Like I said, I’m a fan of beer series.
Widmer Brothers is no exception with their “Brothers Reserve” line of beers, which have included a Cherry Oak Doppelbock (meh), Prickly Pear Braggot (pretty solid) and Barrel Aged Brrrbon (home run), among others. Their Kill Devil brown ale is number six in their series, and could be argued to be at the top of the leaderboard for these seasonal releases. It’s only got eight reviews on Beer Advocate as of today and they fall in at about 3.75 out of 5.
I’d fall higher in that camp and even broke out of my (mostly) vegetarian diet to pair this beer with a bison steak. I figured an earthy, sweet meat would go well with the bite of an imperial brown ale. It’s worth noting that Widmer ages Kill Devil in Puerto Rican rum barrels to gain flavors of ingredients used by Caribbean distillers. I didn’t get any glaringly obvious barrel-aged flavors from this process (oak or vanilla), but it definitely adds to the overall complexity of the beer.
A first whiff of Kill Devil is exactly what you may expect from a brown ale – biscuity and some caramel, which gives it some sweetness. There are most definitely notes of brown sugar and licorice, which, after checking out the Widmer Brothers’ site, tells me that’s what they’re going for. So high five to them for nailing it.
When it comes to the taste of this beer, thank you sir, may I have another? The sweetness that you’re able to find in the smell most definitely carries over into the taste and has just a bit of a sting going down, which I assume is the molasses. I’d never had a beer brewed with molasses before (while I’m actually planning to homebrew one myself) and I really liked it. It reminded me of the same kind of flavor you find from Belgian candi sugars – something you obviously find in Belgian beers. The molasses was definitely sweet, but it was “blackstrap” molasses, which adds some bitterness to it. I didn’t get any hop bitterness from this beer (30 IBUs) so the bitter molasses is a wonderful addition. Honestly, it’s a perfect ingredient for brewing, if you ask me.
While Kill Devil sits at 9.5 percent ABV, the bite of the alcohol is very well hidden behind all the other flavors of the beer. As it warms, it becomes a bit more pronounced, but then it’s left to combat with an increasing sweetness.
*I should note that while I use the word “sweet” often in this post, Kill Devil isn’t some sugary concoction that’s going to give you a rush. It’s all incredibly well balanced to produce a beer that drinks smooth and leaves you wanting more.*