September 23rd, 2010 beckel
Today I have what is sure to be an interesting beer from the fine folks of Avery Brewing. I picked up this bottle at The Four Firkins and though it was released a number of months ago it should still be on the shelves of a number of places. Avery makes ever so many delicious brews and their anniversary ales tend to be even moreÂ adventurous and this time it is no different with this Dry-Hopped Black Lager. While Cascadian Dark Ales are the new hip thing a highly hopped dark lager is certainly a unique approach.
Pours a very dark brown hue that appears black and is completely opaque. Three fingers of tight tan bubbles are formed and slowly open and fade after about four minutes leaving a decent amount of lacing and some residual carbonation on theÂ surfaceÂ of the brew. Aroma is quite nice with lovely smooth dark malts, gentle roast, lager yeast esters, alcohol and surprisingly little hops (IÂ definitelyÂ noticed more hops when initially pouring the brew). Often lager yeast esters in lighter beers aren’t my favorite component, but the way they play with the dark malt in this brew creates a very well rounded and enjoyable aroma. Gentle citrus and floral notes are present in the flavor notably orange and grapefruit but are quickly dominated by roasted malt, dark malty sweetness and a slightly bitter finish with lingering citrus. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is lightly creamy. As the brew warms the flavor becomes mostly of semi sweet dark malt which brings out thoughts of chocolate and caramel even though the esters are very gentle bringing out an almost milky character. The hops continue to become more floral and earthy, particularly grassy which makes perfect sense considering it is brewed with Â Hersbrucker &Â TettnangÂ hops. Making me wonder where the citrus esters I initially noticed came from. Additionally as this brew was bottled in March it is a good example of why not to allow hoppy brews to age making me wish I had consumed it earlier to get its intended hoppy glory. At 8.69% ABV this brew is no joke but the solid dark malt profile easily hides it. Certainly not the most impressive brew I have had from Avery but anÂ interestingÂ and flavorful beer that wasÂ definitelyÂ worth trying. If you enjoy Dark Lagers and are looking for one with plenty of flavor and alcohol this is is a good choice. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
January 21st, 2010 beckel
Today we have another Ale from Avery Brewing’s Demons of Ale series that goes by the name Samael’s. A few months ago I thoroughly enjoyed a bottle of their The Beast [review] a Grand Cru from the same series and am looking forward to seeing what this bottle has to offer. Avery Brewing produces a myriad of delicious ales out of Boulder, Colorado and I can’t wait to see what complexities arise from this 16.45% oak aged English Strong Ale. This particular bottle is dated April 2009 Batch 5. Pours a rather translucent deep but bright red hue that produces one finger of white head that fades within a minute or two. Aroma is complex reminding me a bit of and oak aged sherry. Notes of caramel, toffee, intense vanilla, cherry, pitted fruits and a solid dose of alcohol. Flavors are smooth and sweet with with vanilla esters from the oak aging playing a central role. Complex malt profile is predominately sweet and contrasted with modest bitterness perhaps from the hops but more likely from the intense alcohol. Some fruity esters are present but it is difficult to isolate them with the intense alcohol and vanilla notes. A complex array of caramel, toffee, cherry, vanilla and ethanol esters are most prevalent to me in this brew. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is very smooth. Alcohol is more than evident in this ale but it is still impressively smooth considering it is 16.45% ABV which likely has to do with its oak aged conditioning. While not as complex as The Beast those who enjoy smooth, sweet, highly alcoholic ales with heavy vanilla notes will certainly find this brew a unique experience. A tasty very strong ale that I would happily sample again on occasion. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 29th, 2009 beckel
Today I have an ale that I finally got around to picking up from The Four Firkins the other day and was very pleased to see they still had plenty in stock. When I first read that Avery Brewing was producing a new Imperial India Pale Ale I was simply ecstatic. I forget where I first read about it but they suggested that the hop loving brewers over at Avery intended to create another seriously hoppy IPA for their lineup that fell somewhere between their year round IPA and their massive 10.24% Maharaja Imperial IPA to allow ones hop thirst to be quenched without passing out. According to Avery their mantra for this ale became “Unity of bitterness, hop flavor and aroma” which sounds lovely to me. So I was every so pleased to see Alvey’s email a few weeks ago that it had come into our state and was available for our drinking pleasure. This ale pours an moderately light orange red hue that is very translucent. Three fingers of tight off white bubbles were easily produced but the majority of the head dissipates within a few minutes leaving only a small amount of lacing around the glass. Aroma is delightfully hoppy with resinous pine, sweet floral notes, a melody of gentle citrus and beautifully mellow bitterness and a good dose of malty sweetness to back it up. A small amount of alcohol is noticed on the nose but it is not offensive or surprising considering it’s ABV of 8.5%, reminding me of a gentler Maharaja. Flavor is quite nice. A good dose of sweetness is present as to not immediately bombard you with a boatload of hops, regardless you will quickly be rushed with a variety of citrus notes from orange to grapefruit, more gentle pine notes, and a solid hop bitterness, finishing with some added caramel sweetness as to not make you want to scratch your tongue too much afterward. While the 93 IBU of Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Chinook are more than obvious and plentiful for lovers of hops such as myself this Imperial IPA was brewed with not only respect to hops but also to allowing said hops to contrast and compliment the two-row, caramel 120L, victory malts used in this ale. Mouthfeel is rather clean and the body is medium. Over all I would say that Avery meet their mantra in making a delightfully hoppy ale that all Lupulin fans will be able to appreciate plentifully. If your not into hops I suppose you shouldn’t bother with this ale, but it’s still darn tasty.Â Give it a shot and ride your bike.
