Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Devil's Backbone

We had a nice, normal dinner once he made it to Charlottesville Friday night and left our next brewery trip for lunch on Saturday. This time, we headed about 40 minutes outside the city to the brewpub, Devil's Backbone.
Really nice looking building. Looks rustic without actually being rustic if you know what I mean. Off to the left side is a grain silo with their logo on it. When we got there, it was busy but there were still a few seats at the bar and some tables were empty. As you walk in, a hostess stand is right in front with a wall separating the bar from the entrance, a restaurant area off to the right and some more high tops by the bar. We made our way to the far side of the bar and took a seat.

At this point, I was given a choice of three different sizes of samplers: their 4 everyday beers, their 8 seasonals, or all of their beers plus a secret tap. Take a guess which one I chose? Probably the 4 everyday ones right? Yeah, okay, I obviously chose the full sampler but how else would I figure out what beer to order? And besides, apparently it's Virginia law that samplers can only be 2oz so even at 13 tasters, it's only like two beers.
I'm honestly not sure the best way to present my thoughts on the beer for this. If I just list comments on all 13 then you'll probably just skim them or skip them outright since it may be boring. So, instead I think I'll list them out just so you get an idea of the variety but just talk about the ones I liked.

In no particular order, their beers were: Wintergreen Weiss, Berliner Metro Weiss, Cru Noir (dark wheat), Gold Leaf Lager (sort of a helles lager), Vienna Lager, Kollaborator Doppelbock, Black Rock Milk Stout, Baltic Coffee, Smokehaus Rauchbier, Baracus (imperial american brown), Eight Point IPA, and their secret beer, the Jalapeno Smokehaus.

I was excited to see a berliner weiss on the menu and, while not quite as good as Nodding Head's, the Berliner Metro Weiss was still quite tasty. Slightly tart nose with a sweeter tartness coming through in the body. Really well balanced though and quite good.

The Black Rock Milk Stout had a nice roasty nose with a nicely balanced body. The lactose added a little body and sweetness and balanced the roast really well. We ended up getting a growler fill with this one as even Jo liked it.

The two smoked beers made for an interesting comparison. The normal Smokehaus was decently smoky in the nose with a body that didn't quite back it up. There was smoke, but it needed a little more flavor in the base. The smoked jalapeno version, though, had the chilies bringing some spiciness and pepperiness (not a word but you know what I mean) that brought it to an interesting place. After every sip, my mouth started to tingle and I'm betting after a full glass it would have been burning quite a bit. Very different.

And last of the samples was the Baracus, an imperial brown ale. While not a good representation of a brown as there wasn't really any roastiness, labeled as a double IPA it would have gone over pretty well. The citrus in it was very clean and well represented.

The lagers were all decent as well but nothing incredibly special. Really, the only beer I disliked was the Cru Noir, their dark wheat, as I didn't find anything in it. Just too weak for me though I generally dislike straight wheat beers so that's probably why.

Before moving on to the full glass of Baltic Coffee, here are some pictures of the inside.
Some of the shelves had growlers from around the country on them. I recognized some but not all of the breweries.
Pretty neat looking chandelier too. And you can see how big and airy it was inside. Very spacious even after it got super crowded.

After working my through the sampler, I decided to order the Baltic Coffee and Johanna got the Berliner Metro Weiss.
The Baltic Coffee was my favorite beer of the day and may be one of the best coffee beers I've had. Sweet coffee nose without any astringency. Very inviting. The body followed with a super clean coffee flavor and a nice roasty porter to back it up. The coffee felt like it was mixed with sugar and cream it was so smooth. Very easy drinking and Jo, who usually doesn't like coffee beers, liked this one quite a bit. We possibly would have gotten a growler fill of it but they didn't allow this one to be filled so oh well. Unfortunately it was way too crowded to find out how they add the coffee to it. I was curious as there are a number of different ways to do it and I wonder how they got it to be so smooth.

The food at Devil's Backbone was also quite good. We got some fried pickles to start which were great and then I got an excellent pulled pork sandwich. Smokey but not too smokey and very tasty. Nice sweet potato fries too. All in all, this was a great visit. I wish I had been able to talk to the bartenders a bit more but they were incredibly busy the whole time we were there so I didn't really get a chance. The beers were mostly all at least good with a few standouts. On the whole, this was our favorite place of the weekend as it had everything: atmosphere, good food and good beer.

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