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Devil's Backbone | Real Ale Brewing Company

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164 Reviews
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Devil's BackboneDevil's Backbone

Brewed by:
Real Ale Brewing Company
Texas, United States | website

Style: Tripel

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.10%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Pegasus on 05-18-2005

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Reviews: 164 | Ratings: 757
Photo of BirFan
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%

Nice combination of fruit and alcohol, with a decidedly sweet finish. It's definitely a Tripel, though not as rich and full as some of my other favorites, especially among the Belgians. Good enough, however, that I buy it when I can, and look forward to it year round. Great color and taste, but not quite as much head as I might like. Love to drink it on tap sometime: only had it from the bottle so far.

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Photo of shwami
3.62/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Flowery nose; oily mouthfeel...definitely tastes like a tripel...alcohol fairly prominent...non-existent head, which was disappointing, although maybe it was a bit too chilled. Pretty good tripel from one of the best brewers in South Texas.

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Photo of jcance
4.75/5  rDev +25%

Generally I tend to prefer a strong, hoppy IPA, but this has been one of my favorit beers since I discovered it a year or so ago at the grocery store. Most often when I drink beer I am looking for a thick, strong, and bitter hops taste. I prefer my beers be skunky rather than tasteless. This beer however is the primary exception. While it is mild on hops and goes down light, it will inebriate the bejesus out of you and tastes like nothing else I've had thus far in my quests.

When I first tried this brew, I had not been avidly sampling different varieties of beer for very long. I found it to be easy to drink, wildly stong, and almost nondescript in flavor. However, my tastes have certainly changed a significant amount since I first tried this, and my decision to make an account on this website was actually inspired by the profound flavor I noticed upon trying this for the first time in a few months.

This beer has a really sophisticated flavor. It is mildly bitter with a moderate-low amount of carbonation. The really intriguing aspects of the flavor, though, lie mainly in aftertaste. The only way I can describe the taste is as "smoky." But not "cigarette smoky," more like, "this beer spent some time over an open mesquite fire smoky." I truly doubt that that is part of the brewing process but it's the only way I can describe it. This beer goes down very smooth, has a full, rich, almost chocolatey smoked flavor that, for me, provides a nice and drastically different break from the IPA flavors I'm most used to. I have not tried all of Real Ale's brews - the only ones I am familiar with are this, Fireman's Four, and Fireman's Four Squared - but I assume they are all of quality. This, however, I believe is a really special drink. Fireman's Four and Squared are mild, yet strong enough and rich in flavor. But I have really never tasted anything like Devil's Backbone.

In short, this beer is exactly what you would expect from a beer made in Texas named "Devil's Backbone". In a friend's words, "it's gotta be fucked up if it's got a name like Devil's Backbone."

These words are true; this beer has a high ass ABV, with deceptively smooth flavor that can lead to severe drunkenness (comparable ABV beers such as Dogfish Head 90 Minute or New Belgium Rampant tend to remind me exactly how potent they are with their flavor intensity and thickness, while this brew goes down easy like a light beer but hits just as hard), and unique, smoky, crisp overtones that have serious nostalgic value for a guy who was raised in and has lived in Texas his whole life. Sipping this I am reminded of outdoor fire pits and the sensation of warmth in the winter. I seriously recommend this beer for anyone who has the opportunity to try it. It might be a little more expensive than some of the other Real Ale brews or a larger pack of lower quality beer, but trust me, it's worth it. If I could get paid to tattoo this beer's label across my back I would. Enjoyd

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Photo of FLima
3.77/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Hazy golden color with a thin head with short retention.
Aroma of white grapes, candi sugar, sweet peaches and pineapples, and banana.
Flavor of white grapes, pears, candi sugar, pineapples, herbal hops, banana, cloves, green apples, mild white pepper, Belgian yeast and coriander. Dry aftertaste with a mild acidity and bitterness.
Medium body with tripel effervescent carbonation. Alcohol of 8.1% is superbly well hidden.
Very decent tripel and faithful to style. It is quite fruity, balancing to the tropical side.
Ap.3 Ar.4 Sab.3,75 Sens.3,75 Cj.3,75

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Photo of AtrumAnimus
4.75/5  rDev +25%

This one pours a very nice light golden color with minimum cloudiness. There is a nice thick long lived head that settles very slowly and leaves good lacing that eventually retreats down the sides of the glass as well.

