No pants, no problem
A Review of Devil’s Britches IPA by Highland Brewing Co.
Posted on 3/11/2013 by Chops
Every once in a while a beer will come along that throws you for a loop. Now I'm not talking about those bottles of WTF that have you scratching your head in disbelief. I'm talking about those beers where even halfway through the experience you're still thinking ''this is a good beer, but I have no idea why.'' Such was the case when I came across the Devil's Britches IPA, a seasonal from the Highland Brewing Company out of Asheville, NC. Highland is a regional staple around these parts. Their brews are tasty and trusted, so I had no worries going into the experience. Little did I know that I would be staring at my smartphone for several brain-locked minutes just pondering coherent notes.

Before we begin, it helps to get Highland's take on this beer:

''Lordy, that's as red as the devil's britches,'' exclaimed a local rancher, awed by the vibrant canopy ablaze on what is known today as Devil's Britches trail. Highland Brewing Company commemorates the history of the Great Smoky Mountains and Devil's Britches trail with a rich, red IPA. Ashburne Mild malt produces a toasted and biscuity flavor, and Extra Special malt renders an alluring red hue. Apollo hops provide aggressive bitterness (70 IBU), while dry-hopping with Calypso hops yields complex fruity and floral aromas with hints of pear and apple. This devilishly delicious ale is Highland's twist on the great American IPA.

Cute story, interesting concept. What we basically have here is a red-IPA hybrid. I read a shortened similar description on the bottle, which had me quite intrigued. I do enjoy my Irish Reds and amber ales, so the concept of a hopped up hybrid sounded scrumptious. Hopefully the concept translated well into a finished product.

In the glass, Devil's Britches has a rich amber red coloration that you would typically associate with a good Irish Red. It comes with a frothy white head that has good retention. On the nose, I found a sweet malty aroma coupled with an earthy hop profile. This combo created candied notes and bubblegum vibes, which were pleasant yet strange. I could tell from the get go that this beer struggled to define itself. Not uncommon for hybrids, just hoping that the flavor isn't too disjointed.

The mouthfeel immediately caught my attention on the first sip. It drank a lot like a malty pale ale to start with a light-to-mid body and tingly smoothness. Then out of nowhere, poof! It disappears into a dry airy bitter finish. I spent the first part of the beer mesmerized by this transition. ''Mmm, malty, somewhat sweet, savory hops... um... where did it go?'' The hops themselves are quite assertive, but lack any real muscle. I can only describe the result as a ''needling'' presence. There's not much of a backbone to this beer, just more of a wispy IPA with a candied malty twinge. The hybrid concept is obvious and the beer is certainly tasty, but forming a meaningful opinion on it was quite challenging.

Overall, Highland's Devil's Britches IPA is a tasty beer with an interesting concept. It's hard to recommend it to any specific camp because I honestly don't know who would like it. Hop heads may love it or hate it. Red heads may love it or hate it. Hell, any beer fan may love it or hate it. This of course is the inherent risk of trying something new and I definitely give props to Highland for venturing outside of the brewing box. Devil's Britches is no golden ticket because it seems to be more of a devil without pants. But, I'll certainly hand over a few shiny shillings for more of this tasty brew. No pants, no problem.

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Devils Britches IPA by Highland Brewing Co.
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