Russian River Brewing Company

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Strong Ale - Belgian Pale
Ranked #10
Ranked #3,098
4.13 | pDev: 9.93%
Russian River Brewing Company
California, United States
Notes: Inspired pretty much by Duvel and other strong golden ales of Belgium. It is medium-bodied, has a fruity/banana bouquet, and a dry, spicy finish.

Pub draft and bottles, local distribution draft and bottles, some draft to some distributors, bottles to all distributors, year-round

Original Gravity: 1.056
Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%
Color: Golden
Bitterness: Mild
Reviews: 1,181 | Ratings: 3,939 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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colts9016 from Idaho

4.27/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Review 1608
Russian River Brewing
Date: 08 May 2020
Drinking through one of the lists on BeerAdovcate, this beer is next on the docket. I served the beer in a chalice around 46 degrees. The pour created a massive two-fingered creamy but airy white head. The retention is excellent, leaving gobs of lacing on the glass. The color charts around SRM 8, dark golden yellow with amber hues. The clarity is clear with loads of carbonation. A beautiful appearance.

The aromas in the beer are cloves, phenols, floral, toasted crackers, banana, a touch of funk, and earthiness.

I taste cloves, phenols, floral, herbal, green grass, toasted crackers, bready, a hint of funk, orange, banana, and earthiness.

The mouthfeel is dry and spicy.

The body is medium, has high carbonation, and has a lasting finish.

I was expecting a big, malty, and spicy Belgium beer. I got a lighter malty Belgium Beer with a dry, spicy finish. A unique take on this style. I enjoyed the differences in this beer.

Sep 02, 2021
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Emichaelbray from Pennsylvania

3.03/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

I should issue a caveat. The bottle shop had this labeled as a Russian Imperial Stout. You stout drinkers can imagine my disappointment.
It is not that this beer is bad. Looks, smells, tastes and feels like a Belgian. Not a particularly good one so I’m surprised by the ratings. It’s spicy banana Belgian blah blah boredom all day long. Almost as if someone said, “let’s brew a prototypical Belgian.” And strong ale? At 7.5%? I have had abbey ales at 10%+ with heavy duty sediments and incredibly complex flavors. Those are Belgian strong ales. Duvel, though decidedly weaker than some, is light years beyond this. The temerity!

Jul 25, 2021
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Beginner2 from Illinois

4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Inspired by Duvel in style, Damnation exudes the Sonoma terroir: winey, yet wonderfully dry.
The yeast reminds me of Belgium's passionate pints, particularly how the yeast works up the malts. And a dash of pepper. Spritzy.

Because Russian River produces mostly world-class Wilds (and I shy from the style), I am glad to see their excellence applied to the BSPA. Preceded by two Bay Area cheeses, Damnation went wonderfully with an impromptu pasta dish with butter and Italian parsley.

May 24, 2021
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sjrider from California

4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Uncaged and uncorked this pour produces an exceptional foamy white head on top of an opaque dirty lemon yellow body. Head lasts indefinitely. Nose is citrusy and yeasty, lots of esters. Taste follows with an almost dry spicy finish. Reminiscent of many pale Belgian brews.

May 02, 2021
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IBU_Hunter from California

4.56/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Another great Beer by Russian River!
*Looks: Classic-Strong Belgian ale appearance, pale amber colored, semi-opaque
*Aroma: Mild malt, pilsner, mild bread/yeasty
*Taste: This a well-made, damn good Belgian Style Ale! Honestly if this were a blind tasting, I wouldn’t know the difference alongside La Fin Du Monde, Dūvel, Chimay, Westmalle etc.
*Finish: mildly warm at 7.5% abv, easy on palate but slightly, only slightly heavy.
*Overall Verdict*: Beautiful, artistically crafted, strong Belgian Ale by Russian River. Super work of art if you like Belgian style!

Jan 27, 2021
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Yokoono76 from Colorado

3.86/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Has a decent head, beautiful hazy, Golden, effervescent look. Smell, a tad metallic, Typical yeast odor, not much smell at all. First touch in tongue yields mild bitter reaction, but mellows immediately. Notes of apricot, sour dough, some pine, and fruit notes. I don’t taste the spice, but feel the warmth from it. Overall, a mellow, but refreshing flavor. Mouth feel, is creamy and gentle, medium body. Overall, A good beer.

