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Adventures In CellarSitting Review: Founders Devil Dancer

In Cellared Beer Reviews by The GuysLeave a Comment

Founders says:

“When you dance with the Devil the Devil don’t change. You do. Massive in complexity, the huge malt character balances the insane amount of alphas used to create it. At an incredible 112 IBU’s it’s dry-hopped with a combination of ten hop varieties. This one can age with the best of them.”

Founders Devil Dancer
Founders Devil Dancer
Imperial IPA, 12% ABV

(Editors Note: We here it Guys Drinking Beer occasionally like to push the envelope of beer cellaring.  IPA’s aren’t traditionally good candidates for the cellar.  They are brewed to be puckeringly hoppy and, thus, designed to be enjoyed that way.  But we thought it would be a fun experiment to see what happens to an overly hopped, high alcohol content Double IPA when it sits in the cellar for a year or more. Below are the tasting notes for Founders Devil Dancer after one year, two years, three years and four years in the cellar.)

1 YEAR

Andrew: As you undoubtedly saw in our Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree  side-by-side we like to take a somewhat unconventional approach by cellaring beers that aren’t typically cellared. In this installment we pit the 2009 Founder’s Devil Dancer up against the 2010 Founder’s Devil Dancer.

After what we experienced in the Double Crooked Tree pairing, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect here.  The 2010 proved to have a huge, thick and foamy head that stuck around for a while before leaving beautiful lacing on the glass. It poured a beautiful clear amber with an all-out barrage of citrus and hops in the nose. There’s nothing but booze and bitter hops up front (and tends to stick around for a long time) on the taste with slight notes of lemons and grapefruits.

This beer is an absolute palate destroyer — if you intend on drinking another beer after the Devil Dancer, and hope to actually taste it, I’d follow it up with a tall glass of water or some crackers or something.

What little head the 2009 had dissipated very quickly. Like we saw in the Double Crooked Tree, the 2009 poured a very cloudy dark, burnt orange color. You could still pick up booze and hops in the nose, but it wasn’t nearly as intense as the 2010.

The 2009 was a lot hoppier than I was expecting, nowhere near the punch in the mouth the 2010 gives you, but the hops were still front and center. Caramel malty flavor really picked up in the aging process and I could still pick up slight citrus flavors, though not nearly as prominent as the 2010.

All said, I really liked what happened as this beer aged. So much so that I could say that I preferred the 2009 over the 2010.

Karl: This faceoff was right on the heels of the Batch 9,000 and between the monster ABV’s of all of these we probably powered down the equivalent of 4 regular beers in just about 8 ounces of fluid.  These are the sacrifices we make for you, Constant Reader, and we are happy to do so.  All of this is the long way of saying that while our minds were plenty clear at the beginning of two samples of Devil Dancer, after facing down a fresh and slightly aged version the 12% ABV was already starting to show its effects.  This one is a tall wall to climb, but climb we did.

The differences between the two are already clear (this is wordplay you’ll get in a second) as soon as the ‘09 and the ‘10 hit the glass.  Not only does the ‘10 have a significantly larger amount of pillow-y head to it, but it is slower to dissipate and leaves a tremendous amount of lacing around the glass.  The ‘09 still has a decent amount of foam after the pour which surprised me for a year old hopbomb but dissipated quicker than the newer Devil Dancer and left nearly no trace of its existence.

As for the color and consistency (here comes the wordplay) one is cloudy and nearly opaque, and the other is crisp and basically transparent except for the color, which in both was a similar ruddy dark copper.  After a bit of poking around with it, you can see how different the two have become in just 12 months of being laid back.

Founders Devil Dancer '09Founders Devil Dancer '10

Put the pen behind the ‘09 and it practically disappears.  Behind the ‘10?  Yep, there it is.

Taste-wise, as hoppy beers age, the bitterness dissolves and leaves behind some interesting stuff — which we are still waiting to find since the ‘09 was still just as hoppy as your average DIPA.  It’s less thick in consistency than a Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree, for instance, but it’s very similar otherwise.  The ‘10 was even hoppier, which was a given, but the aromatics like citrus and pine were still right up front while they had died down almost completely in the ‘09.  I would even go so far as to say that the ‘10 was so hoppy it was medicinal.  It was a struggle to put down that ‘10, as it was nearly too intense for human consumption (not that it stopped us in the end) but the ‘09 was delightful.  Advantage: ‘09, overall.

I really look forward to seeing what this is like in another year or three — although I’d bet it’d take that long to progress just to a single IPA level. Founders should make you sign a waiver on purchase with this one.  Caution: Obscene Levels of Hops, Proceed With Caution.

Ryan: I’ve described Founders Devil Dancer in a number of different ways; “Hop bomb”, “Hop monster”, “Palate destroyer” and “I can’t feel my teeth.”   But I never thought I would call it a…double IPA.  Strangely, that’s the conclusion I reached after our little side-by-side experiment pitting a fresh bottle of Devil Dancer against one that has spent a year in the cellar.  We have done this before with both Dark Horse’s Double Crooked Tree and Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA.  In both those instances the double IPA started to fade into more of an English barleywine or American barleywine, respectively.  The Devil Dancer though just dropped a notch — going from a freakishly hoppy TRIPLE IPA to a pretty damn good double IPA.

