Brew Blog: Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve #11

Categories: Brew Blog

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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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19 comments
Matt Cayce
Matt Cayce

I found 2 six packs at Kroger today, caught me totally by surprise

Lalexander23
Lalexander23

Found it at Kroger several days after the SA fan lines had subsided at other establishments. Side by side comparison to my favorite IPA which is DFH 90min I'd have to say the DR11 starts better, the DFH 90 finishes better. It's a good offering but the DFH 90 is available year 'round...Thank the brewing gods! If SA could bring it 24x7, 365 at a good price point then I'd be standing in line.

Christopher
Christopher

I hope you did indeed save a bottle for me. Otherwise, I can't see how I'll get my hands on it. But maybe I'm too pessimistic. Personally, I love hoppy beers. Beers are like bunnies: the hoppier the better.

Bodl
Bodl

Nice review Nick. There is another seasonal DIPA release you should try - Avery Maharaja. It has more maltiness than DR11, falling in between DR11 and Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian IPA you gave a favorable review a while back.

Mbartell
Mbartell

The Maharaja is very good indeed. Actually was an influence along with Pliney the Elder in the creation of DR11!

Am_Bro_Se
Am_Bro_Se

I'm just getting into that whole floral IPA thing (and in full disclosure, Saint Arnold is a big contributor to my mortgage) - but, even with my newbie status when it comes to being a "hophead" I am a big fan. Don't think I could drink more than 1.5 in one sitting, but that's the point of drinking a really good beer. Eloquent review, Mr. Hall. Eloquent.

Wyatt
Wyatt

"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."

Sounds positively DANDY

Michael Owens
Michael Owens

Belgian beer is mouth wash for people who eat sh#t. The most exciting beers in the world are American Style IPA's.

Wyatt
Wyatt

Wouldn't people who eat shit need a really good mouthwash? Are you saying Belgian beer has noteworthy antiseptic qualities? Also, this is the internet, you know you can curse, right?

Megan
Megan

Well, shoot. I'm with you, Nicholas; I'm not a fan of super-hoppy beers. I would be intrigued to try this. Alas, I won't be in Houston again until the 11th, and it will be all gone from the bars.

@bubbledome: Of course there are probably "better" Belgian beers out on the market. Hell, I've been eyeing several of the Goose Island Belgian beers (specifically Sophie and Matilda). Why can't St. Arnold try their hand at a Belgian brew? I didn't realize purity of type was a requirement for brewers to follow.

bubbledome
bubbledome

much ado about nothing – the later third of this review sounds more like an acid trip than a beer tasting. sheesh... there are probably a dozen genuine Belgian brews sitting idly by in the Central Market cooler that would blow Divine Reserve out of the water.

Wywg_band
Wywg_band

I bet this hasn't even tried it. Well I have in bottle and on tap at Boondogle's and it's amazing!

Shut Up and Eat!
Shut Up and Eat!

If someone ever casually throws out the line, "'Belgian beers' are better than...", it can be safely assumed that they have a fridge full of Shiner Bock at home.

This sort of statement is the mark of a total poseur who knows almost nothing about beer. It is the beer equivalent of the unqualified secretary in the office who is trying to look tech-savvy by asking, "What program did you make this file in? Did you make it in Adobe?"

Bruce R
Bruce R

Delightfully hoppy beers are the American contribution to the beer world. The Belgians respect that and are making Belgian versions of American IPAs.

LennieAmbrose
LennieAmbrose

(I work at Saint Arnold)

I don't really think you can compare Belgian beers to Divine Reserve 11... or Belgian beers to Stone IPA or to Dogfish Head Burton Baton or to Sierra Nevada Glissade or to Harpoon UFO or to.... the point is there are a lot of different styles from a lot of different breweries and comparing the generic term "Belgian" to any of them isn't fair. I think all of us here love a good Belgian as much as we love a good Double IPA. Comparing "Belgians" to a Double IPA is almost exactly like comparing apples to oranges... both fruits but really, really different. Besides, the best beer in the world is made in America these days anyway! USA USA USA!

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

I'm not saying that it's the best beer ever, dude. Just that it's very, very good. Have you tried it, or just blindly opining?

Kyle
Kyle

Standing in line is fun not for the waiting but for the beer nerd conversations.

Guest
Guest

The jobless assclowns standing in line outside Spec's just to buy beer (because they're supposed to?) represent the start of a cult.

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