Devils Backbone Brewing Company

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Brown Ale - American
4.03 | pDev: 6.2%
Devils Backbone Brewing Company
Virginia, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Notes: A collaboration with Surly Brewing Company: Risen (8.4% ABV; 50 IBU) a coffee and oak, double brown ale. This lavish brown ale was brewed with over 100 pounds of locally roasted coffee and was rested on oak for a toasted finish with extra complexity.
Reviews: 31 | Ratings: 95 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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challenja from Virginia

4.56/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Single bottle peed into a tulip glass.
A bare bones review because I'm busy drinking bourbon and watching Pusher 3. This beer wowed me. It's a like a oaked Baltic Porter more than a roasted brown ale. It's delicious. Bready, robust, datk roast vanilla oaked goodness. It's a fabulous take on a Surly oaked brown ale. So rare to get a Surly beer in VA.. It's a rare treat. Pick one up today.

May 30, 2016
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delta490 from Virginia

4/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours deep brown with a thin creamier light tan head. It doesn't have much retention but leaves some ribbons of small sticky lacing. The aroma is robust coffee. It dominates the aroma but is quite nice. The taste is close to the aroma with just a little malt sweetness in the background. The body has a nice weight to it with a light carbonated tingle.

Apr 27, 2016
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Beejay from Virginia

3.98/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Very dark brown in the glass with deep chestnut at the edges when held to the light. A large tan head on top that slowly turns into more frog eyes.

S: Coffee and vanilla, with oak, caramel, and some dark roast grains.

T: Nice dark caramel malt flavors with coffee and vanilla rounding out the flavor. The finish is coffee, oak, and vanilla.

M: Medium light-ish on feel, although it does has a touch of a textural element that pulls creamy. Carbonation is fairly low, but works for the style.

O: Overall a pretty decent brew. Good flavor, and well rounded.

Apr 15, 2016
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jmasher85 from Maryland

4.04/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Now this is a collab I can get behind. Haven't hat much from Surly, but anyone who can make Abrasive must be good. This pours little head with a very dark brown/red color and light body.

Smell is complex and exciting - oaky, earthy, a little anise, some nutty, roasted malts, a bit of coffee and Postum. Flavor is dryer than the nose suggests, with more coffee and that nutty, roasty bittersweet flavor you'd expect from a brown ale. A hint of peanuts on the sides of my tongue, and the aftertaste is a bready and woody at the same time. Smell is better than taste, but both leave me with a smile.

Body is heavier and slicker than it would appear, due in part to the minimal head and carbonation. Overall, this is a rustic beer that tastes like it was pulled right from the trees and mountains of its Virginia homeland. Goes great with mild, partly-sunny skies and a rocking chair on the porch in the backyard.

Apr 06, 2016
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OldSwampy from Virginia

4.15/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottled 31 Jan 2016, drank 4 April 2016.

Dark cola color, pleasant creamy head. Coffee taste rises quickly and endures on tasting. Aroma pleasant, but not overwhelming. I love coffee but suspect that those who do not might hesitate at the predominance of the coffee flavor. Definitely a worthwhile collaboration. I think the taste of coffee could be blended more effectively into other flavors, which would raise my rating a bit, but still a quality darker ale.

Apr 05, 2016
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Bones349 from North Carolina

4.59/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Very solid brown ale. Fantastic flavors start to finish. Nothing overpowering, very nice balance. Wish it came in 6 packs... Or maybe 12s with seven summits!

Apr 01, 2016
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gopens44 from Virginia

3.75/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dark and completely translucent up until the bottom inch or two where stifled light carries through a slight ruby color. Head began at about an inch of beige foam that fell back to a largely lace-less fizz film.

Nose is big time coffee that tails off with hints of what is best described as the floral spice of noble hops, whether used or not. After a bit more consideration, I start to get a slightly tart bready thing.

Taste is wicked massive coffee straight away. Like, covering up everything else. Second run at the taste brings out a hint of dark chocolate and that noble hop presence. The taste quickly blurs into the mouthfeel as a strong alcohol presence brings on an incredible dryness that dominates the finish.

Very aggressive beer here. It's good but I can see this becoming tedious!