The nose is aromatic, bready and sweet with notes of nutmeg, coriander and alcohol.

The flavor is a nice spicy tripel with alcohol and bread notes to match the nose along with some citrus, pepper, vanilla and a tinge of hops.

Overall this is an excellent example of the style with a nice Texas tinge. I highly recommend it.

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Photo of mblk6062
4.54/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a staple in my beer fridge. I am lucky to live in Dripping Springs, Texas which is only a few miles from the brewery, located in Blanco. Real Ale makes fantastic brews (Fireman's 4 is another staple), and even though they are a very high quality house, we can get alot of their great stuff in just about any convenience store/gas station in the Hill Country. As a huge aficianado of Belgian Ales (especially Trippels - best in the world, IMHO), I had tried many so called craft "Belgian Trippels" before with usually great disappointment, but I was blown away by this one when Real Ale introduced it in 2010 - they got it right, and they have kept on doing that!

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Photo of ElegantRose
3.35/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.5

With the apparent color of this beer like that of liquid apricots made effervescent alcohol, and the bubbles resembling what one might find in a cider, and they would be quite right in their assumption that this is an interesting take on a Belgian Tripel.

As alluded to previously, the bubbles are sparse, and the head non-existent after less than one minute. The mouthfeel, while originally temptingly Belgian, now (after five minutes) has become far more thin. I like a robust mouthfeel, and while the flavors are there (delicious coriander and orange), there is no lasting aftertaste, though I will state that there is a whisper of elegance that carries the beer through.

A bit of background: this beer has been aged approx. 7 months. There is a listed warning to drink by 3/29/14. It is currently July 2014. Usually there is not a 'sell-by' date on beer, and one can usually age Belgian beer many years if desired. Therefore, not a true Belgian beer, but an attempt on the style.

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Photo of jokelahoma
3.39/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a snifter at home.

Pours a bright, clear orange-yellow. Hardly any head, and what there was tended to be soda-like, with loose bubbles that almost immediately disappeared.

Odd aroma. Wet straw, and a fuel-like smell that I can't quite place. Something like watermelon as well. It ends up with a sourdough bread crust smell. Kind of a mishmash. Not bad, just rather hard to pin down.

Flavor is decent up front. Good Belgian abbey character, albeit a bit thin. Hints of banana, tangerine, and perhaps even grape skins. Then an odd thing happens... it simply disappears. Gone, like there's no flavor, as though you just took a sip of water. Finally the taste of the beer reappears, but toward the back of my throat, more an alcohol burn than a real taste, to be honest. I've had beers where the sip faded quickly, but I can't say as I've ever had one just up and disappear the second I swallowed the brew. I had to throw back several sips in rapid succession to see if I imagined it, but no, it's really so dry that it's just up and gone the very second you swallow. It's not astringent or mouth puckering, not that kind of dry. The beer just vanishes. It's a decent if rather mild rendition of a tripel to that point, but the disappearing act is kind of disconcerting.

Mouthfeel is extraordinarily light. You don't want much more than this in a tripel, but a little more would have been beneficial, and no doubt could have played a part in getting the flavor to hang around for a bit.

This had potential. Even with the wild, all over the place aroma, it still could have locked in to be a good brew. The flavor starts that way, than... poof. Gone. It's just too watery in both mouthfeel and especially the end of the drink to rate it too highly. Close, but no cigar. Or beer, for that matter.

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Photo of a0lbudman
3.81/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A-hazy light gold with a small white head that did leave a light lace
S-lemon and banana with some spice aroma to it and with some honey in the background
T-yeast and malt with banana and some spice, hop bitterness with some alcohol warming but not much
M-light body and creamy with high carbonation
O-was a solid beer. Enjoyed it.

