Everyone loves a gimmick.
In a recent international beer trade with [name redacted], one of the prizes I got my hands on was a can – that’s right, a can – of Great Lakes Brewery‘s 666 Devil’s Pale Ale. And devilish the beer is, arriving in a black pint can that declares “The Devil Made Me Brew It.”
So, why 666? What makes this beer so … eeevil? The back of the can offers a few clues. The Devil’s Pale Ale was brewed with 666 kilograms of malt, 6.66 kilograms of hops, boiled for 66.6 minutes and boasts a 6% ABV. It was first brewed on, you guessed it, 06.06.06. Number of the beast, indeed.
If you’re looking for a little less of the number six and a bit more about how the beer is supposed to taste, here’s a bit of the marketing copy from the back of the can;
Brewed with 6 select malts and 4 premium hops, it has a rich mahogany colour, reminiscent of early English pale ales. The wonderful hoppy aroma is revealed even before your first sip, followed by a hearty malty body, and culminating with a pronounced bitterness. Prepare yourself for a devilishly good time…
Select malts? Premium h0ps? Damned if it doesn’t sound downright heavenly.
In my trusty pint glass, the 666 pours a deep brown with a ruby tint, pretty much the mahogany that the can promised. The head is thick and creamy – if I didn’t know better, I’d guess there was a Guinness-style nitro widget in the can. Despite the dark color, the beer is brilliantly transparent, without a bit of haze or cloudiness. The nose is suspiciously similar to a caramel latte, a kind of candy-sweet maltiness backed up by seriously resiny hops. There’s also some plum and raisin, a bit like the nose of an eisbock. I know that the 666 is classified as an English Pale, but there’s a lot more style amalgamation going on here – from the look and aroma it’s more of a brown-IPA-eisbock love child.
The flavor is super-sweet caramel, balanced out by some grassy hop bitterness. The hops are strong and a bit sticky on the back end, but otherwise the balance is pretty solid. Behind the caramel-toffee and grassy flavors, there’s a few dark fruit notes of fig and raisin. The carbonation is up there, which explains the creamy head and makes for a smooth sipper. The 666 is a strong brew, but balanced enough to be a pretty easy drink. I just wouldn’t suggest more than a couple in a row.
Like most things in life, how you feel about the Great Lakes 666 will totally depend on your expectations. The beer is described by the brewery (and beer ranking sites like Beer Advocate) as an English Pale, and if you’re looking for something like Bass or Boddingtons you’re in for a big surprise. The Devil’s Pale Ale packs more hops, malt and alcohol into a English Pale-shaped package, making a beer that’s damn(ed) tasty but not quite brewed to style. If you don’t mind trying something new and a bit aggressive, there’s plenty to love in the 666.
Just be careful if the Devil challenges you to a fiddle contest while you’re sipping on it. Apparently he’s into that kind of thing.