Monday, September 12, 2011

Avery Review #2 - Avery India Pale Ale (IPA)

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Sept. 12, 2011

It would have been criminal to get through the entire Avery Project without reviewing Avery’s flagship beer, the Avery IPA.  So here, as the second review in the Avery Project is my current take on Avery IPA.  I say current, because this is an IPA that I have been familiar with longer than almost all others.  It was my gateway into the world of the India Pale Ale.

Way back when George W. Bush was still president and I lived in the Chicago Area I was just beginning to discover craft beer.  I never really liked wine all that much and I was getting bored with the usual spirits, plus as I was getting older Bourbon was getting more and more difficult to drink – even though I still loved it.  I had previously not been a beer drinker at all, but all I had ever had were macrobrews.  As I slowly began to discover that I actually liked beer when it wasn’t watered down piss water being passed off as lager, I started to experiment.  Sometime in the distant past, however, I had tried an IPA and decided I couldn’t stand the stuff, so while I was in the middle of this personal beer renaissance, trying many new and exciting beers, I always stopped short of IPA.

Then one night, while sitting at Cooper’s on Belmont in Chicago (which was quickly becoming one of my favorite beer bars in The City) our bartender, Mike, said “You know, I really think you would like IPAs if you gave them a shot, why don’t you try one and if you don’t like it I’ll buy it for you.” 

I gave in, said “Alright.” and watched as Mike poured a really cool looking bottle of beer into a pint glass for me.  The bottle itself was a good start for me.  I have always loved maps and this particular bottle had a map of Europe, Africa and Asia with a little red path stretching from England to India to represent the India Pale Ale’s origin.  Of course the label on that cool-looking bottle looked exactly like the one you can see in the picture to the right.

One sip was all it took - I was instantly hooked.  I did like bitter beer after all and I suddenly realized that I had been missing out on a fantastic array of beers.  From that point on I was on a mission to find the most bitter beers I could and I wanted to taste every IPA I could get my hands on.  Avery IPA sparked it all. 

So here we are now, several years later, hundreds of IPAs, Double IPAs and Barleywines later and about 1,000 miles closer to a brewery that, at the time, was about 1,000 miles away from me, as I sit down to review an old standby and one of the original beers I fell in love with. 

My opinion of it has certainly changed over the years.  It is no-longer an exotic, hard-to-find beer.  It is available almost everywhere here in Boulder and even back home in Chicago it is becoming increasingly easy to find.  Knowing the brewery as well as I do now, I also know that while it is a strong beer, it is nowhere near the best that Avery can do.  Anyhow, that’s enough rambling about my history with this beer, how about a review?

Location: West End Tavern, Boulder, Colorado
Cost: $4 - 12oz. bottle
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 69
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: American IPA
Average Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.9 – Very Good
My Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.93 – Very Good
Current Number of Reviews: 1,028/2nd Most Reviewed Avery Beer
Brewery Description: Avery IPA
Bottled On: ???

APPEARANCE:  (3.5 out of 5) The Avery IPA pours from the 12oz. bottle a pleasant orange-golden color with a very white head resting on top of the beer.  As the head settled, a ring of it clung to the edges of the glass while a thin film completely covered the surface of the beer.  That ring of head eventually led to some decent lacing on the top half of the glass, but not much farther down.  A few bubbles were very easy to see slowly floating to the top in this nearly perfectly clear beer. 

SMELL:  (3.5 out of 5) The strength of the nose is lacking a bit, but what aroma does get through is classic American IPA – piney and floral hops with a bit of citrus.  This is what an IPA should smell like, it is exactly the right smell for the style, there just isn’t enough of it. 

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) Avery’s IPA is a solidly bitter beer.  The hops are up front with some grapefruit and lemon along with a healthy dose of pine and a hint of anise.  Some malt is present to provide a small amount of balance towards the finish, but ultimately this is a big, hop-forward beer.  As it warms some of the sweeter flavors emerge, like orange and more of the malt, but they continue to lurk in the background behind the hops, which are the clear star of this show.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4.5 out of 5) The carbonation on this one is strong.  It has a crisp and clean feel with a sharp sparkle.  The mouthfeel is excellent.