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Photo of ranger7
3.84/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from the bottle into a laser-etched Samuel Adams glass.
Review from notes: January 11th, 2014. "Drink by 5/20/2014"

A: Golden with bright white head. Crystal clear.

S: Honey, sweet.

T: Slight hop bite up front, nice and smooth and sweet in the back.

M: Thin, very little carbonation. It works.

O: Pretty good Tripel example, maybe a bit too hoppy.

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Photo of Hoptometrist
3.73/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served on tap into a shaker glass.

A- Poured a light golden color with frothy white head that left some chunky lace.

S- Very fragrant floral, lemon, and citrus notes in the aroma. Not bad, but unexpected for the style.

T- Sweet Belgian candy sugar, bubblegum, clove, honey sweetness, some vanilla and caramel notes. Quite a bit of alcohol in the taste too.

M- A little sticky, full bodied, big alcohol warming, and slight alcohol burn.

O- A pretty nice American take on a tripel that had a lot of character, but the booze came through pretty prominently even for the style.

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Photo of brurevu
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I always love a good Belgian Tripel and this is a great Texas example of the style. It is a light golden color that deceptively hides its high alcohol content, but while the color is light, there is nothing light about the taste. It has all the signature Belgian yeast notes with some spicing and a slight hop to help balance out the flavors. It has a robust mouthfeel with a smooth balanced finish. This is a solid Tripel.

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Photo of fourstringer
3.13/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into an old-fashioned glass with a moderate hand. Label states: Best if consumed by 04.08.14.

A: Cloudy, golden yellow with a suggestion of head that immediately fizzles away to nothing. Zero retention. No lacing. Assumes the appearance of unfiltered apple juice.

S: Sweet with slight Belgian yeast. Rather fruity with notes of banana, apple, lemon, tropical varieties. Coriander. Reminds me of Hoegaarden. Smells good, I'd say.

T: Minimally sweet with a rather yeasty start. A harsh, dominating bitterness quickly arises and persists throughout. There are hints of spice and some tropical fruit/apple flavors that increase as it warms. Moderate alcohol presence for 8% ABV. Fairly dry finish.

M: Low-moderate carbonation with a paradoxical prickliness on the tongue. Moderate body. Coats well, but there is definitely something lacking...

O: Not terribly impressive. Maybe I have a bad bottle on my hands? I'd like to think so. I get some tripel-type flavors, but the bitterness really usurps the whole experience. Frankly, I'm surprised by some of the scores on this one...

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Photo of buschbeer
3.82/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12 FLUID OZ. bottle
Served in a snifter

A - It pours a hazy, golden amber color. It is topped with two inches of white head.

S - I could smell banana as I poured it. Upon further investigation, I thought it smelled like banana cream with some spices.

T - It has a mild banana taste at first. Belgian spices come through at the finish and tend to become the dominant flavor as it warms.

M - Moderate, smooth with low carbonation for the style.

O - While it is a timid tripel, I found it enjoyable. The banana and Belgian yeast spiciness were complimentary and refreshing.

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Photo of CMUbrew
3.96/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: A few shades above straw yellow when held up to the light. Hazy with plenty of yeast particles (probably should have decanted a little better). Not a whole lot of head to speak of.

S: Fruity yeast, apple, pear, hay. Smells like it be fairly sweet.

T: Yeast, grassy and slightly earthy hops, and honeycrisp apple. Sweet overall.

M: Carbonation may be a bit low, making it feel a little too big-bodied.

O: A really good, drinkable Belgian style beer.

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Photo of kojevergas
2.56/5  rDev -32.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Clearly identifies as a tripel on the label, so I'm reviewing as such. 12 fl oz brown glass bottle with fun label art and a branded silver pry-off pressure cap acquired as part of a mixed six-pack at Whole Foods HQ here in Austin and served into an Independence Brewing pilsner glass in me gaff in low altitude Austin, Texas. Reviewed live. Expectations are above average; I've yet to be impressed by the brewery, but this seems to be one of their less mainstream offerings so I'm optimistic.

Brewed with Czech Saaz hops, candi sugar, and Belgian yeast. Best before: 01/26/14.

