Rock Bottom La Jolla’s Devil’s Thumb Belgian-style golden strong ale
From the Beer Writer: As I wrote a short while back, many are the brewers who tell me, “I brew beers that I like drinking.” Judging by the quality of her hoppy offerings, particularly her Mosaic-heavy IPA, I’d say Rock Bottom head brewer Carli Smith has an affinity for lupulin-laced ales. I like when brewers do right by their taste-buds, but find it particularly impressive when they defy them, crafting styles they aren’t as fond of so others may enjoy them. Case in point, Rock Bottom Devil’s Thumb. This Belgian-style golden strong ale is utterly traditional in its look, scent, taste and feel. Its bouquet contains notes of lemongrass and gardenias, while the beer itself offers a vast array of flavor components—honey, lemon rind, white peppercorn, bubble gum and thyme. At 8% alcohol-by-volume, one would expect something overly impactful, but this beer is balanced and drinkable; enough that the beer-menu warns about its tendency to sneak up on imbibers. Smooth, sweet-smelling and delicious…what’s not to like? For that, we’ll have to ask Smith, because she harbors staunch distaste for Belgian beer-styles, making the quality of this ale all that more remarkable.
From the Brewer: “Being at a brewpub, I am able to keep my beer-list stocked with lots of stuff that I like to drink. Belgian beers not being one of those things, they rarely make their way onto my board, but I have a few regulars that really enjoy Belgian beers and they have been bugging me to make one. One of the things that I dislike about Belgian beers is the high amount of residual sugars that are usually present in the final product. So for mine, I wanted to make something that had a pretty simple grain-bill, pretty much just Weyermann Pilsner malt. This way the yeast is the star of the show, and if I could get it to totally ferment out, I knew the finish would be clean with just enough Belgian-ester sweetness. I am really happy with how it turned out, which was extremely surprising to me and everyone else. I get lots of weird looks when I say, ‘Here, try my Belgian beer,’ when everyone knows I strongly dislike the style. When I carbonated it and put it on tap I was able to drink almost a whole eight-ounce serving in one sitting, very big for me…ha. I was inspired to enter it into the San Diego International Beer Festival competition, because I felt that it was an almost perfect representation of the Belgian golden strong ale style. I also thought it would be hilarious if the brewer who hates Belgian beers won a medal for one. Oh, the irony! “—Carli Smith, Head Brewer, Rock Bottom La Jolla