Devils Backbone Brewing Company

The glorius return of Devils Backbone Pear Lager

by dbmanager Wednesday July 24, 2013 @ 17:25 PM
Pear Lager is making its triumphant return to our taps this August.  Currently it's in the fermenter, the pear juice has been added, and is just finishing up fermentation almost ready to start its maturation process.  This is the second year we've brewed this beer and it's been a real hit.  I really like this beer for two main reasons; the unique technical process involved and the delicate subtle character of it.  Being a brewer who is fully in love with the brewing process I love brews where I have to manipulate the process to get the most character out of a beer.    The technical: The Devils Backbone Pear Lager is created initially as low gravity (low strength) lager.  It's brewed in such a way that the base beer is light yet has enough residual body to hold up to the pear juice which ferments completely leaving no residual sugar or body behind. Creating a low gravity beer with some body is done by malt choice, water chemistry, and mash regime (process). Pear juice does not have a huge amount of sugar when compared to other juices. Pears taste sweet because they do not have a lot of acid to balance the sugar like other fruits do.  This is one reason why pear juice was chosen.  I didn't want the beer to be acidic like a cider, but rather like a beer with pear notes.  Pears are not the most aggressive fruits out there so we chose a light lager as its base (most fruit beers are ales) as to not drown out the pear flavor and to actually accompany it. Our lager yeast can produce subtle apple notes which seem to me complement the pear character.  We ferment our Pear Lager a little warmer to try to maximize that interaction.  We also first wort hop this beer, which is a technique that has come in vogue again and can help retain some of ones bittering hop additions aromatic character.  This beer is not a hoppy beer by any means, in fact quite un-hoppy but I still wanted to use hops to my advantage.  I chose a flowery hop variety to produce the minor amount of bitterness this beer needs for balance (and quite frankly to be called beer, beer needs hops to be called beer) which if any aroma survives into the beer would complement the fruitiness of this beer. We use pear juice concentrate which is like the juice concentrate in the freezer section of the supermarket, you know the stuff where you mix 3 cans of water to one can of juice concentrate to make juice.   We use concentrate that is twice as rich where it is a six to one ratio of one part pear juice concentrate to six parts water.  Here is where it gets fun (and why I use juice concentrate and not juice), we do not reconstitute the pear juice with water and add it to the beer, rather we use the low strength beer to reconstitute the pear juice concentrate not watering the pear flavor down! We do this toward the end of fermentation so the pear flavor is not "blown" out of the fermenter with the CO2 from the main fermentation.  We seal up the tank and capture the natural CO2 that is coming from the pear juice fermentation for natural carbonation (and retaining more pear flavor).  I think the Pear Lager is a fun beer to think about as a brewer.  It doesn't have the street cred as a hoppy double IPA but it does use some fun techniques and has its own set of challenges. The Character: Devils Backbone Pear Lager is a very pale, refreshing, delicate, and subtle beer.  The pear flavor & aroma do not overwhelm but compliment the character of this lager.  Its light bodied but not thin, aromatic but not pungent, has flavor but is not cloying, not sweet but not bone dry either.  I think it's a great example of a lager brewed with fruit.  Next time I brew this I will see about incorporating some Virginia pear juice alongside the pear juice concentrate.  We are located in orchard country so it would be a shame not to use some local pear juice for the third brewing of this beer; I just wish I could find some VA produced juice concentrate as it is one of the keys to this beers character.  Expect to see Devils Backbone Pear Lager on tap at DB Baseecamp & DB Outpost in late August, the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival at Basecamp August 24th, and select accounts in our region.   


