Dave Benfield, the founder of DuClaw Brewing Co., opened the doors to his brewery and restaurant in 1996 in Bel Air, Md. Like many brewery founders, Benfield was a passionate homebrewer. 

Before opening DuClaw, he repaired dialysis machines and seemed destined to transition into the family’s electrical contracting business. However, his love for brewing and sharing beer was noticed by his father, who asked him, “You’re going to be a brewer, aren’t you?

As the company began to grow, Benfield moved operations from its original Bel Air location to a new 600,000-square-foot production facility in Rosedale, Md. in February 2013.  

Benfield’s ambition continued to grow, and he looked at opening a second brewpub. However, Maryland law prohibits one person from owning more than one entity. The solution was to brew at one location and supply the second location with beer.  

Their third location required a bit more legal maneuvering. In this case, Benfield opened a new, separate location strictly for brewing beer. This arrangement allowed him to supply multiple locations since the brewery was removed from the restaurant.  

Despite a long and expansive history, the brewery only lists 72 beers on its Untappd page. Their focus has always been creativity compared to other breweries who like to create several different series of beers. According to Benfield, “we look at each beer as completely unique and individual. We don’t want our creativity to have any bounds.”

However, there is one series that DuClaw is well known for, and that is its Divine Retribution series. Each Divine Retribution release is a blend of the brewery’s imperial stout, Retribution, and another one of its beers. The final blend is then aged in bourbon barrels. Each bottle is hand-numbered as well.

There have been four releases in the Divine Retribution series:

  • Divine Retribution No. 1 – blended with Colossus
  • Divine Retribution No. 2 – blended with Repent
  • Divine Retribution No. 3 – blended with Misery
  • Divine Retribution No. 4 – blended with Devil’s Milk, Obol, Misery, and Brimstone

Divine Retribution No. 3 is an imperial stout with a 10.8 percent ABV and an IBU rating of 74. The beer was bottled on Dec. 9, 2013, and released on Dec. 30, 2013. This particular bottle is #3009 out of 3300.

This version of the series from DuClaw is a 40/60 blend of its base imperial stout, Retribution, and its wheat wine-style ale, Misery. The combination was aged in a charred Kentucky white oak bourbon barrel for six months before bottling.

Poured from a 22-ounce bottle into a snifter glass, the color is a dark brown, almost black, pigment with a light but slowly dissipating head. Carbonation and lacing are low. The aroma is a mix of alcohol, bourbon, and stone fruits such as plums and cherries.  

The first sip mirrors the aroma but with very mild chocolate notes and a slight touch of sweetness. The body of the beer is light to medium with a smooth mouthfeel. It has the kick of an imperial but without the heaviness typically associated with the style. With 60 percent of the beer consisting of a wheat wine, it plays a significant role. The body is thinner than a typical imperial stout and there are more fruit notes as well. Toasted bread, caramel, and honey malt are very subtle, and the body is also slightly velvety.

Despite the age of this beer, the alcohol burn is very high. As it warms, its imperial stout characteristics come out more with the roasted grains and maltiness becoming more present. However, the booziness also increases. The beer has a vodka-like alcohol finish that sticks to my tongue a bit and dominates the finish.

DuClaw Divine Retribution No. 3
BREWERY: DuClaw Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Baltimore, Md.
STYLE: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.8 Percent
IBU: 74
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASE DATE: Dec. 30, 2013
AVAILABLE IN: 22-ounce Bottles
The unique combination of an imperial stout and wheat wine made this beer very interesting to me. These two styles are not typically blended, although it is a combination that can work. I particularly enjoyed how Divine Retribution No. 3 had many tasting notes of an imperial stout but was not dense and filling. The fruitiness from the wheat wine built upon the stout's natural dark fruit flavor profile and this added to this beer's exclusiveness. Unfortunately, this was a difficult bottle to finish because of the heavy booziness. Especially towards the end of the bottle, it was similar to drinking hard liquor, which is not an aspect I enjoy in beer.
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