Monday, December 5, 2011

Avery Review #6 - Avery The Czar Imperial Stout


Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Dec. 5, 2011

Picture courtesy of Brewkettletimes.com
In last week’s review of Avery’s DuganA Double IPA I promised to review a few of the more easily obtainable Avery brews, so today, here are my thoughts on The Czar Russian Imperial Stout.  It is currently on tap in the Avery Tap Room and bombers are fairly easy to track down at any bottle shop that the brewery distributes to.

Here’s my take on this 2nd beer from Avery’s “The Dictator Series”:

Location: Avery Tap Room
Cost: $3 – 10 oz. pour
ABV: 11.03%
IBUs: 60
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Average Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.88 – Very Good
My Beer Advocate Rating: B+/4 – Very Good
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate: 771 (16th most popular RIS on Beer Advocate)
Brewery Description: Avery The Czar
Tapped: November 2011

APPEARANCE:  (4 out of 5) This is a deep black beer, but some ruby red light does show through the very bottom of the glass and near the surface of the beer when held to the light.  A thick, healthy, light brown head rests on top and it is not going anywhere for a while.  The Czar has excellent head retention with a few big bubbles scattered throughout the top of the foam.  As the glass empties a nice, cathedral-like lacing forms as well.

SMELL:  (4 out of 5) Coffee overwhelms the fairly intense nose.  Roasted malts warm the nostrils with each sniff – this beer smells comforting, but at the same time it warns of some of the intense flavors to come, including a touch of hops.

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) There is a lot going on in this beer.  The coffee from the nose is there, and it is strong.  A small dose of chocolate lies just beneath the heavy coffee surface and almost entirely masks the slight alcoholic burn that the 11% ABV produces.  Even deeper down lurks a slightly sour lemon flavor and all of this is rounded out with a nice, hoppy finish.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4 out of 5) The Czar is smooth and dry making it an excellent beer to pair with food.  All that is left on the palate at the end of each sip is a very subtle coffee flavor.  There is no residue left over as there is with some other beers, particularly Russian Imperial Stouts.

OVERALL:  (4 out of 5) The Czar is an excellent early winter stout and a great way to warm up from a cold and snowy Colorado evening.  The complexity of The Czar when fresh is outstanding, but before the season is over, I plan to sock away two or three bottles for a future vertical tasting.  I can only imagine how delicious this beer will be three to five years from now. 

DRAWBACKS:  The Czar suffers from exactly the same problem that the DuganA does – it has a very successful and tasty big brother.  Like the DuganA has the Maharaja, The Czar has The Mephistopheles – a gigantic Imperial Stout that clocks in at over 16% with an incredible amount of flavor.  In its own right, the Czar really is a terrific beer, and it does have some advantages over The “Meph”, like the fact that one of these will not knock you out…it might take two.  The fact is, though, this November stout offering from Avery is still an appetizer for the early December Mephistopheles release. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Avery Review #5 - Avery DuganA


Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Dec. 2, 2011

After some busy time at work and a week-long trip back to Chicago for Thanksgiving, it had been a couple of weeks since my last appearance at the Avery Tap Room here in Boulder.  Since it was about time to get a post or two up here on 20 Beers in 20 Nights, I headed over to the Tap Room earlier this week to review a couple more beers for the Avery Project.

Since three of the first four Avery reviews here have focused on some very difficult to find offerings from the brewery (Rumpkin, Repoterrior, Thirteen) the next few reviews will cover some beers that will be readily available to most of the audience here, at least by way of trade (which I am completely willing to do with any of you out there without access). 

So for Review #5 we’ll be focusing on one of Avery’s instant classics – the DuganA.  While only a couple of years old, the DuganA has quickly become a fall and winter staple of the brewery’s line up.  It is a Double IPA released every September just as the Maharaja is drying up for the year.  With a second batch released in January, the DuganA fills the DIPA void when Maharaja is not available during the winter months (although, rumor has it that this year the Maha will be released in a week or two).