Jun 15, 2020
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Harrison8 from Missouri

4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a foggy pale orange with a fluffy three fingers of off-white foam. Head retention is great, forming a stoic layer above the beer for a long time. Aroma is pale, biscuity, wafery, crackery, earthy malts with slight resiny, herbal hops. A little clove rounds it out. Flavor profile is resiny, herbal, grassy hops that reside at the back of the tongue after the malts finish singing the chorus. Malts are biscuity, wafery, crackery and pale. A little lemon grass and clove lingers towards the finish. Mouth feel has a bubbly effervescent that somehow expands and fizzes on the tongue as it hits, growing the texture from start to swallow. Crispness creeps on towards the finish, after the initial foamy expansion on the tongue. Overall, bubbly and yet crisp with a refreshing display of malts and hops behind. Balance is great with a little playfulness.

Served in a 15.5oz Speigalau tulip from a 375mL bottle. Bottled 12/21/2018, consumed and reviewed 05/14/2020.

May 14, 2020
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5toutman75 from Illinois

4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

500 ml bottle dated 4/17/18

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a Duvel to be honest but I think I might prefer it. That’s not to say this is bad, but Duvel is amazing. I’m not getting a lot on the nose. It’s dry with a bit of funk. I wouldn’t know it’s a Belgian immediately but after a couple of sips it’s apparent. A great beer but maybe better fresh?

Apr 01, 2020
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Tony210 from New Jersey

4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a medium straw color - like an IPA. Sweet Belgian candi sugar aroma. Flavor is very typical of a Belgian, but softer from the age. Touch of bitterness in the finish. Carbonation is appropriate, medium bodied. Overall an ok beer, might have aged it too long...

500 ml bottle dated 4/17/18 - thanks Adam!
4 rating

Mar 23, 2020
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IronLover from Pennsylvania

4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Golden yellow in color with light orange hues and hazy, unfiltered appearance. Poured with an obscenely large, billowy, white foam with excellent retention. Wheat malt and fruity pear aromas with light notes of under-ripe banana. Medium bodied with medium high carbonation. Creamy smooth feel with expanding boozy warmth through the finish. Sweet fruit flavors, pear and light banana followed by spicy coriander. Malty and fruity flavors on the back end with spicy coriander tapering to the end. Finished dryly with a lingering spicy flavor. Fantastic display of Belgian esters. Mellow fruitiness balanced with spiciness and boozy warmth.

Mar 21, 2020
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DokiDokiLitFam from New Jersey

4.06/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a light yellow with a mild haze to it. Huge head formation. When it calms down it recedes to a finger of pure white foam. It persists for quite a while.

Nose is yeast funk, banana, clove, mild citrus zest, perhaps lemon. Vibrant scents jumping out of the glass. Very appealing.

Taste is denser than the nose. Richer. But similar. Some nice bitterness from the hops counteracting the touch of sweetness from the malt.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with mild carbonation. Very smooth.

Not a huge fan of the Belgian Pale Ales, but I was quite impressed with this brew. Having limited access to Russian River its hard to snag bottles, but I pick one up whenever I get the chance. I look forward to seeing the rest of their accomplishments.

Feb 03, 2020
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cratez from Canada (ON)

3.88/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Rating from notes. 375 ml bottle purchased by my wife at City Beer Store in San Francisco, California. Consumed January 2014. "Bang on for the style." 3.88/5

Jan 26, 2020
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hophead723 from California

4.5/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I got one of these expensive bottles of World-Class beer from Whole Foods for $7 each. Poured into a stemless wine glass because I don't have a tulip or goblet, the recommended glassware for this style.

Look: The golden color of the body is reminiscent of unfiltered Buckwheat honey, an orange-hued amber. Super fluffy, frothy, choppy, and billowing slightly off-white head. The body is hazy and shows ample carbonation from the bottle fermentation. When the cork is popped, the bottle oozes smoke like some Harry Potter shit. The lacing drags down the glass like foamy bunting.

