Devils Backbone, out of Roseland, Virginia, kicks ass at brewing lagers. Their flagship is a Vienna style lager with a list of competition wins that makes Bill Russell’s ring finger look like child’s play (Russell won 11 championships with the Celtics, by the way). The beer even pulled gold at this year’s GABF (props), and that’s just their flagship. They also produce a Bavarian Dark Lager, a Black Lager, a Gold Leaf Lager…DB’s mastery of lagers helped earn the team Mid-Size Brewing Company of the year at GABF in 2014 (mad props). But given DB’s lager-heavy pedigree, I didn’t know what to expect when I took my first sip of Eight Point, their year-round IPA. What I found was beer that strays from any modern IPA expectations.
The beer pours a shiny, copper orange and smells spicy and slightly yeasty. The head is thin, but sticks around long after I start digging into the beer, forming a kind of slick, almost impermeable coating.
This isn’t your standard American IPA. At least, not your standard modern take on the IPA. If you’re looking for another citrus bomb, move along, there’s nothing to see here. Eight Point is far more balanced and subtle than that, with a strong malt bill that delivers heavy biscuit notes and just a little bit of caramel sweetness. The hops are there (DB uses a pretty standard mix of Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Columbus and Simcoe) but come through as a layer of sticky pine and peppery spice, all of which finishes pretty dry. And really, the hops seem more like they’re just playing along to keep the malt bill in check, as opposed to the inverse scenario that most brewers seem to employ with their IPAs. Because this beer is substantially malty and bready, almost like a red IPA.
Imagine if someone took your favorite IPA from the ‘90s, and blended it with your favorite amber from the ‘90s. That’s what’s going on with Eight Point. It’s different from the much of the hoppy field today, but also really familiar to the point of almost being nostalgic. And who doesn’t like a little nostalgia every once in a while?
Brewery: Devils Backbone Brewing
City: Roseland, Virginia
Availability: Year round, 12-ounce bottles