Mar 28, 2016
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Pantalones from Virginia

4.06/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Second bottle of this one (actually from my sister's variety pack, since I let her have one from mine so when she got her own pack later she let me have one too so we both ended up with two of each beer. XD) Bottling date of January 31st, 2016.

Pours cola-brown into the glass, and once settled in it's an even darker brown, looking almost black at a glance if not for the visibly brown bits around the edges. Very thin layer of tan foam on top, which quickly shrinks away to just a few patches and a thicker ring around the edge. Shining a flashlight through reveals that it's pretty clear and has a good number of rising bubbles.

Smells... like coffee. Very nice coffee smell, in fact. Got a good whiff of it the moment I opened the bottle, and it's even more noticeable when sniffing the glass now. Hiding in the back behind all the roasty coffee is a bit of a sweetness that blends in nicely, I'm guessing probably malt-based, though from time to time it also comes across as a yeast/alcohol derived fruity sweetness.. guessing both elements are present but I just don't pick up all of them in each sniff. Also a bit of a woodiness in there, also hiding back behind the coffee. Toward the end of the glass I'm getting a toasty malt sort of smell too. Overall, smells very good.

Taste is lots of coffee right away, blending into an interesting sweet and slightly fruity flavor (malt, yeast, alcohol? not sure the origin, maybe all of the above?) and then the woody thing I noticed in the smell comes out as I swallow the first sip. Woody and coffee linger, with the coffee hanging around much longer. A bit of that interesting sweet flavor pops in sometimes in the aftertaste too. I think there may even be a bit of earthy/leafy type hops in there, though the other flavors conceal them pretty well as I'm not really getting even the slightest hint of them until over halfway through the glass. Basically lives up to every word of the description on the bottle -- "Coffee and Oak Double Brown Ale." There's coffee, there's wood, there's medium-to-dark malty flavors, and it's noticeably "bigger" than a standard brown ale.

Mouthfeel is medium in heaviness, pretty easy to drink but you can definitely tell it's a "bigger" sort of beer. A bit of carbonation fizz but not distractingly so (prickly.) A bit of a sticky sort of feel on the lips sometimes after drinking a good bit of the beer.

Overall this is probably my favorite of this year's collaboration pack -- lives up to the description perfectly, and just does everything well... most of all the "tasting really good" part which is by far the most important factor for me. I haven't had any beers from Surly just yet, but if this collaboration beer is any indication of the quality of what they make I'll definitely make a point of checking them out at some point!

Mar 28, 2016
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Jimmys from Pennsylvania

3.94/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

someone boned this bottle on 12.10.15. I appreciate their hard work.

A: relatively clear for a brown. head is dismal as is the retention. spotted lacing.

S: a toasty, chewy mess of an aroma. mess being a good thing. dark brown roasted coffee. not too pungent, but definitely present.

T: taste is predominantly coffee to start. quickly dries out and finishes with minor notes of chestnuts. really not getting too much oak on this one.

M: medium body with a moderate body. carb is standard.

D: overall a pretty good coffee brew that is fairly easy to drink. again, not getting too much coffee but everything else is present and spot on.

Mar 25, 2016
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brentk56 from North Carolina

4.25/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Pours a translucent coffee brown; the bubble show produces a beige head two fingers thick with several strands of lacing hanging around

Smell: Coffee, vanilla and toasted brown bread

Taste: As in the aroma, the coffee, vanilla and toasted brown bread flavors fall in line with just a hint of oak appearing in the finish

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation

Overall: Surly knows as thing or two about coffee beers and their impact on this collaboration is pretty clear

Mar 24, 2016
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hopphead31415 from Virginia

4.03/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This collaboration brew by Devil’s Backbone and Surly Brewing Co. is a coffee and oak double brown ale with 8.4% ABV and 50 IBUs.

Look-It pours a jet black color that even strong backlights can barely penetrate. The head is an off-white khaki color and is silky smooth and thin.

Smell-It smells strongly of molasses and chocolate.

Taste-It packs a strong punch with the alcohol being very noticeable. The body tastes strongly of chocolate, molasses, brown sugar, coffee, and some hints of grassy hops. The grass component nicely complements the sweet ample body. It has a rich mouthfeel on the heavy-side of medium bodied.

