Why this beer is called Redemption is beyond me. It has nothing to be sorry for. In fact, I think one can safely say that this beer most definitely has a chip on its shoulder, or at least some sediment in the bottle.
This beer had an interesting journey to get to me – more interesting than a late night T ride in Boston, but less interesting than Elian Gonzalez’s trip to the states. What am I talking about? Russian River does not sell its brews beyond its brew pub and some small local shops near it’s home base in Santa Rosa, CA. I bought this guy online where it took the express flight straight here to CT, was attempted to be delivered at my house 3 times, chilled at the UPS warehouse for 5 days, and then finally made its way into my fridge. Was it worth the wait? Let’s do the numbers…
Appearance: Almost as golden as the helmets of Notre Dame. This beer was pretty. Definitely murky as it’s a blonde, Belgian style ale, but it looks wonderful. All capped off with a white, frothy head that shrunk quickly… (I WAS IN THE POOL!!!)… and left no lacing behind.
Smell: Over all it smelled like a yeasty Belgian. Some coriander made an appearance as well as some orange zest and other fruity goodness. Not much more than that in the brew, no hint of hops, and not much malt coming from this one. It smelled understated, and to be honest it smelled as if it lacked complexity, which I found surprising seeing that Russian River prides itself on a meticulous brewing style with crafty ways of producing its ales. However, having an understated smell was a little refreshing.
Taste: Crisp was the first word that came to my head, and very well balanced. Quite refreshing. They yeast didn’t overwhelm it and the beer finishes with an orange-oily taste that hits those bitter taste nodes on the sides of your mouth. For a Belgian style beer, it doesn’t get much better than this. To quote the Marker’s Mark slogan, “It is what it isn’t.” Russian River definitely does not try to get too cute with this beer, it’s a no frills ale that tastes wonderfully simple. No one taste or ingredient stands out on the palate – a joyously clean brew.
Often times breweries try to be a little too aggressive with a classic Belgian style, but Russian River lets their technique and the beer be the star of the show, which I can really appreciate (it’s even bottle fermented which speaks volumes as to how micro RR beers are). Overly citrus or overly spicy Belgians are just awful, so I’m glad the fine folks in Northern California decided to take a step back and simplify. If one were to knock it, it does tastes slightly more tart than most Belgians, but as a personal preference, I love this. It’s a great refreshing brew for those lazy summer days… wish I popped this one a little bit sooner.
The mouthfeel and drinkability of this beer are absolutely phenomenal, and with only 5.15% ABV it’s something that you can definitely go back to. Prices for Russian River beers are often at a premium as they are strictly a local legend in the Napa Valley, so be prepared to fork over between 6 and 11 dollars for a little more than 12 ounces per brew. To try such an artfully crafted beer as this is worth the $$ though. For curious readers, I actually picked up this bottle on letspour.com, which offers some great beer that is either not distributed to the east coast, or just not carried by many package stores.
Overall, I have to say that this beer surprised me. I was ready to be cynical with this review, but RR delivered with a balanced Belgian that went down easy and was extremely enjoyable. For what it is, I have to say that this gets a rare A, as I didn’t find any big reason to knock it at all. It misses the + because I wasn’t absolutely blown away by it. If you see it online, pick up a bottle.