Salvation | Russian River Brewing Company

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Brewed by:
Russian River Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.00%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
None provided.

User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 480 | Ratings: 1,265
Photo of bobhits
2.48/5  rDev -39.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

Holy Christ, a reasonable pour and my glass is nothing but head, barely even half an oz of beer at the bottom, and a glass of head. Deep dark amber (nearly black) in color that’s rather opaque…nearly impossible to see through to be honest. Though light shines through to give the deep amber color.

Dark spiced hef? Bananas, cloves, slight candied malt, with some slight molasses or just enough sweetness to avoid any sour or crisp notes often associated with a hef.

The only word I have to describe this beer is INTENSE. Caps are very much needed here. I would go back and age this if I could do it again, 3-4 years might mellow this. This beer brings out the intense flavors of an Eisen bock with the spices of a Belgian beer. Certainly has the bananas and cloves from the nose, but intense hops and a HUGE rum like alcohol flavor at the end.

Too thick, too alcoholic, too carbonated….I can’t think of anything good to say here.

9% abv shouldn’t be this harsh, intense, or any of this. If Russian Rivers wants me to wait a few years to drink this they should put a best after date to let me know not to open it. I think age will help this beer but this beer needs a LOT of help.

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Photo of SFLpunk
2.8/5  rDev -31.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

375mL brown glass cork and caged bottle. Batch # 010.

Pours a medium dark dark brown with some off-white head. Nice, but nothing special. Nose is fairly simple and smells like belgian yeast, cashews and dark malt grain. Palate is roasty in a weird way. Malt flavor is weird, like maybe the mash was burnt partially. Or maybe the yeast is just odd. There's an unpleasant flavor here. BSDA all the way, but adding this weird flavor makes this seem a little amateur.

As it warms up a bit, I think it's just a weird flavor interaction with the yeast (banana/clove and drying) and the malt (Belgian brown is really more accurate). Not a fan.

EDIT: After rating this one, I felt like maybe I was off-base a little...BUT then I read some of the other reviews below and people said things like "Not my favorite RR brew" and gave it a "B" so I think I'm on par here, maybe just being a little more "honest" with my rating.

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Photo of Crosling
2.92/5  rDev -28.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Batch 5. Very attractive dark mahogany colored ale, with an authentically Belgian looking head that lasts and laces well. Nose lacks depth and descriptive character. Has some nice elements of dark fruit and toffee, but it lacks intensity and complexity. Batch 5 seems like it's not a great batch.

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Photo of rastaman
3/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

[email protected] River Brewpub. Heavy sweetness, lots of figgy caramel flavours, with some late acidity to balance it out, bit too sweet though. Some sweet vanilla and pear also noticed, but not quite my cup of tea in the end, will definitely try again one day though.

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Photo of iguanodon
3.04/5  rDev -25.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

[Original rating 2015-01-01] Bottle from C-mini mart in Dublin, CA. Pours reddish brown with a small tan head. Aroma of Sweet caramel, malt, faint booze. Taste of sweet malt, raisins. The alcohol is very well hidden. Mouth feel is a bit thin, maybe I just expected it to be thicker because of the appearance. Nice fine carbonation.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
3.08/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Big dark bready style of pour, aroma was much the same way. Lots of prune in it.

Taste, reminiscient of those shitty fruitcakes your aunt would bring to the holidays. Lots of spice rack and clove here, dark fruit notes all over it, rye bread.

I'm glad they like it, but I just can't get into this style of beer.

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Photo of Halcyondays
3.09/5  rDev -24.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at Beachwood BBQ,

A: Pours a dark brown, with a medium white head, which leaves pretty good lacing.

S: Smell was quite faint and hard to find at first. Peppery smell, molasses, bananas.

T: Strong taste of dark malt, light molasses and charcoal. Light bit of fruity ester, but doesn't have the overall complexity I like in the style.

M: Lighter on the body than I expected, feels more like a 5-6% beer, mild carbonation, relatively smooth.

D: An OK beer from Russian River, not one of their best IMO, but I'm glad I finally found it to try it, all right drinkable dark ale.