JD Wetherspoons UK invitational

by dbmanager Wednesday March 6, 2013 @ 10:34 AM

Just a quick note from across the pond.  Having been back in the country for less than two weeks, I shoved off for a week in the UK to brew a batch of American Amber Ale at the Adnams brewery in Southwold England for the JD Wetherspoons Real Ale Festival.  It has been a great experience so far and everyone has been gracious and hospitable and have made me feel very welcome.  There is so much to write about that I'll leave it for another time (as I have to catch back up with some more stories from Australia first).  Anyway, I have been drinking nothing but cask conditioned real ale for the last four days and have been eating like a real Englishman.  I've had fish & chips twice, plowmans lunch, a Cornish  pasty, Venison & Mushroom pie, Cod, Haddock, and just had the traditional English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, blood sausage, fried tomato, fried mushroom, sourdough toast, and tea. The UK is a great place and as a history buff it's nirvana.  It's wonderful to return to a place where our country once spawned from.  My fathers side of the family come from Wales and northern England so I naturally feel an affinity for the UK.  But I also feel an affinity for the beer. My first brewing job was at the Wharf Rat / Oliver's Breweries ltd in Baltimore and we brewed exclusively English-style ales using an English brewing system with open fermentation, the notorious Ringwood yeast, and English malt & hops. Much of my career had been specifically focused on Germanic brewing so it is nice to come back to ones roots.  Expect to see the American Amber Ale I brewed with Adnams to be re-brewed at Basecamp as well as other UK inspired ales.  Also, upon my return DB will start it's cask ale program. 

I'll write more about Adnams & the brew later.



Jason Oliver

DBBC Brewmaster


Australian Hops

by dbmanager Friday January 25, 2013 @ 7:08 AM

Philip and Masako from Thunder Road Brewing took me on a great road trip through northern Victoria last weekend which culminated at the Rostrevor Hop Garden. The Rostrevor Hop Garden is where Galaxy and Topaz hops come from.  Galaxy is becomes a sought after hop in the U.S. for it's bright citrus & passion fruit flavors.  Allan and Gail from Rostrevor Hop Garden supplied such gracious hospitality to us and were generous with their time. The hop garden is in a beautiful valley that has been growing hops for over a hundred years. It is really a stunning spot. The Rostrevor Hop Garden is on par in size with some Washington state farms.  There are two main farms in Victoria that grow hops, the rest of the hops grow in Tasmania which I will visit in two weeks.  Australian hops have a character all their own and share a certain pungency to certain west coast varieties but yet remain uniquely distinct.  Hopefully my friend "Sneaky Pete Velez" from  Hop Union will come through with some Galaxy for me to brew with upon my return.     



Devils Thunder Down Under

by dbmanager Wednesday January 23, 2013 @ 8:32 AM


I am in my second week here in Australia on the "Devils Thunder Down Under" collaboration with Thunder Road Brewing Company of Melbourne. So far we have brewed the production batches of American Pale Ale & Australian Pale Ale and pilot batches of an American-style IPA & American-style Dark Lager. Two days from now we'll brew a pilot batch of Schwarzbier.

Here is a video link about our collaboration. There is plenty more to tell so more will follow.

Cheers mate,

Jason Oliver - Brewmaster


TRB DB FINAL .pdf (155.26 kb)


Greetings from down under and the Devils Backbone / Thunder Road International Collaboration

by dbmanager Thursday January 17, 2013 @ 2:30 AM

Usually I would do a 2012 year in review but I was scrambling come the new year to tie up all my loose ends so I could head to Melbourne Australia to do a 5 week collaboration project with Thunder Road Brewing Company. The first part of the collaboration is to brew three hop aroma driven beers; an American Pale Ale, an Australian Pale Ale, and an International Pale Ale. In addition to myself, there is also a visiting brewmaster from the Czech Republic. We brewed the American Pale Ale on Tuesday with me as the lead brewer. It was hopped with Amarillo and Bravo hops and is currently bubbling away being fermented with American ale yeast. Today Marcus the Brewer / Production Manager is taking lead on the Australian Pale Ale, hopped with Stella & Galaxy hops. Next week Czech Brewmaster Martin will take the lead on the International Pale Ale which will include Agnus, Premiant, and Harmonie hops from the Czech Republic. Tomorrow I brew an American IPA on Thunder Roads 4 Hectoliter pilot brewery. I'll update as the collaboration goes forth as there are 6 more beers lined up.

Here is a link to the photographs of the first part of the collaboration.