Served cold - straight from me fridge - and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: No bubble show forms as I pour.

Pours a one finger wide head of grey-white colour. Somewhat thin. Not much creaminess or frothiness. No real lacing as the head recedes. Head retention is above average - about 3 minutes.

Body colour is a clear yellow-copper of average vibrance. Good clarity. Translucent. No yeast particles are visible.

Sm: Honey, nectary hop character, Belgian pale malts, Belgian candi sugar, grains & cereals, floral hop character, crystal malts, Saaz, banana fruit esters, and an apple cider touch. The herbal Saaz bitterness clashes with the malty sweetness. I'm not getting much in terms of yeast. There does seem to be an alcohol presence here, albeit a slight one. Not a great aroma for a tripel, but I'm optimistic. An inoffensive aroma of average to mild strength.

T: Malty sweetness in the first act and beginning of the first half; it clashes with the herbal Saaz and crystal malts in the late second half. Bursts of banana fruit esters up front alongside some clove. Candi sugar throughout doesn't fully conceal the hop bitterness - which shouldn't even be present to begin with; this is definitely overhopped. I do get some spiciness from the yeast; it's very cleanly fermented, and the yeast is probably the best aspect of the beer. Pilsner malts and a good deal of Belgian pale/blonde malts fill out the body. Honey. I do find some alcohol presence, unfortunately. A bit cidery, with touches of pear and apple.

Overall, the build is mediocre for a tripel, and the balance is problematic. Not gestalt. Qutie boring for a tripel. A bit bland as well. Depth of flavour is rather shallow for the style. Average flavour duration and intensity.

There are no off-flavours, unless you count the presence of alcohol - which isn't egregious.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Unrefreshing. Lacks a full firm body. Too thick at some points and too thin at others. Weak, with "empty" points throughout the flavour profile. Overcarbonated. Inappropriate for the style. It doesn't suit the flavour profile all that well. Subpar execution.

Dr: Real Ale disappoints again, this time with a tripel. I wouldn't buy it again, and Real Ale's other beers are racing to the bottom of my "to-try" list. I definitely wouldn't want another one, and it's not the most drinkable beer either, what with its obvious alcohol presence. If you want a good tripel, look elsewhere. This one doesn't deliver.

Low C-

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Photo of jmbranum
4.3/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bought at Central Market in Fort Worth, Texas but enjoyed back home in Oklahoma.

I have long loved beers from Real Ale Brewing Co. so I was excited to try this one.

Pours an attractive clear gold with a one inch white head.

Aroma is very alcoholic. I can smell a bit of malt, some hops and then some interesting gasoline-like notes.

Complex flavor. Lots of hops to balance the sweet maltyness. Not crisp and dry as some of the style, but also some interesting hefeweizen-ish clove and bananas. Maybe a bit of pineapples.

Rich and full mouthfeel.

Overall, this beer is interesting. Maybe a little bit too interesting. It is very balanced but also has lots of domineering notes... the hops, the sweet malt, the herbs and definitely the alcohol. Unlike many tripels this beer doesn't hide those notes at all.

That said, what I like about this beer is the price. High ABV for the same price as the other offerings of Real Ale. It definitely is a good nightcap kind of beer.

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Photo of Premo88
3.59/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle poured into tulip
(drank it on 4/3/13; best if consumed by 8/10/13)

L: pale yellow-orange, slightly opaque with pure white head about 1-inch thick with big bubbles on top; the head is different with the soapy-like bubbles; decent lacing off the head .

S: bananas, sweet/sour wine, sour grapes, fruity sweetness

T: sour/sweet wine-like taste, bananas ... very hefeweizen-like in a way, but the ABV kicks in on the finish and you can taste some of that alcohol; very balanced over all of its different taste notes

F: solid but not as much carbonation as most Belgians

O: great change-of-pace brew with all of the major key notes of a tripel. wine-drinkers would love this brew.

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Photo of AlCaponeJunior
3.66/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Tripel wise I don't think it was real outstanding in appearance, hazy tan with a 1 finger head that quickly settled to a white sheen, but the lacing was pretty good.