Both beers poured an attractive orange in color with the ’09, as noted above, much cloudier than the 2010 pour. The ’09 also left zero lacing behind.

Founders Devil Dancer Lacing
The ’09 still contained a good hop bouquet in the nose — much more than I was anticipating — although subdued from the ’10.  The fresh bottle just fills your nose with bitter, angry, citrusy hops.

The ’09 pour still had a good amount of hops in the taste.  Far less abrasive than the ’10, but still very pronounced.  In fact, I would put a year old bottle of this up against just about any fresh double IPA in a blind taste test.  I bet you might like this better.  Oh, and before i forget, I also caught a little tangerine in the back-end of this beer.  Tasty.

The ’10, while very enjoyable, will just wreak havoc on your palate.  Andrew was right, do not expect to taste much after drinking one of these.  Aside from the puckering hops, a fresh pour is highlighted by freshly cut grapefruit blended with grapefruit juice with a side of grapefruit.

This may sound strange, but I may enjoy this more with a year on it.  The EXTREME feeling you get from drinking something that is triple digit IBU’s is fun and all — but a year old bottle is far more drinkable.

2 YEARS

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Karl: As aging experiments go, throwing a triple IPA back for a couple of years has gotta be right up there in the WTF files. Last year we found it had dialed itself back to about a 1.5X IPA, as it were. So with another 12 months of aging behind us, would we find ourselves with a .75X IPA, or something even further removed from its original flavor?

It turns out you get a beer that is sweet, sugary, maple syrupy, thick and many other things that remind one of caramel. I even wrote that it resembled dulce de leche in some strange way. The hops had absolutely disappeared, leaving behind the framework that made up the base of the beer. It’s like peeling back the drywall of a building, and showing the 2 x 4’s, the rebar and the concrete slab. It’s always been there — but now you can finally see it.

A 2-year-old Devil Dancer is like no beer you’ve ever had. I could think of nothing else this was like other than itself. It is an individual, a unique data point. There’s some after-burn to the finish, a little kick of dark spirits to close it out. It’s thick with complexity, charm and character. Who knew.

Andrew: We’ve tried aging other Double IPA’s in the past and have been pretty pleased with the results, so it should come as no surprise that a Devil Dancer with two years on it worked. It just worked. Looking back, it’s hard to put a label on what this beer had become – it certainly wasn’t a triple IPA anymore, but was it an IPA or something else?

As Karl noted, this was one hell of a complex beer, just so much going on here. The malts had developed to totally take over this beer, leaving you with a sweet, syrupy beer. Yet the hops stick around just enough to remind you that this beer used to be a palate destroyer as it finishes with a very aggressive, dry bitter hop kick on the back end.

Please, cellar your Double IPA’s, trust us, you won’t be disappointed.

Ryan: I am sure many, if not all of you, thought we were crazy for purposely putting some monstrously hopped IPA’s into our cellar. Sometimes even I thought we were crazy for doing so. But boy has this experiment been paying off.

While the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, another cellaring experiment, still retained some IPA character after two years — this beer lost it’s identity all-together. Devil Dancer went from a menacing triple IPA to a malty, creamy ale that made its mark with a borderline overbearing sweetness and a boozy finish.

The nose of this beer is rather deceiving. You can still pick up a trace scent of hops; maybe some tangerine and grapefruit. It misleads you in to thinking that two years in the cellar really hasn’t done that much to this beer. It’s after you take a sip that you realize this is a completely different animal.

Gone is the abrasive hoppiness; replaced by a huge malt bill that is heavy on the caramel. It’s morphed in to a beer that I could only describe as:

“super-sweet, borderline cloying…”

Sure, there are still some hop remnants on the finish — but at two years old this beer is all malt.

Probably the biggest surprise is the boozy burn on the finish. Actually, at 12% ABV it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise that there was a bit of a burn. It was more the timing and intensity that caught me off guard. You really didn’t notice the alcohol until well after you took a sip. For arguments sake we’ll say 20-seconds. And the burn hung with you for a while too.

The heartburn-esque feeling aside, this beer truly is in a class by itself after two years in the cellar. Which makes the two other bottles we have for a three-year and four-year tasting that much more intriguing.

3 YEARS

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Ryan: Going into year three of our cellaring experiment with Founders gargantuan triple IPA, logic would tell us that the malts would continue to dominate and this beer would slide closer and closer to becoming a barleywine.

But this beer defied logic, because that didn’t happen. In fact, I think this beer actually got a little hoppier. Seriously.

Don’t get me wrong, the nearly overbearing malty sweetness hasn’t disappeared altogether, but it has lost some zing which made way for a pleasant hoppiness that kind of left us scratching our heads.

The aroma generally remained unchanged from year two to year three. Yes, there were some mild hops on the nose, but instead of carrying a slightly fruity aroma it was leaning more towards grassy and earthy. There was also a bit of caramel in the nose eluding to a bit of balance.