Here’s some specifics on the DuganA:

Location: Avery Tap Room
Cost: $3 – 10 oz. pour
ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: 93
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.12 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: B-/3.43 - Worthy
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate: 473 (46th most popular DIPA on Beer Advocate)
Brewery Description: Avery DuganA
Tapped: September 2011

This is one of the few beers I have reviewed in which I have disagreed with the official brewery’s description.  It is particularly surprising that I disagreed with Avery’s description, but I just did not (and really have never gotten) “dank, piney and resinous” from the DuganA.  Bitter?  Yes.  Piney?  Maybe.  Dank and resinous?  No.  Anyhow, on to the review: 

DuganA and friends at the Avery Tap Room
APPEARANCE:  (4 out of 5) The DuganA is a good-looking beer, crystal clear and light, pale orange.  Hundreds of bubbles stream to the top of the glass futilely trying to add to the quickly dissipating, quarter-inch, off-white head.  The head (which would have been a bit thicker in a larger glass) dissipated quickly leaving a thin layer of foam, which remained throughout most of the glass.  That foam was enough to leave some decent lacing throughout the glass.

SMELL:  (3 out of 5) The DuganA is a bit lacking in the aroma department, for a Double IPA it is simply too subtle for my taste (or smell).  What is there smells pretty good – crisp notes of grapefruit along with a touch of floral smell.

TASTE:  (3.5 out of 5) That subtle grapefruit from the nose is no longer subtle once it reaches the palate.  Again, the bitter citrus of the grapefruit is crisp and clean.  Aside from the big, citrusy flavor though, the DuganA seems a little thin for a DIPA.  There is a little bit of a floral flavor lurking behind the grapefruit and some bready notes are noticeable, but neither does enough to fully round out the flavor. 

MOUTHFEEL:  (3.5 out of 5) The DuganA is a palate cleansing beer to be sure.  It is crisp and dry for most of the sip, but it does leave a touch of a funky acidic aftertaste on the tail end.

OVERALL:  (3.5 out of 5) From its ABV to its taste and aroma, the DuganA seems to be hovering somewhere in between a regular IPA and a Double IPA.  It is certainly more on the crisp side than most big, full-flavored DIPAs like its big brother, Maharaja.  On the other hand, for someone just looking for a straight forward, bitter IPA, this would be a good option, although it may be more than expected. 

DRAWBACKS: To be fair, it is tough not to compare this beer to Maharaja and comparing any other beer to Maharaja is generally unfair.  The DuganA, however, is a little thin for a DIPA.  I will still regularly drink this beer when I can and I will enjoy it, but I’m not sure that it is worth paying the price of a bomber for.




Thursday, November 10, 2011

Barleywine Review #5 - Great Divide Old Ruffian


Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Nov. 10, 2011

There wasn’t a whole lot of excitement in obtaining the bottle of Great Divide Old Ruffian.  I just went to the liquor store, paid $8 and brought home the bottle.  So here’s the review: 

Location: Williams Village Liquor
Cost: $8 (22oz. bomber)
Glassware: Pint Glass
ABV: 10.2%
IBUs: 90
Brewery Location: Denver, Colorado
Style: American Barleywine
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/423 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: B/3.55 – Good
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate/Current Rank in Top 20: 926/3rd
Brewery Description: Great Divide Old Ruffian
Bottled On: Nov. 23, 2010

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) If there is one thing I have learned about Great Divide since moving to Colorado it is that they have a knack for creating some great looking beers.  The Old Ruffian is no exception, when this beer is poured a gorgeous, stark-white, inch-thick head rests on top of a pretty Mahogany colored, opaque beer.

SMELL:  (3.5 out of 5) Giant, sweet malt in the nose.  The aroma is moderately strong, but it could be a little stronger.  Brown sugar and molasses dominate the malt aromas, but hints of yeast and a touch of wood comes through as well.

TASTE:  (3.5 out of 5) The taste follows the nose with big malty flavors.  Sweet molasses, nutmeg and a touch of honey fill out the malt bill.  A big dose of hops lurks just beneath the surface up front and slowly makes its self known as the sip finishes.  By the end of the sip, this Barleywine tastes a lot more like a big, double IPA with some notes of pine, citrus and some floral flavor as well. 

MOUTHFEEL:  (3.5 out of 5) Silky and smooth with just a hint of sparkle.  A small amount of sweetness hits the palate up front before a dryer than average and hoppy finish washes it away. 

