Victory DirtWolf Double IPA provides tasty experience

By Emily Brightman

Justin Surgent/Daily Collegian

Most college students in this day and age typically get excited for the release of a new album from a popular artist or a new installment in a cinematic franchise. I, on the other hand, tend to get more excited about the release of a new beer from a favorite brewing company than I do about most other things.

In fact, the day I had to concede to the fact that I was indeed a serious beer geek was the day I realized I was more excited about a newly released IPA than I was about a new album from my favorite band. At least no one can ever accuse me of not having my priorities straight.

Let me preface this week’s column by saying that I was literally counting the days until the release of Victory Brewing Company’s DirtWolf Double IPA. I’m a big fan of Victory’s extensive selection of unique beers, particularly its Storm King Stout and the classic Hop Devil Ale, but Victory is one of those names that I can always count on to provide me with something worthy of my refined and somewhat snobbish palette.

So, naturally, when I learned of the release of Dirt Wolf Double IPA slated for the fall of 2013, I was beyond ecstatic. Not only because I am a somewhat obsessive fan of IPAs, but also because Victory has a steady reputation of impressing me with the astounding variety of its brewing styles. In much the same way that children patiently await the arrival of Christmas, I hunkered down in anticipation of the release of DirtWolf, and the results of my tried patience are more than worth the struggle.

DirtWolf is released in the classic craft beer 4-pack format and, truth be told, I devoured the entirety of the pack before I had a chance to properly write about it. So after my second weekly purchase of DirtWolf I set to the task of drinking it as a beer columnist would instead of in the manner perpetrated by a mere beer enthusiast.

My most significant discovery in drinking this beer was that the dueling sides of my beer drinking nature – the analytical columnist side of me and the hop-thirsty beer geek side of me – both agreed on one thing: DirtWolf is one hell of an IPA-drinking experience.

Popping off the top on a 12 oz. bottle, DirtWolf immediately stands out from its IPA counterparts in terms of aroma. The nose of this beer is pure hops, the combination of strong earthy scents and citrus elements combining in a veritable tidal wave of grassy scents. The thick off-white head that appears following the first pour dissipates gradually leaving behind a filmy tan lacing.

A miniscule presence of sediments makes DirtWolf slightly hazy when held up to the light, but the deep golden hue of this beer belies any sentiments of flavorlessness. From first whiff, it’s obvious that this beer is seriously loaded up on hops – in my personal experience the best IPAs have been those that give the aromatic impression of a field of fresh hops, and DirtWolf certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of the bitter intensity of its aroma.

First sip of this delicate nectar heralds a wash of bitterness, as to be expected with any member of the IPA family. And since DirtWolf is a double IPA, meaning it utilizes double the amount of hops used in the brewing of a regular IPA, naturally the taste of hops will be on the forefront of the taste palette.

Below the hoppy intensity lies an underbelly of spice and citrus, augmented by the bitterness of the hops and brought to the sensory tip of the tongue in the subsequent aftertaste.  At times the tongue almost feels thick with the zest of hops and floral elements but the more subtle flavors of sweet malt and caramel make their presence known beneath the overwhelming rush of archetypal IPA taste, highlighting the flavorful complexity that has come to characterize so much of Victory’s repertoire.

Though it pains me to say so, because the drinking process was far more than just merely enjoyable, the truly impressive components of DirtWolf’s configuration are manifested in the aftertaste wherein the lower priority spices make themselves known in a manner that compliments the more superior flavor elements.

I often find that double IPAs are tough in terms of food pairing because they pack so much flavor into the bottle itself, but DirtWolf can serve as a nice compliment to a barbecue, burgers or any meal that goes heavy on cheese, particularly stronger cheeses like gorgonzola or spiced cheese. And, as always, you can never go wrong drinking DirtWolf by itself, but only in a responsible manner – at 8.7 percent alcohol, this is one wolf whose fangs you don’t want to come in direct contact with (and I speak from personal experience on this one).

So if you find yourself unable to resist the urge to howl at the moon in its fullest phase or if you just can’t seem to wash the dirt out of your pelt, Victory DirtWolf will surely satisfy your more primal urges, at least in terms of booze. While the price tag flies a bit high, ranging on close to $10 for a 4-pack, DirtWolf is worth the expenditure for the pure hop fury it bestows upon its drinkers. And if you’re even half as much of a fan of IPAs as I am, you can appreciate the gravity of this statement.

When the next full moon rolls around, or even the next time you’re feeling particularly animalistic, a hearty dose of DirtWolf Double IPA ought to set you on the path to getting in touch with your primal side. Just be careful if you decide to go out howling at the moon afterwards, because you may end up attracting more wolves than just those decorating your beer bottle.

Emily A. Brightman can be reached at [email protected]