Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Letters: Russian River Damnation Ale

By William Brand
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007 at 9:46 pm in Uncategorized.

Russian River DamnationBill, Subject: Russian River Damnation Ale: Have you tried this one yet? It’s one of the Russian River Belgian line of beers and it’s sensational.
Yes. Love it. Here’s a column I wrote about it last year. Long live Russian River Brewing. b

By William Brand
Remember the old saying: If March comes in blustery, like a lion – it will go out like a lamb. I can’t predict the weather, but one thing’s certain in this column, the beer of the week today, March 1 looks like a lamb, but roars like a lion.
It’s Damnation**** from Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa. On the surface, this is a mellow, Belgian-style strong, golden ale, 7 percent alcohol by volume. But there are enticing subtleties beneath the surface. It’s won many prizes and beer geeks in Europe compare it to Duvel, the famous Belgian ale.
Russian River’s owned by Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo. Vinnie’s the brewer ; he’s the son of a Temeculah winemaker, and he’s known as one of America’s best craft brewers: famous for his extreme beers, aged in wine barrels, brewed using wild yeast.
Damnation’s on the edge of the extreme beer precipice.
It’s made with a Belgian yeast strain; American pilsner barley malt and dextrose sugar, which contributes more alcohol and an a teasing lightness. Hops are Styrian Goldings for bittering, which Vinnie says, lend an orange-citrus note that blends well with the yeast fruitiness. Also U.S. Sterling hops, adding herbal notes.
After a warm fermentation, Damnation’s bottled in 750 ml bottles, sealed with a cork. And, like Champagne, a differerent yeast’s added to each bottle so fermentation continues slowly.
Vinnie uses a wine yeast, actually a wild yeast strain found by a Sonoma County winemaker in a Zinfandel vineyard. It adds a layer of complexity, herbal notes, more of a tropical fruit flavor, instead of just banana and pear present in a standard ale, he says. There are details on each bottling at
OK here’s the down side. You can buy bottles for $5.99 at Russian River, 725 4th St., Santa Rosa, (707) 545-2339. Damnation’s also sold at Whole Foods and Ledger’s Liquors in Berkeley; at Beer & More Beer and Monument Wine & Spirits, Concord, Jackson Wine & Spirits, Lafayette. In San Francisco: Plumpjack and Beverages & More, Geary Boulevard store and Blackwell’s Wine & Spirits. Can’t find these stores, call or e-mail us for our Retail Beer List.
Vinnie, meanwhile’s headed to Belgium this week with a couple of bottles of Damnation under his arm, accompanied by four other increasingly famous brewers of Belgian-style beer, Tomme Arthur, Pizza Port, Solano Beach; Adam Avery, Avery Brewing, Ft. Collins, CO., Rob Todd, Allagash, Portland, ME. Expedition’s led by Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head, Milton, DE.

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