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MacLeod Ale | Deal with the Devil IPA

MacLeod Ale | Deal with the Devil IPA
Drew Troller

Deal with the Devil IPA is not the beer that MacLeod Ale Brewing Co. anticipated when it was established in 2014. But in addition to being a delicious IPA, Deal with the Devil also tells the story of MacLeod’s evolution from a British-style cask ale brewery to one of the most beloved beer companies in Los Angeles.

MacLeod has always had creative ways of helping to grow the business. They’ve offered crowd-funding incentives like “beer for life” to help finance new gear in the brewery. They’ve expanded into the building next door to start making artisan pizzas. On a day where the pizza ovens weren’t working, MacLeod pivoted to selling burgers for a day so they could stay open and compliant with California’s COVID-19 protocols. They even have ad space for local businesses on their cans. These are just a few of the examples of how adroit the team at MacLeod has been.

Departures from the Norm

The attitude of evolving is perhaps best encapsulated, though, in one of MacLeod’s year-round beers: Deal with the Devil IPA. Don’t tune out if you’re not a lover of IPAs, though, because Deal with the Devil is a departure from MacLeod’s origins.

When MacLeod was created in 2014, there was a strict focus on British-style cask beers alone (thanks in part to a brewer who had a vehement opposition to anything else). The taproom offered not just a point of service for customers, but a way of ensuring that cask ales–served at 54° Fahrenheit–were being properly maintained, since most distributors were used to CO2-backed kegs at 38° Fahrenheit. Owners Jennifer Febre and Alastair Boase made their brewery a sort of haven for a type of beer atypical in today’s marketplace.

But as Febre puts it, Macleod’s unique lineup “in no way was meant to be a cask ale crusade. We just thought it would be fun and newsworthy to do something different. Beer is fun. That’s it.”

As the company grew, it became clear that fizzy and cold American beers would satisfy both distributors and patrons, while holding on to the company’s UK influences.

The first beer made under MacLeod’s second wave of growth into American style beers was Better Days, a pale ale which is still on tap today. The second was Deal with the Devil, which current brewer Stephen Reeves describes as “a classic well rounded, slightly malt-forward American IPA.” The name is even more wicked than it would suggest. In addition to sharing its name with a bagpiping tune (Scotland’s influence is all over MacLeod Ale), the name is also a parting shot to early staff who said that making an IPA would be liking making a deal with the devil. The times, they were a-changing at MacLeod, and Deal with the Devil became a year-round staple.

Reeves says that Deal with the Devil has remained one of MacLeod’s most popular beers, available on tap (or cans) whenever available. It pours amber and translucent, with floral aroma and not much bitterness. It’s brewed with Apollo, Chinook, Nugget, Altus and Mosaic hops, which round out a flavor that Reeves describes as “floral, citrus, and a little bit of typical west coast dank.” It’s a blend of MacLeod’s London Lager malt and the typical Rahr 2-Row malt, finding the nice middle ground between fruity and bitter.

Deal with the Devil is also one of the higher ABV beers at MacLeod at 7.5%. That’s why it’s served in a 12oz glass–Reeves says it’s a conscious decision to serve high-ABV beers in smaller glasses to avoid overconsumption. But Deal with the Devil is also one of only two beers at MacLeod (along with their Van Ice light lager) to get its own branded glassware–you may be tempted to buy a glass for your bar at home (see featured image at the top of this page).

Evolving Brews

MacLeod’s evolution continues with a slew of other offerings under its sister company, Van Nuys Beer Company. Febre tells me that Reeves approached her last year about brewing “some more off-the-wall styles which would not fit under the MacLeod name.” So the VNBC brand was created to brew hazies, sours, and seltzers, among other offerings. However, Deal with the Devil will remain under the MacLeod banner, even though it was one of the first departures from British style cask ales. It’s the perfect beer to capture the trajectory of MacLeod–it honors British traditions while allowing the brewery to grow into new territory.

Images from MacLeod Ale Brewing Co.

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