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Brew Blog: Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve #11

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I'm not one to go running around the city, following hearsay and hashtags in search of beer. If I happen to be up and around the morning of a release, and in the vicinity of a store that might be stocking it, I'll pop in and check it out. If there isn't a line. Needless to say, I haven't had much luck getting my hands on previous editions of Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve series. This year was different. Not so much because I was dead-set on finding a six-pack of #11, but because it was so damn easy to find. I had two six-packs in hand, and was back home stashing them in the fridge, before 9 a.m.

Based on the Twitter static yesterday morning, it wasn't lack of public interest that had me staring at a huge pile of the stuff on open display in the beer aisle at Central Market, beverages manager Justin Vann languidly cracking a joke before doling out my allotment of 12 bottles. In fact, as I was grabbing my beer, no muss no fuss, I heard reports of lines forming at the Midtown Specs, snaking around the corner of the building as people awaited the TABC-mandated 10 a.m. opening. Satellite locations of the liquor chain featured in similar reports.

All over the city, people were clamoring for the stuff; it just seemed that most of them were clamoring to wait. I found that odd, since there were just as many reports of the beer's availability coming from grocery stores, already open to the public, with little or no wait for purchase. It felt both as if people expected to wait, and relished the opportunity, as if the hardship enhanced the entire experience. As one local drinker commented to me via Twitter, "Waiting in line is fun ;)." Of course, the doubling of the production volume for DR11 also helped ensure that few would be waiting in vain. It's more fun to wait in line, I suppose, when there's actually beer at the end.

Regardless, I can tell you first-hand that my hardship-free DR11 was fantastic. I was a bit concerned about how I'd like this one. I've already gone on record about my relative ambivalence toward hyper-hoppy beers, and the profile for this DR offering, a high IBU Double IPA, seemed to promise a hoppy sucker punch of bitterness. It ended up being exactly as advertised, yet nothing like I'd expected.

As I poured the beer, the piney and floral aromas somersaulted out of the glass, lively and spritely. The fresh scent is like bottled springtime, full of green and promise and growing things. It's a bit resiny, and offers plenty of citrus, most prominently as the smell of dried pineapple. It's amazing how it can smell so heady and saturated, yet somehow seem clean and vibrant.

It's beautiful to look at, too. A deep, golden amber glows at the top of the glass, fading down through a gradation of shades to a pale yellow, like copper melting into spun gold. The tightly structured, fully two-fingered head stuck around for quite a while before fading into a tight cap, but continued to leave beautiful, clingy lacing all the way down the glass.

As expected, hops dominate the taste, as well. Flowers, pine and tropical fruits, again. Romantic and silly though it may seem, I liken the impact of this beer to the appeal of flower nectar to a honey-bee. Nectar is an appropriate term here, though, with all the fruity, flowery elements. It's also fitting for the feel of the beer, with a medium-bodied viscosity that allows it to roll around your tongue. As it moves, it offers up additional waves of flavor, seeming to morph and change. The pine and flowers change to something dusky and earthy, almost woody. A slight malty note comes in, as well. If you allow it to sit, the bitterness I had expected to be so up front finally comes creeping in, pulling all those other flavors down into a tight little ball at the finish.

It is a fantastic beer. It manages to pull so much amazing flavor and aroma out of the hops, relying almost solely on them for the character of the beer, without overwhelming the palate with bitterness. I don't know that "balanced" is quite the right term, though. This is actually a very lopsided beer, focusing as it does on the character of its hops, and "balance" implies some opposing force. "Perfect utilization" might be a better term. Like a self -contained system requiring no additional inputs or outputs, DR11 is the perpetual motion machine of beer.

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