OVERALL:  (3.5 out of 5) I like the Old Ruffian, but it isn’t the best Barleywine I’ve had.  There is something just a little bit off.  The body of the beer is a little thin for me.  I expect bigger, bolder and richer flavors from the style. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Barleywine Review #4 - Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws Barleywine

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Nov. 1, 2011

The Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws is the first Barleywine on The List that I wasn’t able to simply track down at the local liquor store.  In fact, it required a trip to Portland, Oregon.  Well, the good news is that I have family and Emily had a conference there this past weekend.  So, we hopped on a plane, headed for the coast and touched down Thursday afternoon.

After getting settled in, we hopped in a cab and headed to the convention center where I dropped Emily off and then headed for my primary target in Portland, the Hair of the Dog Brewery.

When I arrived, it was not exactly what I expected.  The tasting room is in a somewhat industrial part of town that is being rebuilt and gentrified.  The building looks and feels like an old warehouse, but it is somehow cozy and inviting.  Part of that inviting environment is the big, picture windows lining two of the walls.  They let in a ton of sunlight and provide a nice view of downtown Portland.  I snapped a couple of pictures of the skyline, but they did not turn out very well.  Here’s one of them to the left, just to give you an idea of what I was looking at, but sorry about the quality there.

In addition to ordering an enormous plate of mac & cheese with pancetta, I also order this:



That’s the “Walk the Dog” beer flight, which includes 3 oz. pours of Adam, Fred, Ruth and Blue Dot IPA for $7.  All four beers were good, but the Blue Dot IPA was outstanding and the Adam was much more interesting and tasty than I expected.  I thought about starting with the Barleywine, but having never tried anything from HotD, I decided I wanted to know understand more of what the brewery was all about before I dove into a full pint for a review.  What I learned during this small tasting was that Hair of the Dog does not do subtle.  They go all out for every beer they make and there is clearly a lot of passion put into these brews.  The Doggie Claws would be no exception.

After finishing up my food and the taster I cleansed my palate with a couple of slices of bread and a glass of water.  It was time for Doggie Claws.  While the 2011 Doggie Claws was still two weeks away from its release, the 2010 Doggie Claws was still on tap and aging quite well.  So, what did I find when I dove into my first class of Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws Barleywine?

Location: Hair of the Dog Taproom
Cost: $4.50 (12 oz. pour)
Glassware: HotD Tulip Glass
ABV: 11.5%
IBUs: 70
Brewery Location: Portland, Oregon
Style: American Barleywine
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.16 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.13 – Excellent
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate/Current Rank in Top 20: 434/12th
Brewery Description: Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws
Batch Released: November, 2010

APPEARNANCE:  (4 out of 5) The Doggie Claws was presented in a tulip glass with about a half-inch of slightly off-white foam topping an orange-deep copper beer.  There was a bit of a haze to go along with the chill of the freshly poured draft, but it cleared up quickly.  The head retention was so-so as was the lacing, but overall this was a good looking beer.

SMELL:  (3.5 out of 5) There was a surprising lack of aroma at first, but with a little bit of air it opened up a bit.  Sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger were present along with a good deal of caramel aromas. 

TASTE:  (4.5 out of 5) This is a very, very strong Barleywine - the 11.5% can be tasted (and felt).  The Doggie Claws is an excellent example of the style, big and bold, sweet and sugary and very rich, but cut nicely with plenty of spice and fruit flavors.  The sweet flavors are molasses, cinnamon, caramel and some sweet malt.  Banana, dark fruit and a tiny hint of apple provide the fruitier flavors while some hops subtly linger in a strong supporting role.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4 out of 5) The Doggie Claws is rich, thick and oily, but in no way is it mouthcoating.  The finish is surprisingly clean and actually slightly dry.  It is very pleasant.  As I mentioned above, the 11.5% is certainly felt, it’s a fairly hot beer, but also so complex that the heat is easy to deal with and quickly masked.

OVERALL:  (4 out of 5) So far, the Hair of the Dog offering has been my favorite Barleywine reviewed.  I know it is still early, but it edged out the AleSmith Old Numbskull and my suspicion is that aside from the Behemoth from Three Floyds, this one will hold out against most of the others.  We shall soon see. This was also one of the better and more memorable experiences I have had while tracking down a beer for the blog, which may have played a role in my enjoyment, but either way, the Doggie Claws is one hell of a Barleywine.  It is a fantastic representation of the style and also would be a good intro for most rookie Barleywine drinkers.

