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The Beer Circle » Oak, Russian River Brewing Co., Tripel » Russian River Damnation Batch 23

Russian River Damnation Batch 23

Every 23 batches of Russian River’s Damnation is destined for special treatment, as head brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo spices up the recipe and tosses the result onto oak chips for almost a month to transform the beer.

So why 23? Pretty much every Russian River label tosses in the number as an Easter Egg somewhere in the illustration, but Damnation is the only one to receive a recipe change for each 23rd iteration. Its label sheds some light on the importance of the number:

23 is the ninth prime number, the smallest odd prime that is not a twin prime. A human baby receives 23 chromosomes from each parent. It takes 23 seconds for blood to circulate through the body. There are 23 vertebrae in the human body. The number of joints in the human arm is 23. A human’s physical biorhythm cycles every 23 days. This influences coordination, energy, strength, endurance, initiative and resistance to illness. The earth’s axis is at 23 degree angle. On average, every 23rd wave crashing to shore is twice as large as normal. In the year 23 A.D., Pliny the Elder was born. Julius Caesar on September 23rd, and was stabbed 23 times. Mayans believe the world will end on December 23, 2012…

I like the reference to Pliny the Elder.

Russian River Damnation Batch 23
Opens with a booming pop and I was expecting this to gush over based on how loud and forceful it was. Thankfully, nothing bubbled over, but when I poured it it immediately created a gigantic head. So much so, that by the time the glass filled, it was about two-thirds foam to liquid. Even as it sat it actually rose in height. The head itself is soapy, rocky, and has a thickness that is more similar to a marshmallow than beer foam. Thus, it has an incredible long retention and as it recedes it leaves giant clumps of head in its wake.

The nose is incredibly yeasty, with spices that are commonplace to the style in the form of cloves, a pinch of nutmeg, and cracked black pepper. There is even a bit of banana, grape, and apple. The backend has a slight presence of vanilla and the oak plays nicely with the other elements.
The first thing I noticed about the taste is how strong it was in terms of alcohol. I'm not sure if this is exacerbated by the presence of the other spicy elements, but this has a definite kick to it that is noticeable until the finish. Otherwise, its bursting with flavor, as a bready malt beginning treads between sweet and spice with the fruits interspersed within. The banana and grape in particular meld nicely with the cloves and oak, which is noticeable, but not as much as I was anticipating.
Mouthfeel is moderately heavy-bodied with high carbonation. This is very zesty on the palate, which is interesting but pleasant.
Drinkability is moderate. I enjoyed the addition of oak to the base beer, but I would've liked to see more. Otherwise, the flavors are great, but somewhat hindered by the strong alcohol presence within this. Toning that down would've exponentially improved this beer.
As is the case with most Russian River corked bottles, this isn't a cheap beer. But with that investment comes a return that is well worth indulging for every now and then, even if it normally isn't distributed to you locally.
Overall, I enjoyed the evolution from normal Damnation to this oak-aged version. It still retains the recognizable traits, but definitely gets a bump up in the alcohol department during its transformation to a Tripel. My only changes would be if the oak would come across more and the alcohol less, but what I currently had is a nice beer itself.

Beer Stats
Style: Tripelt
Serving: Bottle
Size: 375ml
ABV: 10.75%
BA Score: 93
RB Score: 99

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Written by Greg Bruce

While studying at Penn State, Greg learned that beer could serve a much better purpose than a means to an end for a good party. Delicately brewed Belgians acted as a stark contrast to the almost watery beer that had been so popular and began the journey towards craft beer. From that launch point he always seems to land on something new. Greg approaches each beer, whether it is an aggressively-hopped West Coast IPA or an English bitter (and everything between), with a clear mind and open opinion, ready to analyze, compare, and ultimately, enjoy. While always fond of stouts (especially barrel-aged) and IPAs, Greg is slowly but surely drifting towards various soured beers. Find Greg Bruce on Google Plus

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