Taste and aroma had plenty of tripel qualities, Belgian yeast, cloves, banana, spices. A slight crispness enhances the flavors, it's a bit more drinkable than a typical tripel. Alcohol is only noticeable on the way down as it warms slightly. Body is medium to working on being full, carbonation is fairly low for a tripel, but by no means is it flat.

It's tasty. I don't personally think it's RABC's best, but then they have made quite a few beers that I really enjoy, so it's a bit hard to choose. OK it's still a tie between four squared and altbier, if you force me to tell. But the Devil's backbone is pretty good too.

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Photo of jngrizzaffi
3.79/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a cloudy golden color with a thin carbonated head. Head retention and lacing are minimal. Belgian yeast aroma with slight stale aroma. Taste of malty Belgian yeast, slight coriander and tropical fruit. There is a little spiciness at the end. Medium bodied with moderate to high carbonation. Good taste, but the aroma isn't very appealing.

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Photo of BSDA
4.06/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Being a huge fan of Belgian Ales, from this golden style to a deep, dark divinity like Chimay Grande Reserve, this one is right up my alley. The hoppy bitterness in the aftertaste is not strong like an IPA, somwhere around 35 IBUs? Poured from a bottle into a 16oz, short bell-shaped glass with handle. Color is a beautiful goldenrod, and smell is fruity, like subdued bananas and sweet malts. Feeling on the tongue and palate is thicker than wheat beer, but nowhere near amber or dark Belgian ale. Head dissipates very quickly in such a wide-mouth glass, and barely lasts 3min in a thin, fluted glass. No matter, because if you like a little bitter with your golden cream, then this is a beer for your roster. I give it a 4/5 because it lacks a little in complexity, though there are spices noted throughout the tasting experience. I will definitely buy again, as it delivers a simple Tripel experience without the Belgian Tripel price. A very Americanized version of a classic, this one is good for advocates to become acquainted with the heavier Belgian styles. Excellent for a sweet tooth, and quite refreshing!

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Real Ale Devil’s Backbone ale has a very thin, fizzy, off-white head, a hazy, brilliant, golden-orange appearance, some streaming bubbles, little floating brown particles, a descending gray-brown cloud, and decent lacing film left behind. The aroma is of sweet hard candy, grain husk, sweet corn, and yeast zest. Flavor is of peppery, yeasty, sweet, sugary malt, candy, grits, and a mellow hop bitterness to close out the sip. Mouthfeel is rather watery, and Devil’s Backbone finishes semi-dry, crisp, not alcohilic, and decently drinkable.


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Photo of ajisai
4.19/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Where/When: Austin, TX May 12th with best before date of October 22.

Serving: Bottle.

Scent: Really reminds me of Live Oak Hefeweizen. Sugary... Sort of banana-ish. A tad nutty.

Taste: The flavors are very light--the carbonation is constantly fighting with them. I feel a bit of vanilla and banana. Aftertaste is almost the same as initial taste; doesn't really change from sip to gulp. Lemon, banana, and vanilla is what I'd say overall.

Overall: Very nice drink. It's almost *too* deceiving because three of these will get me woozy. I would never think that this was 8% from how smooth it goes down. One of the more tasty beers from Real Ale.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
3.29/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Thanks to Grendle for this one.

Quite the tang on this one. Somehow it works well enough, but it's not really bringing balance or a level of complexity that keeps it interesting. I think I can sum if up by saying that it's pretty one dimensional. And frankly, this is what Belgian styles of yesteryear tasted like when coming out of the U.S.

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Photo of MattSweatshirt
3.61/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Drank 4 months before it's best by date.

Poured slowly down the middle of a chalice reveals a finger of white head that eventually falls apart to almost nothing and a clear golden colored body.

Smells of sweet bubblegum, apple cider, floral, with some spice.

Follows the nose with sweetness, apple fruitiness, spice, bready, and a touch bitter.

I drank this fairly warm and picked up slight alcohol vapors and flavor which provided a nice warming sensation. Could use a bit more carbonation. Pretty nice tripel overall.

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Devil's Backbone from Real Ale Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 164 ratings.