My final review for tripel month is Golden Monkey from Victory Brewing Company in Pennsylvania. I came up a little short on examples this month, I think it is clear that more breweries need to give this style a shot. It is funny how a beer’s name can result in immediate preconceptions about the flavor. I hesitated to try Golden Monkey for years because I assumed the title was reference to a strong banana flavor in the beer. I am not a picky eater, but bananas are probably my least favorite food. A few types of ale yeast form isobutyl acetate as a byproduct of fermentation, and this gives the beer the aroma and flavor of banana. Isobutyl acetate is common in German Heffeweizens (not my favorite style), and can be part of the flavor profile for Belgian yeast strains. If it’s present in a small amount it doesn’t bother me, mixed with other yeast flavors I usually perceive more bubblegum than banana, but I’ve had a few beers where it was overwhelming. Fortunately Golden Monkey is not one of those beers, I finally tried it a few years back and enjoyed the complex flavor of this tripel. Victory Golden Monkey is available year-round on draft, in 750 mL bottles and in 12 oz. bottles and cans.
Victory Golden Monkey pours a clear golden yellow with a solid white head. The scent is mostly the Belgian yeast, fruity and spicy. The yeast leads the flavor too, notes of bubblegum, pear, apple and clove. The added spices give some additional complexity, the coriander is particularly evident. The beer also has a solid malt backbone, touches of biscuit, cracker, honey and sugar. It isn’t a hoppy beer by any means, but they are more noticeable here than in some other versions of the style, earthy and herbal with a crisp bitterness to finish. The beer is medium bodied and you taste just a hint of the 9.5% ABV. The finish is dry with some lingering fruity esters and warming alcohol. Victory Golden Monkey is a very tasty tripel, one of the better readily available versions on the market. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Victory Reviews:
Victory/Stone/Dogfish Head Saison Du BUFF, Victory Moving Parts IPA #3, Victory Swing Saison, Victory Hop Ranch
I have made it pretty well know in this space that I love collaboration beers, it’s fun to see what happens when two or more talented brewers share their skills and ideas. I also think it is a great way for the brewers themselves to hone their craft, even the best brewer in the worldcan still learn new tricks and perspectives. The one downfall to collaboration beers (aside from the fact that most are one-off recipes, which sucks if the product is amazing), is that expectations can be sky high. It is easy to fall into the trap of “Brewery A is amazing and Brewery B is amazing so their collaboration beer must be twice as amazing!” Many of the best beers in the world took years of experimentation and fine tuning to achieve perfection, so it’s unlikely that a one-time experiment is going to find that level. Regardless, if I see a collaboration beer involving multiple brewers that I have enjoyed in the past there is a good chance that I’ll be sampling it. Recently I noticed a new saison brewed by three well respected leaders in the beer community, Victory, Stone and Dogfish Head. Apparently the idea for this beer was hatched in 2003 at a retail sampling in Boston, and a version was finally brewed and released this year. The beer is named Saison Du BUFF, where “BUFF” is an acronym for Brewers United for the Freedom of Flavor. Saison Du BUFF is brewed with fresh parsley, lemon thyme, sage and rosemary along with Centennial, Cascade and Citra hops. It is available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles for a limited time.
Victory/Stone/Dogfish Head Saison Du Buff pours a clear copper with a minimal white head. The scent is mostly from the Belgian style yeast, spicy and a little fruity. The yeast also leads the flavor, touches of pepper, apricot and coriander. The adjunct spices are present but subdued, I taste the thyme and rosemary but it’s very subtle. The beer has a solid malt body, notes of biscuit and crackers along with some citrusy and earthy hops that also crisp up the finish. Saison Du Buff is light and easy to drink, but packs a little punch at 6.8% ABV. In all this is a solid saison, complex but drinkable. I guess I am also guilty of unreasonable expectations when I see the heavy hitters listed on the label, but I enjoyed the beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Victory Reviews: Victory Moving Parts IPA #3, Victory Swing Saison, Victory Hop Ranch
Previous Stone Reviews: Stone Sublimely Self Righteous, Stone Enjoy By IPA, Stone Go To IPA
Previous Dogfish Head Reviews: Dogfish Head Sixty-One, Dogfish Head Burton Baton
Many craft beer drinkers are obsessed with trying new beers. There is so much variety available now that you could probably go years without ever drinking the same beer twice (if you wanted to, not recommending that). This works well for small brewers, they can augment their flagship products with one-off test batches and brewery only releases that allow for experimentation and feedback as they expand. Larger craft brewers have a more difficult task, they tend to brew on larger scale and distribute over a wider area, plus many already have an extensive range of popular products. One strategy medium to large craft brewers are using to continually release new products is to brew a series of one-off, smaller batch, themed beers. Some breweries make single hop beers that use all the same ingredients and just change the hop variety while others make completely different beer styles for each release in the series. Somewhere in the middle is Victory Brewing Company’s Moving Parts IPA, where the only thing that stays constant is the IPA style. The third batch of Moving Parts features Tettnang Tettnang and Citra hops along with a Belgian style yeast. It is available for a limited time on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.
