Taking a Walk on the Wild (Devil) Side

photo by Kevin Gibson
photo by Kevin Gibson

Today is National IPA Day, and we've been counting down the days leading up to it with posts on a few interesting IPAs we've tried lately. Today’s post concludes our series – happy sipping!

When brewers have fun, beer drinkers have fun, too. With craft beer’s ridiculous rise in popularity over the last few years, brewers have been having a lot of fun.

While the American IPA is one of the most popular beer styles, with its floral notes and bitter hops, an appreciation for sour beers also has emerged. It’s only natural that the two would meet at some point, and that’s exactly some of the fun mentioned.

I don’t believe I’ve ever had a Victory Brewing Company beer I didn’t like, and HopDevil, the Pennsylvania brewery’s signature American IPA, is one of the best around. Full-bodied and well balanced, it’s an explosion of two row German malts and American hops. Naturally, the folks at Victory decided to see what would happen if some brettanomyces came into the mix. That’s how WildDevil came to be.

Brettanomyces are what give those funky, sour Belgian beers their, well, funk. Traditionally for American brewers, if your beer was “Bretted,” well, that was considered a bad thing. Ah, but what happens is that the Brett adds a layer of complexity to beer – a layer a lot of palates have learned to love. And there’s plenty to love in WildDevil.

I picked up a limited-edition WildDevil in a “caged and corked” bomber bottle; WildDevil is bottle conditioned, meaning there is yeast present, so prepare for plenty of creamy head and some extra funk at the bottom of the bottle. Pour gently.

When I dropped the first hazy orange pour into my makeshift stemware (which probably didn’t help matters), I was surprised that the base beer was front and center, but with an extra funky tartness mixed in with the caramel and grapefruit. I had expected the sour to take center stage.

The first drink backed up the aroma, with the malt backbone of the IPA giving way to a spicy, pine sharpness that blended fairly nicely with the oncoming tartness brought by the using the Brett in fermentation. What I liked about the restraint was that the sourness continued to mesh well with the inherent citrus notes in the hops, giving it a deep, wonderful presence that drank quite smoothly.

The farther down into the bottle I got, the more of the funk made itself known in both the aroma and the flavor, which is not surprising, but the beer never became unruly or unbalanced – there’s just a lot going on. After a few drinks, it begins to feel tannic, and yet there’s a creaminess still present.

The wildness certainly was there, but order was still mostly kept. This would be a good one for your next bottle share, sipped with your favorite spicy food or pungent cheese, or enjoyed to celebrate your favorite holiday. You know, like today! Happy National IPA Day.