Overall-This one is what is known as a “sleeper” despite its name, because if you drink a couple of these (or even one) you’ll find yourself fast asleep. It’s quite delicious, however. Cheers!

Mar 21, 2016
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Jason from Massachusetts

4.07/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz brown bottle, sample from the brewery.

Light tan head, dark brown hue with ruby highlights. Slightly boozy, big coffee character, lots of toasty character from the oak and malt. This is quite the brown ale, some sweetness in the middle but all flavors help round that out. So damn tasty, a kick of alcohol reminds be on how big it is. A lot going on here but it all works.

Mar 15, 2016
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jmdrpi from Pennsylvania

3.99/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle with date on neck. Collaboration with Surly

dark brown, nice foamy off-white head. pleasant coffee aroma, like coffee with cream and sugar. taste is nicely balanced, not too sweet nor dry. medium bodied. good flavor.

Mar 15, 2016
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oldn00b from Virginia

4.06/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter. Thin fizzy head forms and recedes immediately to a small ring.

Nose is nice - coffee forward but clearly a brown ale. Lots of roasted malts come through big and clean. Slight hint of booze but barely there. Almost a bit of a chocolate note as well.

Taste is nice. Big brown ale flavor that's coffee forward. For the life of me I don't get any oak but that's okay. It's not a cloying brown ale - nicer and more balanced than expected for an 8%+ brown with low IBUs. The coffee added to the brown ale is definitely not something I've experienced before and works quite well. I wish I could pull some oak flavors here but what I do get is really nice and the flavors compliment each other very well even if there isn't a ton going on. Not too much depth or many other subtle notes I'm getting but that's just fine. The finish is actually quite clean.

The feel is really nice - great carbonation leaves this light and airy. It is a touch on the thin side or I'd rate it higher. It doesn't have any brash coffee bitterness or lingering sweetness from the malt. It's nicely rounded, nothing abrasive here.

Overall it's definitely an interesting pairing of flavors - would make for a really nice morning beer if you aren't feeling breakfast stout, but generally I'd prefer a nice breakfast stout.

Mar 13, 2016
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stakem from Pennsylvania

3.83/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle into a snifter appears a very dark brown with khaki head that fades leaving spotty lace.

Aroma of coffee and roast with some earthen aspect. A bit of oak but mostly coffee.

Tastes coffee and oak with some roast and earthy bitterness. Slight citrus to herbal hops and lingering coffee character.

Medium in body with modest carbonation. Unique take on a brown ale. Its ok, im not mad about it but I also dont feel like I need more of it in my life.

Feb 23, 2016
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Tucquan from Pennsylvania

4.11/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Had this on 2016-02-17 in Columbia, PA from a 12oz bottle

A - Clear but dark mahogany with a 1.75-finger tan head and moderate lace.

S - Coffee, medium roasted grain, dried cherries and a whiff of chocolate.

T - Somewhat like the smell with coffee, chocolate, marshmallow, oak/tannin and some char. Finishes with a good bit of roasted and hop bitterness.

M - Medium body and light-medium carbonation. Smooth but thinner than I expected.

O - Tastes like a cross between a milk stout and a porter. Enjoyable but doesn't rise above a Founders Breakfast Stout or a Terrapin Wake N' Bake

Feb 17, 2016
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ThisWangsChung from Maryland

3.13/5  rDev -22.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a dark brown color. The head is two fingers high and mocha in shade. Retention isn't great, and the texture, while soft, is pretty style-typical. On the other hand, plenty of lacing sticks to the glass.

Unlike Surly's Coffee Bender (which was black coffee with a splash of beer, basically), this beer's aroma has a more balanced approach. Though, lots of roasty, black coffee goodness does show up! Some twinges of dark fruit, pumpernickel bread, piny hops, milk chocolate, and oak also pop - each of these subtleties show up in different intervals. Only niggle? The coffee almost comes across too strongly. Otherwise, it definitely smacks of Coffee Bender's bigger, oakier brother.

It's smoother and more balanced tasting than the nose suggested. It starts with some pleasant black coffee, along with a touch of chocolate. Oak and Irish cream finishes it off. The flavor profile seems really muddled, with nothing ringing distinctly. Honestly, it doesn't have a terribly enjoyable taste.