The flavor profile is where this beer did an about-face from where it appeared to be heading last year. Gone was that, “super-sweet, borderline cloying,” body – replaced by a pleasant, mild hoppiness. The hops were a bit grassy and a bit grapefruit-y. And they appeared to be more pronounced than my recollection, and my notes, a year ago.

A three-year old Devil Dancer is about a smooth as they come, with a slightly less syrupy body than its two-year old self. And, thankfully, that abrasive alcohol burn that tarnished last year’s tasting was non-existent.

I hate to harp on it each year, but there’s a reason we do these cellaring experiments; because there isn’t much information out there on what happens to supremely hoppy IPA’s after years in the cellar.

And for you skeptics, I couldn’t think of a better example to point towards to explain the intrigue of beer cellaring than what’s taken place with Founders Devil Dancer.

Karl: We were in the midst of a parade of mighty fine cellared beers one night when Ryan, with no forewarning or preparation whatsoever, placed a bottle of 2009’s Devil Dancer on the table right in front of all of us. And I’ve gotta say, this is one beer that even among many other quality offerings, still gets me excited to drink it. Of the many cellared beers we’ve examined, the Devil Dancer has got to be one of the most complex, the most rewarding, the most satisfying and the most interesting beers we’ve sampled. And the hops! Oh, the hops!

In fact, the first thing my notes read (a good indication of exactly what a beer’s first impression offers) were

“It’s. Still. Hoppy.”

Many hoptacular beers drop way back in bitterness after just a few months, so the fact that this monstrous hop-demon still offers bitterness — and pleasant, hoppy bitterness, not just soapy harshness — is a testament to just how damn huge the Devil Dancer starts off.  In fact, if after another few years this beer finally backs down to being something of a “standard” IPA, we might lobby Founders to technically re-qualify this as a quintuple or even sextuple IPA.

Regretfully, we did not subject this beer to the pen test like we did previously, but it still retains a lovely red/caramel hue, as any good Devil should. There remains plenty of demon left in an aged Devil Dancer, and it’s still plenty damn good. The differences between the last time we checked in aren’t as dramatic as going from fresh to a year later, but the quality still holds up.

Andrew: Ever had a fresh Devil Dancer? Could you taste anything after you finished it? Didn’t think so. Ever had a three-year old Devil Dancer? Could you taste anything after you finished it? Didn’t think so.

We’ve kind of mastered the cellaring of IPA’s here at Guys Drinking Beer (#webelieveinagedipas), and I’ve come to notice the same trend with most of them, the hops fade away and the beer becomes thick with sweet caramel-y hops, in most instances.

And then we did this, a big beer in a night full of big beers. A beer that, even at three years old, can still be classified as a palate destroyer.

Sure it’s still got some of the same aged-IPA characteristics we’ve come to love; sweet, thick and malty. But the hops…didn’t really go anywhere. Still right there, right up front, and enough to totally kick your palate’s ass.

4 YEARS

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Karl: Honestly, I still kinda can’t believe it — even after 4 years in the cellar, this beer is STILL hoppy. No shit. It’s still hoppy, bitter, and huge. I’m tempted to say that this beer is immortal; perhaps no one will ever truly know because I believe this was the last one of ours to crack into.

It didn’t disappoint. Pouring the same ruby it always did with just a touch of head, my notes basically read one thing over and over: How the hell is this still hoppy? (One line simply reads: “Insane.”) Now, it’s naturally not as hoppy as last year or the year before that, but the fact that there’s still some really up-front bitterness makes me think that the hop harvest in ‘09 was really quite incredible.

Rather than a DIPA or even an IPA, this beer has taken on a very malty pale ale aspect, caramel-sweet at times with some spearmint tastes zinging in and out here and there. That old caramel does resemble the same kind of Werthers tastes we saw in the ‘09 Double Crooked Tree, leading me to think that there are more similarities to this beer than just massive amounts of hops, alcohol and a similar birthday.

However, where the DCT tasted a bit tired, the Devil Dancer still had a lot of life left in the tank. I wish we could pull this out at five, six and seven years down the road just to finally find out when all those IBUs turn into memories.img_0317

Ryan: It took four years but this triple-digit IBU, this palate destroyer, has faded into a Pale Ale. And a mighty fine Pale Ale at that.

I’m with Karl in the astonishment that there was still some hoppiness intact after four years in the cellar. The hops were no longer in your face, but they were there and they were just right.

The nose didn’t give much of a teaser to how this beer was going to taste, with just a touch of caramel sweetness to speak of. But take a sip and you get some easily discernible citrus, passion fruit and grapefruit up front followed by grassy hops in the finish. There is a  underlying caramel smoothness throughout the thick, heavy and syrupy body.

This beer held up very well in the cellar and, believe it or not, I’d love to see what another year or two in the cellar would do to this beer. Sadly, this experiment has come to an end. Who knew when we set out on this journey four years ago we’d wish we had set more bottles aside?

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The Guys

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Written by many, compiled by one, this is a collaborative post with contributions from at least two writers at Guys Drinking Beer.

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