Smell: Right after popping the cork, I immediately get an incredibly complex aroma of toasted challah, fig, a touch of orange zest, phenolic clove, banana, delicate white pepper, and caramel. This stuff smells mouthwateringly good.

Taste/Mouthfeel: The incredibly rich bready taste has mounds of caramel, toasted challah bread, browned butter, light hop spice, earthy hops, biscuit, and sophisticated yeast-derived banana and fig flavors intertwined throughout the perfectly balanced yet still malt dominant flavor profile. The flavors explode across the palate as this liquid genius glides down the throat. The hopping perfectly balances and complements the other flavors, yielding pure earthy and slightly spicy mild bitterness to back things up. The body is overall a solid medium; hearty with enjoyable chewiness. The well-hidden alcohol is slightly warming as the beer comes up in temp, with a reassuring kiss of sultry euphoria that caresses the mind and spirit.

Overall: Incredible this beer is outstanding evidence of just how good Russian River Valley is. I loved digging my nose into the soft, smooth foam of the aromatic head and gulping down the cool liquid genius. Incredibly smooth and drinkable, with such deliciousness that each richly pleasurable drink makes you go "mmm" and smack your lips. This is one of the best breweries in the world. This beer is extremely delicious in every way. A fantastic example of the style, one of the best beers I have ever had.

Jan 16, 2020
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entheos from California

4.64/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours with much froth with a slight stinging sensation when tasted. Once adjusted, the warmth of the ale surrounds and it becomes another solemn moment in the mind of a monastery. Excellent!

Nov 10, 2019
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KomodoDragon from Virginia

3.71/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Had an older bottle - almost one year since bottling.

Cork busted out of the bottle as I opened the wire cage. Super carbonated. White fluffy choppy heady. Cracker smell which come forward in the taste. Some citrus in the nose. Chardonnay dryness, flavor of pear with the skin on. Strong yeast, especially in the aftertaste.

Carbonation really messes with the mouthfeel for me - quite possibly due to aging, but otherwise sound brew.

Oct 07, 2019
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REVZEB from Illinois

4.05/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Cloudy golden body with ton of carbonation leading to a big white fluffy head. When I opened the cage, the cork popped itself out about 5 seconds later like champagne. Smell features belgian yeast, black pepper, grass, hay, fruit esters, grains, spices and citrus zest. Taste is about the same, little brett thrown in, but otherwise what the smell indicates. Feel has the grains and yeast qualities to it, but elevates with the airy carbonation and the dryness.

Sep 30, 2019
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Viaduck from California

4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

An impatient beer, I removed the cage & it ejected the cork. It couldn’t wait to be poured. A partial pour resulted in a glass full of the fluffiest foam ever. Using the side of the glass & a gentle pour I was able to transfer Damnation to my glass. Ten minutes later that massive head head stands tall over a hazy amber body pepper, clove & breast Belgium heats make up its aroma. Lovely balance of taste & flavors with a spicy, hoppy, dry finish. Excellent feel. . I look forward to Damnation.

Sep 28, 2019
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Noah_Aimar from Oregon

4.4/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Massive, thick head with a golden marmalade look. The smell is really amazing, is sweet acidic fruit and yeasty. A bit of malt up front with a really nice finish of Belgian yeast and just the right amount of bitterness that rounds this beer out. No overwhelming flavors in this guy, just a really well rounded beer thats smooth as hell, creamy even.

Jun 10, 2019
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Lingenbrau from Oregon

4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I love revisiting beers I've had many times over and never reviewed. Time to go proper with this classic...

After the 20 or so minutes of patiently pouring this beer, what's left is a magnificent sight. A rather "normal" yellow/orange glow with less than perfect clarity is topped by a massive, monstrous foam. Rocky is an understatement, and really just the beginning. Smooth, styrofoam looking iridescent bubbles form into pinnacles making a snowy capped mountain range which doesn't budge even with the sway of the glass, just like a DQ Blizzard doesn't submit to the laws of gravity when turned upside down. Finally, it recedes leaving a crater of liquid surrounded by walls of froth plastered to every square centimeter.