This feels weird - almost fuzzy in its coarseness. Its astringency allows it to go down the palate easily, and the body is fairly full. Like I said, though, it just feels a bit weird. Carbonation is somewhat high.

The aroma was promising, but the flavor was a moderate let down. All in all, a pretty damn average beer - and the fact that a big brown ale with coffee and oak-aging is average is the biggest let down of them all.

3.13/5: It may have risen, but it's still dragging its knuckles

Feb 13, 2016
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FriedSlug from North Carolina

4.25/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Nice dark brown, bits of lacing. Smells like coffee, sweet and roasted malts. Tastes sweet with roasted malts and an amazing coffee finish with a burnt bitterness, Best beer in this collab pack.

Feb 12, 2016
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bubseymour from Maryland

4.26/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Nice oaky, coffee brown with sweet caramel, slight roast and a touch of bitterness in finish. Nice peaty and earthiness to this one. I enjoyed it and would drink again.

Feb 10, 2016
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OldManMetal from North Carolina

3.92/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

This brown ale is a one-off collaboration between Devils Backbone and Surly, found in the Adventure Pack Collaboration Sampler. It's a good-looking beer: an effervescent dark brown body with firey orange highlights and a large, pebbly light-tan head; head retention is modest, and lacing is good, manifesting as fine-grained, spiky caverns. The nose is moderate in intensity: sweet coffee and oak, with significant alcohol overtones and maybe a hint of molasses. The palate shows a darker malt character than the nose would suggest: big dark chocolate, coffee, lots of oak and booze, and the subtle molasses from the nose. The finish is dark malt and booze, and the linger is a subtle, bitter coffee-and-oak flavor that hangs on for a surprisingly long time. The mouthfeel is on point for the medium-full body, and slightly warming; on the downside, the texture is too peppery from some over-enthusiastic carbonation, and has an unpleasant astringent/ethanol feel. (12 oz bottle, 55 days after pkg)

Feb 06, 2016
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AndrewMichael from Virginia

3.75/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle poured in a stemmed tulip style glass. Very dark brown and a small white head on the beer. Roasted malt and coffee flavor are predominant, and was not getting too much oak at all, but overall a very good double brown ale.

Feb 06, 2016
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Mongrel from Maryland

3.94/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Roasty and dry with plenty of coffee and just enough caramel sweetness to hold things together. A little porter-like tobacco twang, but stops short of porter or stout classification. A little cherry and ash. A unique roasty ale that benefits from judicious use of oak to lend some dryness.

Feb 05, 2016
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SFNC from North Carolina

4.1/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

My 2nd of the DB Adventure sampler, This time in concert with Surly, a brewery I have not tried, but heard great things about.

Look; Poured into a pint glass. The look is pure cola. Clear dark brown, with ruby highlights and a quickly passing off white head.
Smell; Muted coffe and toasted nuts. Sweet, no alcohol.
Taste; Now we're talkin'! Coffee mellowed by a sweet malt base and the sharp corners filed down by the oak. Very nice, very balanced.
Feel; Medium carbonation, heavier than anticipated, in fact heavier than most porters. Mildly dry finish.
Overall; A winner! Brown Ales often leave me blah, but this one is a treat. The assertive coffee and the subtle oak makes for a great brew.

Feb 02, 2016
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bluehende from Delaware

4.1/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This drinks more like a stout than a brown. That is probably due to the coffee which dominates the beer. I love coffee so this was a big hit. One of the better browns that I have had.

Feb 01, 2016
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GarthDanielson from Virginia

4.04/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a shaker pint, the beer is a deep, dark, brown, almost black coloring, with a dense, low profile, foamy, cream colored head. Aromas of rich, roasted coffee, with subtle nut and cream highlights. Very smooth and rich aromas, simple and balanced. Flavors are heavily roasted coffee forward, woody and bitter, followed by rich cream and nutty sweet characteristics. Layered and balanced amazingly well, all on a creamy, robust body. The aftertaste is roasted and rich coffee and cream, lingering on past the smooth, slow, creamy finish. Really good beer.

Feb 01, 2016
Risen from Devils Backbone Brewing Company
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 95 ratings