OVERALL:  (4 out of 5) As the standard bearer for Avery, this is a fantastic beer.  By no means is it the best beer they make, but as the beer that generally introduces people to Avery’s products (like it was for me) it represents the brewery well.  It is a highly drinkable beer that for a seasoned IPA drinker is also quite sessionable. 

DRAWBACKS:  My biggest disappointment with Avery IPA is the less than stellar nose.  I really enjoy the smell, but I every time I drink it I really have to get my nose deep into the glass to get a decent whiff of it.  Aside from that, while I love the bitterness, a touch more malt to balance it out would have been nice. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Avery Review #1 - Avery Thirteenth Anniversary Ale a.k.a. Thirteen

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Spet. 9, 2011

The first beer I reviewed for my last project here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights was a very special beer – Bell’s Hopslam.  The Hopslam was and is a favorite of mine.  It is a rare treat that helps to make the otherwise dismal Upper Midwest winter slightly more bearable. 

Just like that first review of the DIPA Project, the first review of the Avery Project will be just as special and even rarer…although I cannot claim that it is an old favorite of mine as the only time I ever had the privilege of drinking it was when I reviewed it at the brewery last week.

The beer?  Avery’s Thirteenth Anniversary Ale – a.k.a. the Weizen Dopplebock known more simply as Thirteen.  No, Avery is not celebrating unlucky #13 this year, they just had their 18th anniversary a few weeks ago.  However, last week, Avery also released the 2011 version of their Ocktoberfest beer, The Kaiser, and I happened to drop into the tasting room full of servers and bartenders dressed in lederhosen for the release party.

As a special treat for the release party, Avery pulled a few special bottles out of the cellar for a one-night only sale.  Seventeen, a black lager brewed for last year’s anniversary, was on the list, but more importantly, so was the German-style wiezenboch beer, Thirteen. 

When Emily and I decided to split the $20 bottle a few of our friends thought we were nuts, but as told them $20 is almost nothing considering that we got a 22oz. bottle and that in most restaurants a 5oz. pour of mediocre wine would have cost us $8 a piece.  Plus, this was a very rare, five year old beer. 

So what did that $20 get us?  Well, here are the specs first, and then we’ll get into the review:

Location: Avery Tasting Room, Boulder, Colorado – Available one-night only (for now)
Cost: $20 – 22oz. bottle
ABV: 9.5%
IBUs: ???
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: Weizenbock
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.03 - Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: A/4.5
Current Number of Reviews: 219
Brewery Description: Thirteen
Bottled On: 2006

APPEARANCE:  (3.5 out of 5) Poured into a white wine glass from a 22oz. bomber by Matt at Avery.  The beer is black except for a nice red glow near the rim and on the bottom of the glass when held up to the light.  The head is rather thin and vanishes quickly, but a small amount of film remains on top throughout about half of the beer.  Lacing was minimal, only a few wisps here and there.

SMELL:  (5 out of 5) The nose is ridiculously good - fruity as hell, with mostly dark fruit coming through; berries, passion fruit and a touch of orange.  There is a good dose of malt along with vanilla, smoke and some alcohol.  In fact, it smells a bit like a smoky bourbon, but with fruit.  The Thirteen’s nose is highly complex and very enjoyable. 

TASTE:  (4.5 out of 5) Sweet and delicious.  This thing is absolutely chock full of fruit with a subtle dose of anise.  A little note of coffee is also noticeable upon the first sip.  A second, third and forth sip begin to reveal more of the complexity of this beer.  Vanilla, a mellowed out toasty malt and some smokiness slowly enter the mix as the beer goes down.  It is also very boozy, even more than I would expect from a 9.5%er.  There is a lot going on in this beer and if you ever get the chance to try it, make sure you take a few moments to just let it sit on your palate before sending it down the hatch, a lot more develops with a little extra time.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4 out of 5) The Thirteen is very smooth, but at the same time quite refreshing for a beer that does not have an abundance of carbonation.  With the rich, intense and sweet flavors, there is not as much need for a highly carbonated, palate cleansing feel.  The flavor left after each sip is very welcome.

