If you see a Devils Backbone Adventure Pack on your retailer’s shelf labeled Family Member Beer Project and wonder what it is, here is the answer. It is a set of beers primarily developed by the non-brewer employees of Devils Backbone Brewing Company (DBBC) and sold as the summer-seasonal Adventure Pack.
Hmmm, that’s got my attention. Wonder how they came up with this?
The brewery explains it this way.
Over a 15-month period, employees from every branch of the Devils Backbone family tree, from servers to members of the sales team to packaging hall employees, formed into 12 groups, each led by a brewer. The groups selected the style, ingredients, and name of their beer, and then brewed it together. DBBC brewers chose five of these beers to include in the final lineup of the Adventure Pack.
The five winning beers were:
- Ale of Two Cities – an Amero Kolsch-style ale,
- Hot Shot IPA – an American-style IPA brewed with jalapeños
- Space Fruit Pale Ale – a mildly bitter ale lush with New World hops
- Tropical Thunder – a crystal weizen ale brewed with pineapple juice
- Apple-achian Pie Stout- an ale brewed with apple, spice and molasses
DBBC Brewmaster Jason Oliver adds, “The Family Beer Project was a great way for employees in all departments to get to know each other better and gain insight into what goes into a new beer both from the creative aspect to the actual brewing.”
Okay, so it was a fun exercise for the brewery, but is it good craft beer? The Brilliant Stream geek squad (uber expert beer-tasting panel) was curious. Serving on this illustrious panel are David Mincer, Rob Absten, Matt Bradley, Josh Nibert, and me (Charles Bockway)—all Charleston, WV, area craft beer enthusiasts.
Getting inside the Family Member Beer Pack
We convened a geek squad meeting and gave each Family Member Beer a complete taste analysis. The results: While two of the beers failed to create much excitement, the other three definitely banged the Brilliant Stream gong. Overall, we rate the pack a BUY.
Our Tasting Notes
The panel members rated each beer on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being the highest. The beers were rated on an overall “how much do you like it” scale, taking into account the beer’s description provided by DBBC. Each beer’s average score is reported in the notes below.
Hot Shot IPA really caught the panel’s fancy. We rated it a perfect 5.0. At 6.5% ABV, the beer hits a sweet spot. The fresh, green jalapeño aroma and flavor comes across so well, but without appreciable heat. Superb overall balance of pepper flavors, malt and hops. We hope to see this one on draft. Panelist Josh Nibert called it “perfectly integrated flavors without intense heat.”
Space Fruit Pale Ale also put big smiles on the panelist’s faces. It received a strong 4.3 rating. We found it a hop aroma/flavor delivery device that rivals the best session IPAs out there today. Definitely for hop heads. Panelist Dave Mincer said, “Fabulous taste. Huge Galaxy hops. Love it!”
Ale of Two Cities came across as a very attractive, very drinkable brew. We gave it a strong 4.3 rating. Good grainy flavor, a light nose, with a 4.7% ABV making it very sessionable. Panelist Rob Absten noted, “I’d drink it often. Nice summery beer. Put it in cans.”
Tropical Thunder let the panel down a bit because it did not live up to its name. We rated it an average beer at 2.8. While we all found it pretty drinkable, nothing much tropical came through in the aroma or flavor—it was mostly banana a la standard German wheat beers. Panelist Matt Bradley found “only banana Weissbier on the nose; no pineapple or tropical. Taste weak on pineapple.”
Apple-achian Pie Stout turned out to be a confusing beer. It received the lowest rating of the five at 2.3. The beer did not remind the panel of apple pie, either the moonshine variety or the dessert. They also questioned it as a stout. Panelist Charles Bockway noted the beer was “dark with some pie spice but low on apple. Doesn’t really work for me.”
DBBC prepared some helpful information on the five Family Member beers featured in the summer Adventure Pack:
- Ale of Two Cities (4.7% ABV; 18 IBU): Pale, crisp, refreshing
A blend of traditional German brewing tradition and American hops. Ale of Two Cities has great malt character up-front with a crisp clean finish. Low ABV and very drinkable.
Brewed by: Aaron (brewer), Michael (packaging line), Karen (Basecamp server), Brittigan (warehouse operator), and Jennifer (Basecamp server)
- Apple-achian Pie Stout (8.0% ABV; 28 IBU): Rich, apple, spice
The members on this team have close ties to Appalachian Virginia. The stories of Virginia moonshiners using local apples to make their shine was the inspiration behind this brew. Ingredients include apple butter, pie spice, and blackstrap molasses.
Brewed by: April (brewer), Cara (marketing manager), TJ (maintenance technician), Delmas (lead cook), Daniel (line cook), Siporah (Basecamp server), and Carrie (Basecamp server)
- Hot Shot IPA (6.2% ABV; 55 IBU): Jalapeno, hop, zip
A tribute to some of the Devils Backbone Mug Club members who travel out west every summer to bravely fight wildfire. The addition of jalapenos provides a nice “hot shot” to this well-balanced IPA. Jalapeno, hop, zip.
Brewed by: Robbie (brewer), Ann (Craft Adventure Coordinator), Ben (brewer), Annick (Basecamp server), Melanie (Basecamp server), Brodie (HR director), and Tony (hospitality director)
- Space Fruit Pale Ale (4.6% ABV; 38 IBU): Tropical, hop, zing
Designed to introduce both hop-heads and those who don’t know they’re hop fans yet to a mildly bitter, yet still hop forward beer using Galaxy (Space) and Citra (Fruit) hops.
Brewed by: Justin (brewer), Coey (quality manager), Majestic (packaging line), and Bryant (packaging line)
- Tropical Thunder (5.3% ABV; 20 IBU): Fruity, tropical, wheat
A nose of pineapple and tropical fruits with a slight hop linger. Tastes clean and crisp with small amounts of banana Weissbier aroma coming through and finishing with a tropical fruit and pineapple hop kick.
Brewed by: Josh (brewer), Cherice (hostess), Craig (warehouse operator), Lauren (Basecamp server), Danielle (Basecamp server), and John (Basecamp server)
Congratulations to the team
Brilliant Stream offers its congratulations to all the Family Member Beer participants at DBBC. That’s a pretty cool project. You guys put forth a good effort and we like the results. Our geek squad especially sends a shout out to the Hot Shot IPA team of Robbie (brewer), Ann (Craft Adventure Coordinator), Ben (brewer), Annick (Basecamp server), Melanie (Basecamp server), Brodie (HR director), and Tony (hospitality director) for developing such an exceptionally tasty brew. You deserve a big bonus.