Procuring – and then opening - a bottle of RUSSIAN RIVER DAMNATION, BATCH 23 was very much akin to the experience of finding some rare, dusty 45rpm single I’d been looking for for ages in the bottom of a crate in a musty record store in Lincoln, Nebraska. Absolute triumph, mixed with a little bit of hubris and even a little embarrassment that something like this would be exciting to me at my advanced age. As I’ve said before, the pleasure center in the brain that’s activated by the “rare beer score” is the same region that’s lit up by any other form of irrational obsession. Lucky for me, and for all of us, this beer – as I knew it would – totally delivers.
Here’s how it works: every 23rd bottling run of DAMNATION, one of RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING’s finest ales and certainly the flagship for their Belgian-style line, the brewery ages the batch on oak chips. This gives this tripel-style pale ale a much more complex body and a variety of different flavors, It also ramped up the alcohol content another 3%, from 7.75% to 10.75%. They’ve done this twice now – what I’m reviewing for you today is actually the 46th bottling of DAMNATION, or the second time they’ve unveiled a batch of this stuff. Hedonist Beer Jive did not try it last year, the first time this experiment was attempted.
DAMNATION, BATCH 23 pours of lush, cloudy orange color. It presents a very dense citrus taste, with definite oak in the aftertaste and almost a whiskey-like burn. Not a scorch – just a pleasant little scalding, you know what I mean? Yeah, it’s a strong 10.75% ABV, and it definitely tastes it. The carbonation is more full and rich than I’d expected. I also get a delicious peppery, yeast taste. It’s not altogether unlike the pleasures offered up by DAMNATION – just “bigger”. Totally worth the effort to track one down, and a damn good evening was spent enjoying this one to its fullest. 8.5/10.