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Photo of THECPJ
3.13/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed from notes:

appearance: dark brown with a reddish hue and a 2 finger off white head

smell: sour, sweet malts,

taste: slight sourness, sweet, dry finish

mouthfeel: mild carbonation, medium body

overall: not one of my favorite Russian River brews but not the worst either.

The cpj

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.14/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Dark beer, dark, ample head. Aroma was big and bready. Didn't pick up sweetness even though the aroma was singularly prune.

Taste, damn thick fruitcake like bread with dates in it. Turned me off, reminded me of that crappy stuff that gets put on the table to eat around the holidays. Clove sticks its head out. One aspect I was able to appreciate was the edge of cocao. Still can't overcome the date and plum dominance. One of my least favorite Russian River beers (drank this at the brewery). Come to think of it, this IS my least favorite.

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Photo of Mark
3.16/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Compared to other Belgians my ranking of this one must appear pretty high. This 9% monster poured a nice copper color, off white head lasted long and left decent lace patterns. Aroma was of some banana and of course yeast. While taste profile was on the smooth side, there was noticible alcohol. Banana was on the mellow side and some bready yeast was detectable. A well made brew that once again just does not do it for me. I wish it did.

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Photo of PDXHops
3.17/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

8 oz tap serving in a small snifter.

Brown body with a hint of red. Very minimal head (more like some bubbles gathering around the edge) is almost white. A scant bit of lacing. Disappointing visually.

Served too cold, so the aromas are hard to pick up on. With a bit of patience and time for warming up, I get mainly yeast, some dark malt and dark fruit. Funk looms in the background. Not nearly as potent as I'd figured on.

Things get more interesting pretty quickly, though. A big smack of almost overpowering wet hay funk up front. Once you get past that, there's a lot going here. A touch of very overripe fruit, very yeasty, some dark roasted malt, some buterry diacetyl flavor, just a bit of cherry tang as you swallow. The finish is more bitter than I expected, but very clean and crisp considering the heavy flavors.

Carbonation is more zippy than I expected given the poor head. Medium mouthfeel, goes down smooth. Funkiness keeps the drinkability down. I'd had enough after 2/3 of my glass.

Overall impression: Glad I got a chance to try it. Not exactly what I expected for the style (is this seriously the same style as Rare Vos?), but pretty good.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
3.18/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This darn thing has a ton of foam in it. A 333ml bottle (or whatever....the small bottle, y'know) with about 10 gallons of foam. Looks nice when it calms down.

Dark brown, muddy purple, black body. The head is off white and somewhat dense. Just takes forever for it to reach drinkable level.

Aroma is over ripe apple and alcohol. Lightly toasted dark bread and yeast come through. Somewhat sour.

Taste is where this beer falls a bit. Nothing really stands out. Slight black plum and dark bread. Nothing pops. If the yeast didn't produce the breadiness I don't think this would have much. Alcohol comes through. Feels a bit syrupy with carbonation running wild.

Although not a bad beer, it seems to be a bit vacant.

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Photo of Jredner
3.2/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

The thing I like about RR’s belgian Beers is that they act Belgian. The aroma here is spicy with mild alcohol notes, mashed dark fruits, such as cherry and plum, nose tingling peppery notes and a sofy yeaty quality that underlies the whole affair. The body is a rich dark brown with hints of red...very masculine tone I wish i could find a lot of wood that color to build something out of....ugh!

The head is, like I said Belgian behaving in that it fluffs up easy and statys around a bit....though it’s not 100% has some reservations about totally flowing out of the glass. not so nice as Borat might say if he’d had this. It’s got a lot of tart and spicy notes with some hot alcohol and a lot of peppery zing, but the fruity notes from the aroma are gone daddy gone. Aggresive yeast? I don’t care. I paid money for this and unlike most RR beers this is very blaaah. Little flavor concnetration and little range.

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Photo of DogFood11
3.21/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark ruby red to mahogany with the core being black. Tons of super fine carbonation support a whispy, eggshell white head. Head is monstsrous and with no retreat.