September 10th, 2009 beckel
Avery Brewing out of Boulder, Colorado is known for making some pretty serious ales such as their Maharaja Imperial IPA and Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest with 10.24% and 9.3% ABVs respectively. With a name like The Beast this brew is sure to be no exception. If that weren’t enough it also boasts a 16.31% ABV which I am both very excited, and slightly concerned about. Though Dogfish Head has shown us that seriously high ABV beers can be very drinkable with their 120 Minute IPA [review]. The Beast is one of three brews in Avery’s Demons of Ale series, accompanied by two other big hitters Samael’s Oak Aged Ale and Mephistopheles’ Stout. Brewed with a myriad of ingredients including two-row malted barley, honey malt, a number of Belgian specialty grains (aromatic, pale wheat, roasted wheat & Special B), Magnum, Galena, Saaz, Hallertau, Terrnang and Hersbrucker Hops, too many brewing sugars to name, two yeast strains (at least) one of which is Belgian and of course water. On to the good part. Batch 6, Bottled in 2008 served at just above room temperature. This beer pours a dark burgundy hue that brightens up a lot and is moderately translucent when brought to light. Head is a light tan hue and consists of about two fingers of relatively loose bubbles that last for under two minutes leaving just a small ring of carbonation around the liquids surface. Aroma is wonderfully complex. Cherries, dates, raisins, plum and probably just about any other dark pitted fruit aroma can be found. This brew is quite sweet on the nose giving off a good deal of molasses and honey notes as well as other sugars, particularly something that reminds me of malted milk powder. Alcohol is definitely present but is easily hidden by the sweetness present. Very interesting and strangely appealing. Upon the first sip the alcohol is a lot more noticeable than in the aroma but as quickly as I noticed the ethanol notes I was also presented with rich sweet cherries,Â chocolate, molasses, creme, dates and plum flavors with the alcohol lingering in the background simply playing a supporting role throughout the sip reminding me that what I am drinking is no joke by reminding me a bit of brandy. In addition to the dominate dark fruit flavors, chocolate and dark malt sweetness present there are also lighter citrus notes but this is such a complex ale they are difficult to isolate. The mouthfeel of this beer is a bit sticky, but with all the sugars that is really no surprise and not offensive to me in any way. The body is about medium as far as I am concerned but some people will probably say it is a bit heavy, though I find it quite light for the amount of ingredients and alcohol present. Considering what it is, I find it rather clean and drinkable. While no one will suggest that this beer isn’t alcoholic I will say I am amazed how well it is used to compliment the flavors present in this brew, particularly with a staggering number like 16.31%. Even if you feel a little ethanol in your throat in the after taste, what do you really expect? Though there are too many flavors to even list the notes that stand out the most to me are molasses, cherry, date and chocolate and of course alcohol warmth. This is one amazing beer that I really want to rant about, but I know that does no one any good. If you are a fan of complex Belgian Style Strong Ales you should absolutely try this brew, you really have no excuse. If you enjoy dark pitted fruit and sweet malts accompanied by plenty of alcohol you will simply be in heaven. Unquestionably one of the most unique and wonderful Belgian inspired strong ales I have had the opportunity to sample. A worthy beer for any connoisseur of unique brews, though you may want to split it with a friend, or drink it very slowly. I found this bottle and a bottle of Avery’s Samael’s at Zipps about a week ago but I also saw some on the shelves of The Four Firkins when I was there on Tuesday for the New Belgium’s Hoptober tasting, which by the way is a nice little hoppy addition to the New Belgium lineup. It seems like they have stepped up their production a bit lately so hopefully you can find some too. If Samael’s is any where near as tasty as this brew I will have no excuse not to sample their Mephistopheles’ as well. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
August 31st, 2009 beckel
This brew has been sitting in my fridge for many months and I figured it was high time I got around to consuming it. Every year the crafty brewers at Avery brew a single batch beer to commemorate their anniversary, this year it is a Saison that is brewed with jasmine flowers, peaches, honey and some pale malted wheat. Pours an incredibly pale golden straw hue that is about as translucent as possible. About two fingers of crisp white head are produced and fade very quickly leaving only a small ring around the surface of the brew. Smells strongly of sweet malt with a crisp tart hint that emphasizes the distinct Belgian yeast used in this brew. Many herbal and spice notes, light fruits, particularly peach and a bit of wheat is present as well. A rich and very appropriate aroma for the style. Flavor is very interesting; peach is very forward and nicely balances the malt sweetness with gentle tartness. Flavor is quite a bit less herbal than the aroma but plenty of yeasty flavors are still pleasant and very enjoyable. The 7.69% ABV is a bit heavier than some brews of the style but works perfectly with the flavors present and is not dominate at all. Mouthfeel is plenty carbonated but enjoyably dry yet smooth and slightly creamy, particularly with the light body. A solid take on a Saison that shows what sixteen years of experience can produce. If you enjoy quality Belgian styled ales you will likely dig this brew. If you can still find a bottle. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
