honed his beer making skills in Germany. But before Victory churned out its first drop of beer, Ron returned from Germany and became the brewmaster of Old Dominion Brewing Company, increasing yearly production there from 1,500 barrels to 15,000.

On February 15, 1996, Victory Brewing Company opened up in a former Pepperidge Farm factory. In the first year, they made 1,725 barrels; in 2011, expansion had increased that number to 82,000.

Introduced in late 2013, DirtWolf is a new year-round Imperial IPA named after “untamed vines (hops) which rise from the earth with the voracity of a ‘wolf among sheep.’” This brew is made with whole flower Citra, Chinook, Simcoe, and Mosaic hops, all American grown. DirtWolf is 8.7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are unspecified. DirtWolf replaces Victory’s Hop Wallop in the permanent lineup.

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The pour delivered a beautiful beer topped with a large, bright white head that was frothy and lasted several minutes. The liquid itself was perfectly golden, with a filtered clear body, and no particles or sediment. Lacing was top-notch, leaving behind a thick coating of foam all the way down my glass. Picture perfect for the style.

If you’re nose isn’t prepared for a metric ton of hops, get it ready. Kaboom! Layers of citrus — grapefruit, orange and lemon peel, even hints of lime smash together with dry, dank pine. This is a very hemp-like beer, super fresh and almost skunky it’s so hoppy. There’s a light malt presence here with some sweet caramel, but you’ll have to dig for it. DirtWolf is a brilliant showcase for hops in its aroma — super impressive!

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The taste starts out auspiciously enough with a bit of faint grassiness, but hang on: middle of the mouth blasts every taste bud with dry grapefruit and orange peel. There’s a touch of caramel sweetness, which kind of calms down the hops in the early going, but the alpha acids win out in a huge way — this is a brutal, tongue scraper of a beer, and I loved every second of it. Deep pine and grapefruit, orange peel, lemon peel, suggestions of lime — and the finish. OH. THE. FINISH. Like Juicy Fruit bubblegum, this thing is a citrus haven with a shot of ripe, juicy, fleshy tropical fruits. Couple that with a dry bitterness and you’ve got a sublime yin/yang situation going on. After a few sips, the menthol hoppy mouth is in full effect — click your tongue to the roof of your mouth and it’s like a fruity menthol blast. Exactly how much hops are in this little bottle? And where can I obtain more, with great frequency?! DirtWolf is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel. The alcohol is lightly present on the taste, but it adds to the flavor.

AMAZING beer — DirtWolf is like candy to me. Hoppy candy. So fresh, so dank, so fruity…an instant classic on my rating scale, and you can sign me up for a case a month since this is year-round. This is exciting and I’m happy such a good brew came from Victory. Expect this to be a mainstay in my fridge. BUY WITHOUT HESITATION (if you’re into extreme hoppy beers).

Victory DirtWolf Imperial IPA, 97 points. Price: $7.99 US for a four-pack. (A steal!)

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