Cloves are up front and meld with a mild fruity presence. Odd that this has a light feeling to it, not in flavor but the mouthfeel and drinkability. This is not a sweet version of the style but rather the opposite. Some roasted quality to the malts balances things out a bit, but make no mistake the cloves win out in the end. Towards the end of each pull there is a light acidic sting. Subtle and watered. Its tough to be good in this style with so many remarkable offerings from Belgium. Notably Gouden Carolis Grand Cru.

Notes: While I find this brewery to be outstanding this is not one of their better offerings. This was purchased online and the packaging was excellent with all 6 750ml bottles in perfect condition. Thanks Vinnie, I'll order from you again very soon, just not this product for the price.

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Photo of MbpBugeye
3.26/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

375ml bottle sent by the gracious newcomer to the trading world, Callmecoon (traders, check this guy out. He knows how its done.) Thanks a lot Steve!

Batch 010. Poured into an Ovila chalice.
Nice billowing, khaki colored head. I reigned it in at about 3 fingers. It fades to about a half finger in height and stays there. The retention and lacing are superb. I find it astonishing that there is such excellent retention in a big bowl of a glass like this, these wide mouthed chalices usually spread out the head making it fade quickly. The thick cake of floating foam is very frothy, appearing solid except for a rift of looser bubbles that flows through the center. Lacing is a solid sheet. The color of the beer dwells in the purple, red and plum hues. Its dark but when held to the light I can see that this beer has pretty good clarity.

Quite sweet smelling. Notes of sugar plum fairies dance about. A deeply rooted milk chocolate notion has me very interested. It holds company to fruity tobacco and leather. Lots of overripe fruits of many varieties, figs and plums, bananas, and raisins, all of which are sugar coated.

As I had feared after the sweetness of the aroma, this taste way too sweet. Granted, this is a sweet style of beer, but this sugar coated fruitiness is not kept in check. It bumrushes the palate and holds it in place while alcohol works the midsection. I cant say that this tastes terrible, there aren't any off flavors that I can detect, the sweetness and alcohol are just a bit of a mess. Lots of cherry, fig, plum, and rum.

Fluffy and dry. Lots of warming effects that are felt down in the gullet. The body is fairly full but finishes dry so it is perceived as thinner than I think it really is. A long lasting rum booze sweetness lingers and coats the molars and throat.

I'll say that this is one of the better American made BSDAs. It has the color, body and carbonation down pat. At this juncture, however, the beer is very sweet and brash. Its still gonna look nice along side all of my other -ation bottles.

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Photo of AleWatcher
3.34/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Batch 10 served in my -ation glass.

A reddish mohagonay body with a fluffy tan three finger head comprised of loose and lazy bubbles. Nice thick legs like a milkshake. Awesome retention.
Smells... Well, it smells quite a bit boozy. Behind the booze lies something... But it is mild compared to the alcoholic phenols here. I detect some spicy notes, seemingly black and white pepper and Belgian yeast.
The taste has a strange green apple jolly rancher vibe going on... With a malty base and a dry spicy boozy yeast finish. A tartness seems to increase as this warms, but with it cones more booziness.
The body comes across as over-carbonated and a bit watery.
I love Russian River-- but this is officially the worst beer I've had from them. They have a stellar lineup of beers, and the -ation beers are particularly enjoyable... This one however is just barely drinkable by comparison. This is am average beer from an outstanding brewery. Perhaps it is my fault for having set the bar too high...

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Photo of PEBKAC
3.35/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

Spread vintage sampling, courtesy of some very generous & beautiful members of the community. :)

Served in a snifter over good conversation.

Batch 002:

Muddy, oiled brown hide. Trailing stroke of sandy-colored head.

Smell is slightly vinegar-y & buttered. A little apple, a little candied fruit & some rolled oats to dry it up. Maybe even a bit stinky. Best smelling batch of the three.

Carbonation is about average. Body is watered down thin. Taste of boozy raisins & sharply fruity(but stuffy), red wine. A little papery, but less oxidation then batch 3. A cautious amount of soothing vanilla. Cider vinegar takes over right before the finish.

Batch 003:

Undisturbed pour, watered down wine consistency & color. A small, faint, wisp of head develops as the glass settles.

Ash & sticky/pruney, dried up grape juice dominate the smell.