Cheers from Down Under,

Jason Oliver




Greetings from down under and the Devils Backbone / Thunder Road International Collaboration

by dbmanager Thursday January 17, 2013 @ 2:04 AM
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2012 Great American Beer Festival, DB cleaned up!

by dbmanager Friday October 19, 2012 @ 19:32 PM

I'm proud and elated to announce that Devils Backbone really cleaned up at this years GABF winning a total of eight medals and the 2012 Champion Small Brewpub & Brewmaster Award!!  The take was two golds, two silvers, and four bronzes.  DB Basecamp won Gold for "BerlinerTechno Weiss" in the German-style Sour Beer category, Silver for "Danzig" (the third major medal for that beer!) in the Baltic-style Porter category, Silver for "Old Virginia Dark" in the American-style Dark Lager category, Bronze for "Ramsey's Draft Stout" in Irish-style dry stout category, and a Bronze for "Ramsey's Foreign Export" in the Foreign-style Export stout category.  DB Outpost won three medals with a Gold for "Vienna Lager" in the Vienna-style Lager category (second back to back golds for that beer and third overall!),  Bronze for "Turbo Cougar" in the German-style Bock category, and a Bronze for "Gold Leaf Lager" in the International Pilsner category (It's third GABF medal!). 

I'll write more about the 2012 GABF adventure soon, I just wanted to get our awards out there.  It's been a dream come true winning these medals and everyone here at DB is super excited.  In less than four years DB has won 17 GABF medals, 5 World Beer Cup Medals, the 2010 World Beer Cup Champion Small Brewpub & Brewmaster Award and the 2012 Great American Beer Festival Champion Small Brewpub & Brewmaster Award! 

A big thanks to Pilot Brewer Aaron Reilly at Basecamp making it happen and the brew crew at Outpost of Nate, Corey, Josh, April for a job very well done.


Jason Oliver - Brewmaster


Basecamp Update

by dbmanager Friday September 21, 2012 @ 17:26 PM

It's been a while but I'm excited about what's in Basecamps tanks so I'd thought I'd share.  In the fermenters currently we have:

Trukker Pils, our keller pilsner brewed this time with 100% German Hallertauer Hersbrucker hops.  We love this beer here.  More aggressively hopped than contemporary German pilsners, the Trukker Pils has that crisp dryness but also a great snappy hoppiness.  It'll be on tap early October.

Four Point Pale Ale, our extra hoppy low gravity beer.  All the flavor of an IPA without the higher alcohol.  The Four Point has always been a "single" hop beer to showcase the attributes of a given hop variety.  This time we chose "Bravo" hops.  The beer is slightly floral with a pleasant resinous note.  Expect to see it on tap early October.

Smoke House Porter, our first crack at doing a smoked porter.  We loved the Smokehaus Lager we did earlier this year so we thought to expand upon the smoked beer theme.  We are really excited about this one.  Beechwood smoked malt, oak smoked wheat malt, brown malt, dark crystal malt, and pale chocolate go into this smokey brown porter.  Expect to see it on tap early October.

Skull Crushing Ape, a schwarz weizendopplebock aka strong black wheat ale.  The name was born from a conversation with general manager Chris Trotter about Michael Crichton's novel "Congo" and the skull crushing apes.  It seemed like a great name for a beer but what kind of beer??  I figured it had to be strong beer and black.  I picked weizen yeast for it's banana character (after all, apes love bananas) and thus the Skull Crushing Ape was to be a schwarz (black) weizen (wheat) dopplebock (strong beer).  It was a fun one and expect to see it on tap early October.

Old Virginia Dark Lager, our old-school American dark lager.  I am a big lager geek so you know I'm looking forward to this one.  Brown in color, light to medium in body, with subtle caramel and roasted malt notes.  Not an extreme beer in any way but just a well made drinkable beer with some great flavor but not a lot of body. 

Danzig, our Baltic Porter has one batch in the fermenter and an older batch in the secondary lagering tank.  We'll put the first batch on in either late October or November.  This beer has always been a cult favorite and one near and dear to me.  Baltic Porters are perhaps Eastern Europe's only real indigenous contemporary beer style.  Being half ethnically Ukrainian, I have always loved this beer style and have brewed versions of it at four breweries now.  This beer won a silver medal at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival and a gold medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup.  Maybe we'll celebrate a big win with it at this years GABF, we'll see.

Anyway, that's a quick run down on some upcoming beers at Basecamp.  From the Outpost expect to see "Kilt Flasher" Wee Heavy Scotch Ale the next bottled "Trail Blazer" available in the stores in a month or so followed by "Dark Abby" a Belgian-inspired Dubbel several months past that.  It's great to design these beers at Basecamp and scale them up for production at the Outpost.  It's kind of like watching them grow up.  Great things are a foot at DB!