At just a few months old, the aroma is still quite pleasant. Pepper and herbal wildflowers, like a classic Saison are met by the clove spice and subtle sweet fig, or fig like fruitiness, jamminess of a Belgian ale. A touch if banana comes through as it gives in to ambient surroundings.

The flavor, however, lacks. Quite a bit actually. A dusty old white pepper grinding, rather spicy, and dried grass or hay flavored for the most part.

Light, and exceptionally dry and bitter. Leaves a dirty feel on the lips. Again, this is extra spicy.

No question about it, this is not the Damnation I remember from 10-15 years ago. Still a decent beer, but once the excitement of the appearance died down this just lacked from then on. This is severely missing a sweet element that I swore it once had. All well. Still love you and always will, Russian River.


May 02, 2019
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sjdevel from Utah

4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Very clear deep yellow brew - very active on foam with a thick head - great retention. Smells of Belgian yeast, bread, and some slight funk. Fairly sweet and tart at first, but dries out substantially and quickly. Belgian character is very noticeable (yeast/spice). Feels fairly thin but still medium bodied. Overall a great beer - it's not a Duvel, but it is good. Not my favorite Belgian strong/golden/pale ale but would drink again.

Apr 21, 2019
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TheDoctor from Canada (QC)

4.36/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Serving: Bottle
Bottled: Oct-29-2018 (Consumed Mar-26-2019)

It pours clear brass with a billowing Belgian beast of a head. Great retention; globs of lacing. (4.75)

Peppery dough, hay, apple skin, pollen. (4.25)

Earthy hay-spice flavor, similar to nose. (4.25)

Crazy crisp, dry as a bone and fluffy, very carbonated, lingering lightly bitter dryness, very drinkable. (4.5)

An excellent beer all around and a spot-n version of the style. Big, beautiful, dry, drinkable, complex yeast character, rich-but-light-malt and a spicy yeast/warming alcohol finish. Hay, sagebrush, pepper, apple skins. Excellent (4.5)

Mar 28, 2019
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GarrettB from Colorado

3.73/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

July 27th, 2015 - The marathon plowing through the Russian River approaches an end with the Damnnation. A brighter beer with a brighter scent, it has some lemon juice on the nose and a touch of champagne and orange juice. So, maybe a mimosa on the scent? The flavor reminds me of a bright blonde, with gentle grain notes offering glimmers of orange citrus. It's tasty, but light, and inconveniently placed near the end of the race.

Feb 19, 2019
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beergoot from Colorado

4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Excellent light yellow body; slightly hazy; lots of lively carbonation; frothy, sticky, white head. Cloves and bananas dominate the aroma; mildly phenolic; floral. Excellent Belgian yeast flavors, mimicking the smell; light, sweet breadiness; some brash bitterness. Heavy with a nice overall softness on the palate; gentle, low-key semi-dry throughout.

Damnation is right! As soon as I uncaged the cork, it blew off with a loud pop and a quick eruption of foam, causing me to swiftly moving the bottle across the crowded countertop. I knocked over an empty drinking glass, shattering it on the countertop and managed to drop the bottle of beer, losing more of the beer than what spewed out. Still, I managed to save over half the bottle and, after the cleanup, enjoyed what was saved. A very fine tasting beer, bottle conditioned (hence the surprise cork -- I should have anticipated this possibility). I'm glad I have another bottle at hand and chances are I can purchase some more in a few days. I'll gladly drink more of this one...

Feb 10, 2019
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Autumn_Lucia from California

4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

med-high carbonation. Pretty light gold color and a sweet floral, musty scent. Taste is floral, sweet, fruity and yeasty. mildly bitter but not close to that of an IPA. Very refreshing, and the cork is always fun, isn’t it?

Nov 27, 2018
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iguanodon from Utah

2.98/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

[Original rating 2014-12-31] My first taste of the legendary Russian River. 375 ml bottle from C-mini mart in Dublin, CA. Pours clear gold with a small white head. Aroma is a little fruity, pear / apple. Taste is also pear / apple with a little peppery spice in the finish, faint booze. A solid belgian strong but not quite as awesome as I was expecting.

Oct 24, 2018
Damnation from Russian River Brewing Company
Beer rating: 92 out of 100 with 3939 ratings