Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Devil Dancer

Founders Brewing Co.
Grand Rapids, MI

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 13.0%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Pair With:
I guess if I’m going to review this beast I’m obligated to start off with a quote about the devil, but I will abstain from the painfully obvious and not use one from a Batman movie. Let’s see, devil quote. There’s quite a few to pick from, the most tempting being Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s “Let the devil catch you but by a single hair, and you are his forever,” but I think I’ll go with
“His feet are light and nimble. He never sleeps. He says that he will never die. He dances in light and in shadow and he is a great favorite. He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die.”
from the closing passage of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. I guess that’s pretty apt.

The first time I had Founders’ “triple IPA,” I thought it was pretty damn good. But, that was at 4:00 at the Great Taste of the Midwest, so I probably wasn’t tasting things with a lot of what you would call “clarity” at the time. The second time I had it, I thought it was overhopped and not worth all that hoo-haw. The third time I had it, well, as they say: charmed.

This is one monstrously complex beer. That third time I really tasted it. I dug through all the hops and the fearsome reputation and really let it wash over my tongue and down my throat. Now, mind you, that is not an easy thing to do. This is a challenging beer, and you may be better off giving it a pass if you’re drawn more to the light … lighter beers, that is, unless you want to end up like the young lady depicted on Devil Dancer’s bottle. She’s obviously been overcome by too much malt, hops, and alcohol and is being suspended over the flames by a pair of huge, scaly, clawed hands. If this scares you, even if only a little, just walk away right now.

The pour is an evil-looking dark crimson. Even the medium-sized, medium-bubbled, very sticky head is tinged bloodred. Creepy. I’m expecting a nose of burning sulphur and dessicated flesh, but instead am assaulted by a deluge of intense aromas, not all of them hops. A massive malt profile is along for the ride, as well as an undercurrent of alcohol. As the head dissipates a little too quickly, I put my ear to the edge of the tulip glass and hear a muted roar. Not quite the screams of the damned, but remember right now we’re only at the mere gates of Hell.

The lasting sensation you’re going to get upon tasting this beer is bitterness. A Hell of a lot of bitterness. But, amazingly, no harshness. And don't bother trying to guess the hop varieties, because there’s 10 of them floating around in there. That’s right. Ten. I let Devil Dancer roll through my mouth. The flavors are massively intense. There’s that bitterness—literally tongue-numbing in its intensity—but it is without argument balanced by a thick, sickly sweet malt vein that can be almost as overwhelming as the hops. And it is overwhelming. Don’t be embarrassed if you need a breather after those first couple of sips. Like I side, monstrously complex. It takes time for the brain to process the storm of sensations crawling through the mouth. Blander beer lovers will not like this feeling. If you’re not up for it, your taste buds might just shut down. You’ve been warned.

And after all that, at the very end is a lingering alcoholic warmth, a nice little reminder of what awaits when you decide to dance with the devil.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on October 26, 2007.
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