DRAWBACKS:  Very few in this one, but first off, I would have to say that while the heat was probably tempered a bit with a year of age on it, it was still there, just a touch too warm.  Also, the fact that it took some time to develop a nose was frustrating.  With a beer like this I want a big pop right up front.  I want my nose to hit the glass and be surprised.  None of these drawbacks, however, should prevent you from drinking, sharing or gifting this beer.  It is bold and delicious and deserving of a nice, long tasting. Don’t blow through this one, savor it.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Right Place and Time for a Barleywine

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Oct. 26, 2011

As I mentioned at the beginning of The Barleywine Project, this one was going to be tough.  Of the 20 beers I have to review for this project, only one of them is available year-round...and it happens to be the one brewed a ten-minute bike ride away from my apartment.  The other 19 are seasonal or rotating.  On top of that, many are not available here in Colorado so I will either need to travel or trade for them.

Since I do not have the money to travel for a specific beer, but I do plan to do some traveling in the near future (Portland this coming weekend and Chicago for Thanksgiving and Christmas), I put together a spreadsheet to help me track down where and when all 20 beers on the list will be available.  I also figured that this might be a useful tool to any of you who are Barleywine fans out there - especially those of you who live in Mississippi, who have access to none of these beers.  Puerto Ricans and Utahans (ites maybe?) may also want to take note for when you travel.


BARLEYWINE
SEASON/DATE
AVAILABILITY

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale

Winter

Available in All 50 States

Victory Old Horizontal

Dec. - Jan.

AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, ME, MD, MA, MN, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX (Limited), VT, VA, WA, WI, DC

Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine

December

AL, AK, AR, CA, CO, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MD, MA, MN, MO, NE, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA (Limited - Southern VA), WA, DC

Bell's Third Coast Ale

Winter

AL, AZ, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND, OH, PA, PR, SC, VA, WI, DC

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine

October

AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MT, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, SC (Limited), TX (Limited), VT, VA, WA, DC

Avery Hog Heavan Barleywine

Year Round

AL, AK, AR (Limited - Western AR), CA (Limited - Southern CA), CO, FL (Limited), GA, ID, IL, IA, KS, KY (Limited), MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NV (Limited), NJ, NY (Limited - NYC Only), NC, ND, OH, OR, PA, SC, SD, TX, VA, WA, WI (Limitied), WY (Limited)

Rogue XS Old Crestacean

Rotating

All 50 States, Limited in Wyoming

Lagunitas Olde Gnarlywine

January

AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IL, KS, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NV, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI, WY, DC

Troegs Flying Mouflan

Spring

DE, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VA, DC

Founders Nemesis 2010

Brewed Once

No Longer Available

Southern Tier Backburner (Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale)

February

AK, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, VA, WA, WI, VT

Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws

Fall

CA, IN (Limitied), NY (NYC Only), OR, PA (Limited), WA

Three Floyds Behemoth Blonde Barleywine

January

IL (Limited - Chicago), IN, KY (Limited), OH (Limited), WI

Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary - Ken and Jack's Ale

Brewed Once

Available in All 50 States

AleSmith Old Numbskull

Rotating

AZ, CA, MA, NY, OH, OR, PA (Limited),

Green Flash Barleywine Style Ale

Rotating

AZ, CA, CO, IL, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, RI, TX, VA, WA, DC

Smuttynose Barleywine Style Ale (Big Beer Series)

Winter

CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI (Limited), NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, WI, DC

Mad River John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale

Winter

AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN,
KY, MA, MD, MN, NC, NJ, NM, NY, NV, OK, OR, PA, VA, WA

Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barleywine

Rotating

IL (Limited), MN, PA, WI

Full Sail Old Boardhead Barleywine Ale

Rotating

AK, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, ID, LA, MD, MA, MN, MT, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, TX, UT, VA, WA, WY, DC

To give credit where it is due, I used as much information as I could from each of the brewery's websites.  Sometimes they had a specific month or time of year that the beer would be released, sometimes I was able to figure out their distribution on the websites as well.  For those that did not have the info I needed, I turned to an outstanding document that a Beer Advocate user created last year which details most major brewery's distribution throughout the US.  I am sure that some of the information above is or will become outdated, but hopefully it can help a few Barleywine lovers out.