Let's start with the sinuous campfire smokiness of this beer. No, its spicy Belgian yeastiness. And there's also its sweet caramel underbelly to consider. Needless to say, this limited-release beer, part old-school German rauchbier and part Belgian dubbel, manages to pack a lot into one bottle. And doesn't it sound perfect for a cozy winter dinner?
Beer Details: Victory Otto Ale from Victory Brewing Company (Belgian-style, bottle-conditioned dubbel ale, 8.1% ABV)
Appearance: A creamy parchment-colored head tops this mahogany hued beer. The sticky lacing down the glass is artwork.
Aroma: Earthy smokiness with caramel malts. Maybe a hint of fruit? Dark cherries and grapes? The warm spiciness makes me think of fall fruit cobbler.
Taste: I've been burned by rauchbiers before (pun intended). I love me some smoky flavor, but so many smoked beers get carried away with things and it ends up tasting like a charcoal pit in your mouth. Not great.
The brewers at Victory did a smart thing. They took that smoked malt profile of the rauchbier and paired it with the spicy caramel flavors typical of a Belgian dubbel ale. The result is genius. It's balanced; it's smoky and sweet; it's not overpowering or aggressive. It's just plain good.
The first sip tastes crisp and candy-sweet, then the smoke curls in and settles mid-palate. That smokiness lingers well into the finish, the way your clothes still smell deliciously of campfire the next morning. The malts are soft caramel and brown sugar. They pluck the sweet notes from the smoke and balance it perfectly.
Earthy hops and spicy Belgian yeast esters come into play as well. A touch of bitter, wet charcoal gives the beer some edge while notes of clove and mace add some nuance to the flavor.
This is definitely a special occasion beer, as opposed to a casual after-work kind of beer. Pick up a bottle for your next winter dinner party and serve it in little tumblers with the main course.
Food Pairing: As you might imagine, the smoky flavor of this beer makes a perfect match for roasted meats and vegetables. Roast turkey with gravy, roasted potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, pork roast, you name it and this beer will match it.
Have you had a chance to try this beer yet?
Related: Spooky Brews: 5 Spicy-Sweet Pumpkin Ales for Fall
(Image: Emma Christensen)