A very thin mouthfeel. Slight to moderate burnt plastic & newspaper-like oxidation. Corky, tired wine & chalky yeast.

Batch 008:

Served immediately following batch 3.

Lively pour. A little denser, but still with a red wine hue.

Smell is still grape-y for me, but there is a solid amount of macerated grain & oak, along with a good bit of yeast. Alcohol is much more prevalent in this bottle.

Taste is more grape skins then boozy wine. Dusty bread crust, & a noticeable amount of caramelization & macerated bananas. Nougat-like sweetness. Lots of drying wood notes, some bitter clove, & just barely tart. Again though, just really thin.

Score is from the most recent batch. Aging & conditions keep the beer ranging from interesting to forgettable. A wonderful opportunity nonetheless. :)

02: 3.2
03: 2.0

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Photo of biglobo8971
3.36/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

poured from bottle into RR tulip. The color is a rich burgundy with a nice 1/2 inch head with a little bit of lacing present. Took several drinks before I could describe the taste. Tobacco and dark fruits are the most prevelant taste. Very bubbly, almost dances off the tounge. Faint alchohol resonance. NOt my favorite, a well put together beer, just not one for me.

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Photo of AgentZero
3.38/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Rich chestnut colored beer with reddish highlights. Huge offwhite head that had gret retention and faded to a substantial cap. Sides of the glass left clean.

S - Sugar and candy smells with a lot of banana and a bit of clove. Some molasses and dark fruit.

T - Taste is pretty boring, slightly sterile with some candy sugar that manages not to get too sweet, a little yeast, molasses, and caramel. Tastes somewhat empty and doesn't finish all that well.

M - Active carbonation, medium bodied, bit of a dry finish.

O - Beer is better than average, but I'm not a huge fan. At 9% it's decently drinkable, but this is probably one of my least favorite Russian River offerings.

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Photo of alefish
3.38/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Seems grossly over carbonated. At least a 3.5 finger head and gobs of lacing. It almost turns the entire beer to foam for a while. Muddled coffee brown in color.

S: Almost smells old with hints of figs, nuts and raisins.

T: I taste brown sugar and vine fruits. Kind of average in the taste department.

M: Again....overly carbonated. The carbonation could be toned down quite a bit.

O: I would recommend trying Russian River's Salavation. However, it is hardly worth the hype and the money that I paid for it.

Serving type: bottle

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Photo of kojevergas
3.38/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a three finger head of beige colour, fair cream, good thickness, and good retention. Colour is a very dark amber. Nontransparent. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show.

Sm: Yeast, nice hops, and mild cream. A mild strength aroma.

T: Biscuity yeast, some dark malts, notable spice, some caramel, and cream. A fairly simple beer, but pleasant and enjoyable. Not particularly complex or subtle, but I like it. The spice is quite nice.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Nicely thick. Good carbonation.

Dr: Drinkable and enjoyable, yet simple. It's not Russian River's best brew, but I do like it. I might get it again on-draught, but it isn't horribly impressive.


2017.08.22: I aged a 2012 (bottled 041812) vintage of this and wanted to write some thoughts on how it is with 5 years of age.

Served cold into a tulip and allowed to warm over the course of consumption.

Strong aroma of dark fruit - fig, plum, raisin, date, prune...even grape - immediately signals a fruity and sweet yet dry beer. Dark malts. Belgian saccharomyces yeast. Aromatic intensity is above average, but it's a subdued aroma overall - not reticent, just teasing.

TASTE: All of the dark fruit and caramelization promised by the aroma is present in the taste, but I also get black strap molasses and candi sugar. It's too sweet overall for a Belgian dark ale, but I don't dislike it. Still, I thought it was better fresh...age doesn't seem to have done it any favours.

TEXTURE: Dragging, dry, rough/coarse, unrefreshing, medium to full-bodied, and overcarbonated (even after 5 years of cellar aging).

OVERALL: A competent expression of a Belgian dark ale that fails to age as gracefully as Chimay Blue or the like. Easily one of the best American attempts at the style I've tried, but compared to world-class traditional Belgian expressions of the style - with all due respect to Russian River - this ain't dick.