OVERALL:  (4.5 out of 5) My notes simply say “Sweet Jesus this is an outstanding beer.”  I stand by that assessment and I encourage any serious craft beer drinker to make an effort to get their hands on a bottle or two of this while it still exists.

EDIT:  Until this morning (June 5, 2012) I had completely forgotten that I managed to snag a decent shot of the Thirteen while I was drinking it.  So I just added it in the hopes you will all enjoy it.  Cheers!

The Avery Project

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Sept. 9, 2011

After a ton of deliberation, I have finally settled on my new project for 20 Beers in 20 Nights.  Actually, I have settled on two, and this post will signal the beginning of the first one – 20 reviews on 20 beers from Avery Brewing Company, located right here in Boulder, Colorado. 

Why 20 Avery Beers?  Well, first and foremost, I love Avery’s products - very rarely have I been disappointed by anything they have done.  Second, the last project was a ton of fun, but it took a lot longer to complete than I would have liked.  Not only did I have to trade and travel for a few beers that were not distributed in Illinois (Where I lived during most of that project), but I also had to wait for many seasonals to come out and then spend a ton of time hunting them down once they were finally released.  All of that made the project a blast and in some ways, more rewarding, but I would really like to start and finish a project within a couple of months.  Without a set list of beers to review and with a constant stream of many Avery beers available to me on a regular basis, this should go rather quickly.

In addition to all of this, focusing on a single brewery will prevent me from only focusing on a single style of beer, especially when that brewery is Avery.  Their taproom is set up perfectly for this project; they have 20 taps that range from wheat beers and Pilsners to intense, big and bold Double IPAs and Barleywines. 

Speaking of Barleywine, the second project, which I will also begin very soon will be very similar to my recently completed project – the DIPA Project.  It will, once again, use Beer Advocate as a source, but instead of ticking off the list of the Top 20 Most Reviewed Double IPAs I will be reviewing the Top 20 Most Reviewed Barleywines on BA.  This second project I expect to take at least a year to finish based on distribution and seasonal availability. 

Getting back to Avery, however, in addition to the reasons I listed above, I also want to highlight Avery in an effort to show what kind of fantastic diversity they are capable of.  When I lived in Chicago it was very difficult to find anything other than Avery IPA or Ellie’s Brown in the bars.  You could, however, go to most liquor stores and find a much more broad selection of theirs. 

Even here in Boulder, where almost every bar has Avery IPA on tap it is still pretty tough to find some of their more unique brews outside the brewery or the liquor store.  My hope is that by reviewing many of their other offerings I can show other craft beer drinkers just how great it is to have Avery Brewing just a 15 minute bike ride from my home.  More importantly, I know that I tend to get stuck on certain styles, particularly the highly hopped, but when I do take the time to explore an individual brewery I generally learn a lot about the brewery and more generally, about beer.  I hope that this will encourage others to more deeply explore whatever great breweries they have access to…and maybe even to pass it along to us.

In each Avery-related post, my plan is to provide information for the craft beer drinker in general, but also for Boulderites and Coloradans in specific.  I want people in the area to know where the beer can be obtained and for how much and I also want to give others the reason to track it down.  Some of these beers will be very rare (such as the first beer I will be reviewing) and others will be widely available throughout the 32 states that Avery distributes to.

As an FYI, I have absolutely no connection to Avery Brewing Company other than the fact that I live just a little more than two miles away from the brewery and that it is, so far, my favorite place to enjoy a beer in all of Boulder, Colorado and one of my personal Top 3 overall breweries in the country.  I am not doing this for any financial gain, free beer or special treatment from Avery itself, they have no idea I am doing this.  I am just a big beer nerd and craft beer fan with a desire to help others find the joy that I have found in drinking beer from one of the best breweries in the country.  I hope you enjoy the reviews and get inspired to go out and find some great Avery, Boulder and/or Colorado beer very soon.