January 2nd, 2009 beckel
Today The Session is brought to us by Beer and Firkins, posing the question: What will I miss from 2008 and what will I excitedly await in 2009? Though this is a quite broad question that I’m sure everyone will respond to differently I know what I will miss the most from 2008 is growlers from Surly Brewing in good ole’ Minnesota. Though I love my state and its breweries we have the unfortunate problem of being stuck in a state that seems to have forgotten that “blue laws” are a thing of the past, that is for those who don’t know laws that were traditionally created to appease the church and the thought that beer should not be consumed on Sunday because you should be in church! Though these laws aren’t restricted to Sundays it is a common term used to describe limitations in liquor laws. Though I have nothing against spirituality I’m sure you can realize how many of these laws are outdated and simply not helpful. Though it is unfortunate that we can not buy beer on Sundays in our fine state I can handle it, what I can’t is the other hoops and complications the force breweries to deal with, limiting their business potential, costing them more of their hard labor and money and more humorously reducing the amount of tax revenue our state is able to generate. Though all of the laws limiting what breweries/brewpubs can and can not do bother me, such as the fact that you can legally only operate one of the two and not both the current law I am here to complain about and fight against is breweries (and brewpubs for that matter) ability to off sell their products. We all (should) know that our liquor distribution systems are unnecessarily complex, but that as well is a rant for another time…so to get to the nitty gritty. In many states breweries and brewpubs alike are allowed to off sell to customers bottles of any size to patrons that wish to purchase their product and are of legal age. Sure they need a license but there’s just more incentive for the state. Our fine Surly Brewing how ever has dealt with many hurdles in their journey to off sell growlers to the community. After going through all of the work of getting the city of Brooklyn Center to approve the sale of growlers and having great success for just over the past 2 years the joyous Saturday mornings of cycling up to their brewery and carting home their beer are over. Minnesota State law 340A.301 allows for licenses to be granted to brewers who produce less than 3500 barrels a year. As it should be everyone loves Surly Brewing and has made them a great success continually forcing them to brew more beer and causing them this year to surpass the limit for licensing. To me this is a very silly and completely useless law, and according to Omar on the last Saturday of this year while waiting in line for their wonderful 16 Grit Imperial IPA will loose the state $20,000 in tax revenue (I assume he meant annually).Â Luckily the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild currently has a petition to help change these things and I will do everything I can to support them in their venture. On to the happier things. What I look forward to in 2009 aside from simply more beer is the trend of collaborative ales that has sprouted in 2008 and where others may take it. I am a fan of all things communal and beer is always better when shared so I say the more the merrier. There was Flying Dog’s Open Source Beer Project that created a Dopplebock, there will soon be a joint effort by Dogfish Head and Beer Advocate which is sure to be interesting though I doubt I will have the opportunity to make it down to Boston to sample it, and what we are here to try today the effort by Avery Brewing and Russian River Brewing: Collaboration Not Litigation Ale. Though there are a few more I neglected to mention this ale in particular has a wonderful story. Brewers at both breweries happened to meat a number of years ago and learned they both were brewing ales called Salvation. With all the silly legal battles people are fitting in this day and age the two friends considered what to do and came up with the perfect solution, make a whole new beer additionally that comprised of both ales. So at the bar of Russian River the two sat down and found the perfect mix of the two very different but uniquely Belgian inspired ales, Avery’s being a Golden Ale and Russian Rivers being a Strong Dark Ale both packing a solid 9% ABV. The first batch was bottled in December of 2006 and the second batch which sits on my table was bottled February 2008 and uses a slightly different mix. The proceeds of these ales will go towards sending brewers from not only Avery and Russian River but Port Brewing, Dogfish Head, and Allagash Brewing on a trip to Belgium to see how they have been doing it for centuries in attempt to improve their own craft skills, talk about a good cause. Now on to the better stuff. This beer pours a dark pumpkin color that is a bit hazy though no sediment is apparent, allowing a bit of light to shine through the bottom of the glass in orange and red hues even if it is not particularly