08/02/18 impression from another 2012 vintage bottle (cellaring notes):

Aroma is sweet, promising a cola-like or even syrupy brew. Heavy malty notes of brown bread, black bread, pumpernickel. Belgian yeast is evidenced by faint spiciness and good attenuation.

Taste is just as bready as the aroma promised, almost dipping into doppelbock territory were it not for the obvious Belgian yeast influence. Lacks any overt dark fruit notes, but some grape and plum do surface as it warms if you look for them. Sweet malt, black bread, undertones of coarse crust.

Full-bodied but very drinkable, navigating between coarseness & smoothness and dryness & wetness masterfully. The result is a beer with a terrific mouthfeel owed to its bottle conditioning.

Still very enjoyable after 6 years of aging, but I remain unconvinced the vast majority of beers do well beyond even 2 years. The Chimay blue vintages I've had have definitely held up better, as have Westvleteren 12 and St Bernardus Abt 12 vintages. I'd sooner age Oerbier, Kaiser, or fine Het Anker dark ales, but this remains an enduringly tasty beverage from one of the U.S.A.'s finest producers.


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Photo of DoubleSimcoe
3.38/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Russian River Salvation, Batch 10, bottled February 15 2011 and consumed on February 22 2012.

Bottle bought at Beer Heaven in Philadelphia for nine dollars.

Appearance: After fighting with the cork and pouring it on my Lost Abbey chalice, Salvation comes with a massive head of biblical proportions. Carbonation is off the charts! A second pour yields three fingers of head that remain throughout. Hazy-brown color, like chestnut puree. Bubbles going up and up, weeee... This is a live ale or what!

Smell: Sugar, raisin, bubblegum. Rum cake, spice. Pork-belly brine and some coconut shavings on top a not-to-sweet cupcake.

Taste: The Achilles' heel of this beer. Little of the enticing sweetness of the nose comes through in the mouth. Instead, some wine-like sourness, chestnut and other hard-shell fruits and an odd metallic/oxidation finish, like licking a rusty Richard Serra sculpture.

Mouthfeel: Full body and extreme carbonation, medium flavor. A little thin around the edges and a nice sour touch at the end.

Overall: I liked it better than I expected, but this is still not an outstanding Belgian ale. The flavor is a little lacking and the carbonation is a tad too heavy, but it does drink rather well.

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Photo of FosterJM
3.39/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

831st Review on BA
Bottle to Parra Tulip
Batch 10

App- A medium brown with a gigantic three lighter tan finger head. Just sits there. Very slow to recede. A ton of cling and lace.

Smell- Opens with a lot of fruit notes. A bit damp with some great yeast notes. A unique softer aromatic take on a classic.

Taste- More yeasty above all else. Retains all that damp dark fruit notes and adds a bit of spice with some more tart fruit notes.

Mouth- Medium bodied and medium carbonation. A bit of damp darker tart notes.

Drink- This was pretty good. Not the best beer from RR but I liked it. I haven’t had too many of there base series without sour so this was good.

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Photo of IdrinkGas
3.39/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Batch 10 poured from a 375ml bottle into a snifter

A: Poured gently into a snifter. I still get a huge 3 finger creamy head with good retention. Beer is a watery dark brown color.

S: Mostly dark fruit and Belgian yeast mixed and some earthy notes.

T: Mainly dark fruit and Belgian yeast. A little earth and some raisins in the finish. Not a whole lot going on.

M: Crisp with lots of carbonation.

O: Worth a try but I won't be picking up anymore of this one.
Just an average Strong Ale. Really not much else to say about this one.

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Photo of CharlesDarwin
3.46/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Batch 002. Faint wisp of salty malt aroma. Nice clean amber pour, shrouded with off-white rim. Flavor is a quite sour malty flavor, with some cherry. thai lemongrass and galangal, but it’s not particularly nuanced or distinctive. Composed with some long caramels and a bit of sour oat saltiness. Ebbs lemon tangy on the backend and this joins some bland grape skins. Bite of almond. Not cloying. Yeast begins to dominate. Crisp lemon leaf hop finish. I was looking for more. Thanks Andy!

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Salvation from Russian River Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.09 out of 5 with 1,265 ratings