Jason Oliver - Head Brewer



Low Hanging Fruit part 2

by dbmanager Sunday March 4, 2012 @ 21:28 PM

The "Low Hanging Fruit" is a non-traditional Belgian-inspired blond ale fermented with a Trappist yeast strain and finished with apple juice added to the fermenter.  The "Low Hanging Fruit" was a collaborative brew between two general managers of two Charlottesville restaurants and us here at DBBC.  Casey Hall general manager of Brixx Wood Fired Pizza and Josh French GM of Rapture joined us to brew this beer.  We wanted something that woulden't be overly heavy on the pallet yet complex. The trick of this beer was to create enough body to balance out the juice addition which would dry the beer out.  We mashed in low to maximize the production of the clove component to fermentation then immediately raised the mash temperature to a level that would unsure some dextrin production adding body to the beer.  We lightly hopped the beer with the experimental hop HBC 342 and Sorachi Ace.  To add to the complexity we lightly spiced the beer with Jasmine Green tea during the whirlpool.  While this all might sound a little "busy", I can assure you everything was done with subtlety in mind.  After primary fermentation was complete we added 15 gallons of apple juice concentrate (an equivalent of 90 gallons of juice!!!) letting the beer itself re-constitute the juice concentrate and create a secondary fermentation that naturally carbonated the beer.  The beer is being cooled to lagering temperature and tastes great. The malt body holds up to the natural acidity and complete fermentedness (I just made that up) of the apple juice and the fruity notes from the yeast create a wonderful synergy.  Look for this beer to be on tap and Brixx, Rapture, and Devils Backbone in April.

Also in the tank is a beer we're calling "1949 Heartland Lager" and a beer I've wanted to brew for years.  The idea came from an excerpt in a rare 1949 beer book and I'll write more about it soon.

Attached are a couple of links to some youtube videos of us (myself, Nate, & Hayes) describing some of the beer coming from our Lexington "Outpost" production brewery with Marc Smith from Virginia Eagle Distriution.\


Jason Oliver - Brewmaster



Low Hanging Fruit

by dbmanager Thursday February 23, 2012 @ 21:51 PM

Once again it's time to update the goings on here at Devils Backbone Brewing Company.  Beer is flowing out of our Outpost production brewery with Nate and Cory working their tails off to keep up with demand.  The Italians are setting up the new SBC bottling line as I write so the first bottles of Eight Point IPA & Vienna Lager should be in the marketplace in March.  The "Belgian Congo Pale Ale", a Belgian inspired IPA has been brewed and is in the tanks at the Outpost fermenting away.  The Belgian Congo Pale Ale will be the first packaged seasonal from the brewery, look for it in a month.  Also in the tanks at the Outpost and ready on draft for St. Patty's Day is our Reilly's Red Ale. 

From the Basecamp Pilot Brewery (brewpub) we have no shortage of new and exciting beers.  For March expect to see our Trukker Pils, Namibian Pale Ale, Four Point Pale Ale, Black Summit (our Heavy Seas collaboration black pilsner), Ramsey's Draft Stout, Dead Bear Imperial Stout, and Kilt Flasher Wee Heavy on tap along with our core year round offerings.  Out of those, the new ones that have never been brewed here are the Namibian Pale Ale and the Black Summit Heavy Seas Collaborative Black Pilsner.  I already wrote about the collaboration so here's the skinny on the Namibian Pale Ale..

The Namibian Pale Ale is a Germanic inspired IPA.  The name comes from the dark days of colonialism and the question "what if" the Germans made a hoppy ale for their colonists, what could it be like?? (Germany held a colony called German Southwest Africa, now named Namibia)  The Namibian Pale Ale is brewed with German pilsner, munich, and dark wheat malts, hopped like an IPA with German Northern Brewer, Tettnang, and Hallertau Tradition (with some Czech Saaz) hops, and fermented with a German kolschbier yeast strain.  Nothing traditional about this beer but a fun "what if".

Well that's it for I'll write about another local collaboration and a beer we're calling "Low Hanging Fruit".


Jason Oliver - Head Brewmaster






DB Blogger

Jean Hazelwood

Adventure enthusiast in pursuit of Vita Abundantior, and official blogger for Devils Backbone Brewing Company.  I'm dedicated to learning, living and sharing the DB life. What are you waiting for - Craft An Adventure!

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