Monday, January 21, 2013

Victory Brewing Company Otto - Gus #36

Today's brew is a different one.  A different style than most are accustomed to.  It comes from Victory Brewing Company out of Downingtown, PA.  This is their Otto Ale.  A Belgian "Smoked" Dubbel.  I've had some smoked beers, but I've never had a smoked Belgian until this point.  Going into the brew, I had to keep any open mind and look for traits of each beer individually and then decide whether or not I liked how they blended together.  I am a fan of well done smoked beers.  But, I'm a HUGE fan of Belgian beers.  This brew came to me by trade (Thanks Dino!) and as soon as I saw it I was excited to try it.  So here is the review for Victory Brewing Company's Otto Ale.

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About the Beer:
Style:  Smoked Beer (Rauchbier)
Alcohol by Volume:  8.10%
IBUs:  N/A
Malts:  Munich and Belgian Caramel Malt
Hops:  German Hops
Yeast:  Trappist

"The complimentary flavors of smoked malt and Belgian yeast seemed like an obvious combination," said Bill Covaleski (Victory co-founder.)  "As far as we know, no one has bothered to put them together until now."

I poured this brew into a Belgian tulip glass.

Appearance:  The brew poured into the glass with a dark, rich mahogany color.  Had some ruby hints that faded into orange shades just as it settled.  The pour gave the brew a huge three to four finger head.  I did expect the beer to have a large, frothy head since it was bottle conditioned.  Sticky, fluffy lacing all around the glass.  Slight hints of alcohol legs but the lacing and head hid a lot of that until it dissipated.  Head was an off white, almost cream color.  It was full of multi-sized bubbles and stuck around forever.  Very nice looking Dubbel.  Good head retention even for a 8+% ABV brew.

Aroma:  At first sniff you really pick up some of the sweet, fruity aspects of the Dubbel.  They aren't extremely big though.  Then you pick up a woody smokiness.  It starts to kind of take over with the smoke being the big player.  It is a decent smoke aroma.  But, it overpowers the other things in the brew.  If you weren't exactly looking for the Belgian characteristics you wouldn't find them in my opinion.  Maybe some slight hints of tobacco mixed in.  No alcohol aromas either.  But just a smokey aroma with small hints of the others.

Taste:  Right up front you get the aspects of the Dubbel.  The dark fruits and sweetness mixed with a good full bodied, medium high carbonation mouthfeel.  That doesn't last long as the smokiness comes in mid palate and just washes over everything Belgian you could get.  Not much residual yeast flavors that you expect from a Belgian.  Back of the mouth is more smokiness.  It kind of just lingers around.  It's more of an imitation smokey flavor to me.  The aroma was a bit better than the flavor.  This is a 2011 bottle so it's interesting that the smokiness stayed around in the bottle.  Usually some of the smoke will die off and other flavors start to come out.  It's on the verge of being balanced.  I may have popped this one a little too late or too early.  As the brew warmed, the smoke just overwhelmed it.  Not many of the Dubbel qualities were around at all.  There isn't any alcohol flavors, so those have been masked well.

Verdict:  This was, as I said, an interesting brew.  I came into it with mixed emotions from the beginning.  Since it was a Belgian Dubbel that I know and love mixed with a smoked beer that I'm quite fond of, I didn't know how to take it.  But, it's a decent brew.  It's nothing amazing or earth shattering.  It has some of the Dubbel characteristics, but they are over shadowed by the smoke.  I think I wanted more balance between the two.  After the brew warmed, all you were able to get was a smokiness.  And the smokiness seemed more synthetic or imitation.  I'm gonna give this one a C.  It's an average beer.  Nothing really bad about it, but it didn't rock my socks.  I think I would like to try it again after it's aged a bit longer to see what it does.

This beer would pair well, like other smoked brews, with something from the grill.  Nice barbecue chicken or something similar.  I would definitely advise sharing it with some friends instead of taking the whole bottle by yourself.  I usually recommend that with all smoked beers.

So there we have it.  A very interesting brew (have I said that enough?) that should be tried by anyone that can get it.  Maybe you thought differently than me and may find something else in there.  I'm really glad I tried it, but I think I prefer smoked porters to smoked Belgian Dubbels.  I like Dubbels in the traditional way.  Remember to comment, subscribe and follow.  Let us know how we are doing.  Also look up Mason-Dixon Brew Crew on Facebook.  Tom is working on that so you guys can keep up with what we have going on.  Thanks for reading!