“Damn you Urkel Damn you to hell.” That could have been the first time I had ever heard a swear on prime time television. I was a young lad watching Family Matters, which came on right after Full House, but before Step by Step on ABC’s Friday night sitcom lineup, TGIF. My favorite brother and I had our eyes glued to the 13 inch Magnavox in the den. I don’t remember this, and it may or may not have happened, but I imaged we would have looked at each other in shock… “WAIT A MINUTE!! …They… they can’t do that!” That same feeling of shock and awe, that I experienced as a 9 year-old kid, that Bush 43 used to cripple Iraq, and that I felt when a bully condemned Urkel to hell came back to me when I had the opportunity to get another beer from Russian River, appropriately called Damnation.
Again, finding such a rarity was something I couldn’t pass up on. And what better name could you give to a beer while engaging in sinful activity? As soon as the cork popped, I had the urge to use the Lord’s name in vain, covet my neighbor’s possessions, and steal the pumpkin that’s sitting on our apartment’s stairs. Weird. One thing I rebelled against was this beer telling me not to drink it in a pint glass… feel like this was a devilish trick. I hope drinking it wouldn’t make me bear false witness… what’s the worse that can happen? Let’s do the numbers.
Appearance: Darker than Redemption, it’s a pretty, dark gold color with it’s visibility being poor, but then again it is a Belgian style ale with that being typical. The head was an off white that lasted longer than Redemption’s, but still went a way relatively quick. The beer left moderate lacing as I was chugging away.
Smell: Up front, it smells similar to RR’s Redemption Ale with the yeasty citrusy smells coming through. However, Damnation has a little wild side to it: I definitely got more white wine notes out of this brew than their Redemption Blonde. Yeasty, with a bit more of a lemon scent too. Also got a bit more of a hoppy smell out of Damnation. Overall, it pretty much was what I expected after having Redemption.
Taste: Yowzah… more piney and bitter than I was expecting. This beer has jumped from the depths of a firey inferno to kick you in the mouth with hellacious flavor. You certainly taste more hops in Damnation than you do in Redemption, and the body of the beer is much fuller than Redemption. It seems strange, but you even have that burny feeling in the back of your throat after you finish a sip. Perhaps it’s the higher ABV causing that — 7.75% (would have been more appropriate if it were 6.66%). It’ll put hair on your chest… or at least on your face (probably a creepy looking soul patch and thin mustache satin himself would be proud of). You get the yeasty taste of a Belgian — it’s not overpowering, and it does gets drowned out by bitterness pretty quickly. The brew also tastes more malty than any Belgian I’ve ever had and it’s also a little syrupy too. I noticed that when I took my first sip, but after half the brew was gone, I got used to it. I would almost call it a hybrid between a yeasty Belgian and an east coast IPA.
Even though the flavors were more aggressive in Damnation than Redemption, it was still very drinkable. Redemption is more of a manly beer that is satisfying after one pour. You only need one of these to feel a little devilish (in other words, with it’s ABV and big flavor, it hits you after a little more than 12 ounces). Redemption tasted great but was a little subdued, and is better for the social gathering where you may be drinking a few. Another difference between Redemption and Damnation was that this brew was more carbonated than I expected, but that could be in part because it’s bottle fermented, and maybe this son of a bitch got more priming sugar than his fallen angles? We’ll go with that… it did not take away from the beer, but it’s simply an observation.
All things considered, it was one of the more unique beers that I’ve had. I feel like when Peak Organic made their Weiss Principal, they tried to make it taste like this, but missed the mark. Damnation walks a fine line between brilliant and being average. If there was just a tad more malt, it could have been too thick and heavy, but if there was a little less yeast, it would have been nothing more than an average east coast IPA. I’d give this a final grade of a B+. It is well balanced, and I would prefer this to most Belgians out there, but will deduct it on it’s slightly too malty characteristics for they style of brew that it is. I certainly would not condemn this one to hell, unlike the label makes you think.