Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.
As I was walking around the beer store last week, I was feeling a little overwhelmed. The fridge has been baron as of late, so I needed to stock it up – and I wanted something with some summer vibes to it. I grabbed an easy-drinking watermelon kolsch, which might be featured next week, along with a beer I had once but couldn’t remember. It checked all of the boxes for me: it had an eye-catching label, it was significantly cheaper than its competitors and it came from a brewery I trust, one that rarely disappoints in the quality department. Without further ado, let’s check out Victory Brewing Company’s Liberty Bell Ringer double dry-hopped Double IPA.
If you live in Pennsylvania and drink craft beer, chances are you’re familiar with Victory. Founded in 1996 by Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet just outside of Philadelphia, the goal was to create high quality, full-flavored, innovative beers inspired from the duo’s travels and the world around them. Within a few years, it took off like gangbusters and eventually became a juggernaut. Production began with 1,725 barrels of beer in the first year and has since blossomed to more than 125,000 barrels per year and it can be found in over 30 states and nine countries. Victory was sold back in 2016 and joined Southern Tier Brewing Company, Sixpoint Brewery and Bold Rock Hard Cider under a newly formed company, a partnership platform called Artisanal Brewing Ventures.
With a dozen year-round efforts, Victory has several well-established styles, many of which I would put up against its competitors. Prima Pils, is one of the best mass-produced pilsners out there, while its lager, which has since been re-branded as Classic, is still one of the most drinkable on the east coast. But the beer Victory became best known for was Golden Monkey, a 9.5 percent Belgian-style tripel that, when it was released back in 1997, was considered a booze-bomb unlike any other. It even won a gold medal in the Belgian-style tripel category at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.
There are several seasonal efforts and a few limited releases mixed into their lineup as well, one of which is Liberty Bell Ringer, however Victory tends to keep its focus mostly on its more regular, still very popular, efforts.
Available from about April until July, Liberty Bell Ringer was originally released back in 2013 and has taken on slightly different variants since then, as Victory tends to dress it up with a different hop each year, to showcase the complexities and nuances across the different varieties it uses when brewing. This year, the 8.7 percent ABV double dry-hopped DIPA features Cashmere hops, which the brewery says “help to amplify the tropical, fruity hop flavor and aroma.” This year’s iteration also contains Centennial and Simcoe hops, along with Pilsner, CaraPils and Flaked Oats malts. Often brewed for Philly Beer Week, Liberty Bell Ringer serves as a tribute to Philly’s unity, expression of freedom and generations of great brewers – and what they stand for.
As I said before, it was the label that helped draw me to this one. I’m a bit of a self-proclaimed Philadelphia enthusiast, so I’m a sucker for anything deeply rooted in my hometown. Add in the fact that a four-pack of these pounder cans was $11 – a definite steal – and I was sold. With a red, white and blue theme, perfect for the Fourth of July, the label features a cut up red snake, a symbol first popularized in a political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin, holding an upside down Liberty Bell that’s filled up with beer and surrounded by stars. There’s also a great explanation of the beer, so that drinkers like me, who were sucked in by the art, know exactly what to expect.
When I cracked it open, I wanted to make sure I soaked in the aroma before it escaped from the can and what I got was a citrusy nose, with a focus on grapefruit and a hint of lemon. I could certainly notice a little bit of pine as well. Overall, the aroma was decent but nothing too sexy.
And then came the pour, which was excellent. Liberty Bell Ringer came out a beautiful dark golden color, with just a little bit of haze to it, and offered the perfect amount of straw-colored head. While it might have dissipated a little quicker than I hoped, the retention proved this one was done well. As for the flavor of this beer, well, it’s a little more complex than I anticipated. It starts out with that citrusy flavor brought about by the hops, especially the grapefruit and lemon, before moving to a clean piney taste on the back-end, one that leaves a bitter punch in my mouth. The robust lingering aftertaste to this medium-bodied beer took some getting used to – I wasn’t thrilled with it.
Overall, I think that Liberty Bell Ringer is a testament to Victory’s capabilities and that the brewery can still churn out a complex beer, though I think the hops just cause this beer to miss the mark a little. It’s just not something I want to reach for, as it’s not crushable or memorable. I didn’t love it, nor did I hate it, but nothing made this beer stand out in my mind, except the price. Victory’s Dirtwolf is a top 10 DIPA for me, so I’d easily grab and enjoy that before this one.
I was curious to see what the rating on BeerAdvocate was for this one and the website scored it an impressive 92, while the average rating was 4.12 based on 216 ratings. Keep in mind, that included previous iterations of Liberty Bell Ringer, which had a different hop variant included. I would have to go significantly lower than that and give this beer a 7.5 out of 10. I liked it, especially when it came to the pour, but, for me, the aroma and flavor were just kind of lackluster and didn’t set it apart all that much.
Stay tuned next week, because I might try something from your favorite brewery.