translucent. Head is a solid three fingers or more and crisp white in color lasting for a couple minutes. Aroma is quite nice, gentle fruit aromas are dominate with some slightly floral hints as well giving a bit of a kick to the otherwise sweet malty scent. They must have had a blast sampling different mixes of this ale as the flavors are very unique. Prunes, and other sweet pitted fruits are noticeable as well as more somewhat hoppy citrus flavors. This ale is packed with malty sweetness and is obviously influenced by Belgian brewing with an interesting yeast no doubt contributing some flavor as well as other nice caramel flavors from the malt.. This ale has a rather light body and a slightly sticky but incredibly smooth mouthfeel. Though there are many flavors in this beer the sweet malt flavors do a impeccable job hiding the 8.72% ABV. I had no idea what to expect the mixing of a golden ale and a dark ale would create but this is certainly a tasty brew and a nice American take on a Belgian concept as well as a wonderful approach to an interesting situation. Probably not an everyday beer but a great after meal desert ale. If you are a fan of Belgian inspired ales that are sweet and malty but are still not afraid to pack a punch this is a good choice. To note, the last third of this ale had a hazier and darker color no doubt from sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Very smooth and delicious stuff. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 11th, 2008 beckel
Today I can drink this beer hoping Avery Brewing from Boulder, Colorado got what they were desiring when they brewed this beer and that our system will follow through with that which it needs to do. “We the Brewers of Avery Brewing Company, in order to form a more perfect ale, require new leadership that can liberate us from our quagmires in foreign lands; embrace environmentally sound energy alternatives to imported oil; heal our ailing health care system; free us from tyrannical debt and resurrect the collapsing dollar. We hereby pledge to provide him with an ample amount of our Presidential Pale Ale to support in the struggle for the aforementioned goals!” Now I suppose this ale would be more appropriate to drink on January 20th as this beer is intended to celebrate inauguration day but I am an impatient beer geek and this brew has sit in my fridge for far too long not to tempt me to try another lovely Avery ale. Pours a mighty rather transparent red hue, producing a couple inches of white head that remain for quite a few minutes eventually evaporating and leaving a light lacing around the glass. The aroma of this beer is marvelous, at first I detect sweet malt notes that are immediately followed up and largely over powered by a number of different bitter aromas with only a slight alcohol scent present. The flavor of this beer is not quite what I had anticipated. Dry and almost flat tasting with loads of bitterness. Based on it’s aroma I expected more of a malt balance to this brew, but malt hints are very light and almost unnoticeable. The bitterness in this beer does its job though almost completely covering the solid 8.75% aBV. Though the immense bitterness of this brew turned me off initially, as I continue to drink you can start to notice some of the nice subtler and lighter hop flavors that are present in this beer as well as the light sweetness that sneaks in towards the beginning of a sip. The mouthfeel of this beer isn’t particularly heavy but is rather dry. The body is rather light as well. Though I wouldn’t say this is a balanced beer it certainly isn’t bad. As with most ales as you let this brew warm up a bit more of the subtle flavors come out; so I would suggest setting it out for a bit before consumption. If you like bitter hop filled beers you will likely enjoy this brew. Let us hope this beer’s bitterness is just a reflection of the previous administration and not what is to come. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
August 11th, 2008 beckel
This one’s been sitting in my fridge since just after my birthday so I suppose it is about time I open up my bottle of Avery Brewing’s Hog Heaven Barleywine from Boulder, Colorado. This beer pours an attractive dark red color, that produces a very deep but bright red color in light. Head is more than plentiful as this beer cascades very nicely and then quickly produces lots of thick foam that fades rather slowly and is light tan. The aroma of this beer is wonderful, initially sweet malt is most notable but there is a beautiful citrus aroma present as well as light bitterness. Mouthfeel is medium not particularly thick. Flavor is quite different than the aroma, bitter hops hit the palate first with only a tiny bit of citrus present, some lightly caramelized malt sweetness helps bring the flavor to a balance but this is certainly a hoppy beer. With a 9.2% ABV you will certainly notice you are consuming a strong beer though the bitter hops do a very nice job of hiding the alcohol flavor. As I continue to drink this beer I notice a bit more of a sweet citrus flavor on the back of the palate that does a very nice job of balancing out this beer’s bitterness. Overall a very interesting barleywine, largely what I expected from reading about it’s hop profile. If you like bitter and hoppy, strong but not overwhelming beers than this is a great choice. Certainly more hoppy than most barleywines that I’ve preferred but still very nice.Â Give it a shot and ride your bike.