Back in June of 1999, I wrote a review of Victory’s HopDevil that
I feel duty-bound as a beer enthusiast to update, and so I’m
doing so. I had heard all kinds of great things about Victory before I took
a ride to the brewery back in 1997, and when I finally tried HopDevil for
the first time my greatest expectations were more than met. It's been a
favorite of mine ever since then, and every time I hit Philly, where my dad
lives, I grab some of this beer. The first time I visited Victory it was on
cask as well as regular CO2 tap. Back then I didn't pick up much improvement
from the cask version. Last Year, however, I enjoyed a truly marvelous pint
of this beer on cask at Philly's Standard Tap. The warmer serving
temperature and softer carbonation really allowed the malt and hops of this
beer to shine.
So there I was last year with a bottle of HopDevil in front of me (I always prefer a bottle in front of me to a frontal lobotomy, but that’s another story). I had my HopDevil T-shirt on, and poured the beer into a HopDevil pint glass. OK, I'm weird. Nice hop nose. Big and piney. Bright orange color to the beer, good head formation. In the past I had taken notes on the beer and indicated the hops dominate, they still steal the show, but there is a good toasty malt character to this beer that grabs you up front and lingers into the finish. It's a substantial brew, full bodied. But there are hops everywhere in this brew. From the first moment you sip, there's a resiny aromatic quality that grabs your tongue and holds on for dear life, then slowly let's go and allows the delightful bitter finish to grab your attention and linger on your tongue. If you don't like bitterness, this Devil's not for you.
I usually drink this one by it's lonesome, preferring to enjoy it's qualities unadulterated by anything else on the palate. This beer is perfect complement to spicy foods however. I have always been of the opinion that hoppy beers and spicy foods make a perfect match. This one is great with Chicken Curry, Buffalo wings, or any spicy dish.
Fast forward to June 2001. I walk into a local beer superstore in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and see cases of Victory beer on the shelves, including the legendary Hop Devil. This is a more than welcome development, but in a way I’m a bit sad. The beer has just lost a bit of its regional flavor by becoming available in more and more areas (Massachusetts, California, Connecticut). I quickly get over that, though, because I’m so happy to be able to get HopDevil so close to home.
Before I go any further, let me relate the story of the HopDevil, as it appears on the label:
The mythical HopDevil resides in the lore of farmers. Our HopDevil is the real deal. Bold, Spicy and menacingly delicious. He’s the product of distinctive American hops and meticulous craftsmanship. Arising from the heady winds of our hopback and gently tamed with time, this devil makes a great companion!
So what happened to my HopDevil? It’s still a deep, cloudy ruby red color with a generous head formation and a big fruity nose. There’s a firm malt backbone to the beer as well as a respectable fruitiness from both yeast (pear) and hops (citrus). There’s a good lingering hop bitterness in the finish too, and a touch of warmth from the alcohol (6.7% by volume). Still, the beer does not seem as hoppy as it did in the past. How did this happen? Is it a result of the wider distribution of HopDevil? I’m not sure. My bottles are freshness-dated into August, so age should not be an issue, especially with a bottle-conditioned and generously hopped brew.
Don’t get me wrong, HopDevil is still a wonderful beer, and it will be a staple in my beer fridge henceforth. It just seems to be a bit less of the beer it used to be.
Update February, 2006: I'm drinking a bottle of Hopdevil tonight with about a year of age on it. As always, such a nice beer, and it definitely improves with time. The malt is chewy, caramelly, and full bodied, imparting a rich mouthfeel. It's nice and toasty, too, and balances so nicely against the peppery, wonderful bitter hop finish that still lingers on the tongue. I think the Devil is back, and then some. Just a wonderful beer. Sock a few bottles away for a while, too.
Update: July 10, 2014: I didn't go looking for Victory hop Devil today. No I didn't, instead I was looking for another beer entirely. But as I got to the front of the store (Total Wine if you must know), I spied freshly arrived cases of Hop Devil, with gleaming bottles begging to be brought home and drunk. The labels say enjoy by October 19th, but this beer will last longer than that, friends.
At $9.99 a six-pack, they were just a bit above average in price, but Hop Devil is so good I realized it had been too long since I had had one. I was glad I made my decision when I cracked open the first bottle. Solid caramel malt up front, resiny, herbal hop aroma permeating the beer and a long dry bitterness in the finish make this beer sheer joy in a bottle. If you haven't made a deal with the Hop Devil in a while, what are you waiting for? Get some today.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.