Victory Moving Parts Batch #3 pours a pale orange with a substantial white head. The scent is solidly hoppy, floral and woodsy. The taste is hop-forward, notes of pine, lemon and cut grass accompanied by a hit of bitterness, present but not mouth puckering. The malts are pretty mild, just a hint of cracked grain and caramel and enough body to balance the showcased hops. Their website says this is brewed with a Belgian style yeast, I get a little fruity ester flavor but not the “Belgian IPA” level I would expect. Moving Parts is light bodied, goes down smooth and isn’t overly boozy at 6.6% ABV. The ever changing IPA idea allows for variety and innovation, especially since they seem willing to change out yeast and malts along with the hops, and this is good enough that I will make an effort to sample some of the future releases in the series. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5
Previous Victory Reviews:
Victory Swing Saison, Victory Hop Ranch
While saisons tend to be light bodied and easy to drink, many can be deceptively high in alcohol. Many times a saison will go down easily (and a little too quickly), and I will look up the ABV and be shocked to find it’s 7-9%. I’m not one to complain about alcohol, it’s fine as long as it isn’t overdone, but some occasions call for lower alcohol beers. Many craft breweries are now complementing their lineups with session beers that are lower in alcohol but still full in flavor. One example is Swing, the session saison from Victory Brewing Company. Swing is brewed with German barley malt along with rye, oats and wheat, balanced by German and American hops. They also add peppercorns, orange peel and lemon zest to the brew, adjuncts that are usually found in Belgian witbiers. Swing is a Spring seasonal sold in 12 oz bottles.
Victory Swing Saison pours a pale golden yellow, crystal clear with a very mild white head. The fruit and spice from the Belgian yeast and adjunct ingredients dominate the smell. These ingredients are strong in the flavor too. The yeast adds pear and coriander, while the adjuncts contribute notes of pepper and orange. The hops are pretty mild, contributing some earthy and woodsy taste. The malt provides a nice backbone for the beer, and the addition of wheat and rye adds a mild flavor that nicely complements the yeast and spices. Victory Swing is light bodied and easy to drink, very sessionable at 4.5% ABV. The finish is very dry with a mild tang on the tongue. This is a solid beer for a warm spring BBQ, easy to drink and it also pairs well with food. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Victory Reviews:
Victory Hop Ranch
In honor of Super Bowl Sunday I decided to review a beer by Victory Brewing Company. Someone will claim victory in the big game tonight, and quite a few people will celebrate with some delicious craft beer. Victory Brewing Company was founded in 1996 by childhood friends and long-time homebrewers Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski. They opened a brewery and restaurant in Downington, PA, and grew their brand into a nationally recognized craft beer staple. Victory now brews over 93,000 barrels a year and distributes to 34 states and 5 foreign countries. Victory is known for their diverse range of year round beers including Hop Devil IPA, Prima Pils and Golden Monkey Tripel. They also have an ever-increasing lineup of seasonal and specialty beers. Victory’s winter seasonal is Hop Ranch, a double IPA brewed with Pilsner malt and Mosaic and Azacca hops. While many brewers focus on dark lagers, stouts and porters in the winter months, Victory produces a very light bodied winter beer. Don’t be deceived by the color though, Hop Ranch is 9.0% ABV, plenty of alcohol to keep you warm on a chilly winter night.
Victory Hop Ranch IPA pours a pale gold with a solid off-white head and a nice lacing on the glass. The smell is very hop forward, citrus fruit first, followed by some floral and spicy scents. The taste is all hops, it starts with strong lemon and orange flavors followed by notes of pine, earth and spice. There are some very mild malt flavors balancing out the backbone, but this is clearly a hop-centric beer. The yeast also adds some bready notes and a touch of green apple. Victory Hop Ranch is light bodied, pleasantly carbonated, and at 9.0% ABV dangerously easy to drink. You don’t taste the alcohol at all, which is an achievement for a beer with light body and high alcohol. The finish is clean, dry with a little tartness on the tongue. I could have used a little more bitterness, but that may be a personal preference – I like my double IPAs to have some bite. Overall a well done double IPA, clean and easy to drink despite the high alcohol. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5