Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Avery Review #11 - Récolte Sauvage

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Apr. 23, 2012

We begin the second half of The Avery Project with Beer #11 in Avery’s Barrel-Aged Series – Avery Récolte Sauvage.  As was the case with Beer #10 in the series, #11 happens to coincide with the Review #11 of this project at 20 Beers in 20 Nights. 

Living as close as I do to the brewery I have had the privilege of tasting quite a few Avery beers with what is becoming “that famous gold foil” on the bottle; the Rumpkin, Uncle Jacob’s Stout, Muscat D’Amour and now, finally, the Avery Récolte Sauvage. 

Like the Muscat, this beer was aged for 14 months and born on the same day – February 11, 2012.  Unlike the Muscat however, the Sauvage was aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels instead of Chardonnay barrels giving the Récolte more red wine characteristics than the white-like characteristics of its twin.

Location: Purchased at Avery Brewing Company’s Taproom
Cost: $8.99/12oz. bottle
ABV: 11.03%
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: American Wild Ale
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.03
My Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.18
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate: 11
Description: Avery Recolte Sauvage
Bottled On: Nov. 10, 2011

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) The Récolte pours a dark and surprisingly transparent brownish red in color; it looks like a dark Rosé.  Some bubbles quickly appear, but scatter and then vanish almost instantly, leaving behind only a few straggling patches on the surface and around the edges.  When held up to the light a pretty, sparkly and bright red shines through.  There are also quite a few champagne-like bubbles floating up to the top.  A fairly large patch of sediment also rests on the bottom, but it does not mingle with the rest of the beer, it stays separate and keeps this beer looking quite transparent despite the dark color.  You can see how much was in there in the picture to the right.

SMELL:  (4 out of 5) The Récolte Sauvage requires a swirl or two in the snifter to bring out the entire aroma, but as it fizzes up, it becomes very apparent that this is a complex beer.  Tart apple and sour lead the way – this is most definitely a sour beer.  Despite the color, however, this beer smells light, refreshing and playful.  Others have reported smelling some oak, but it isn’t there for me.  Some red wine characteristics linger as well, but nothing is as strong as the tart, mustiness of an American Wild Ale.

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) Again, just as the nose was, the flavor is dominated by a tart, sourness.  Dark fruit juice-like flavors move forward throughout the sip (and become stronger as the glass warms) while a slight chocolate taste swells towards the middle of the sip without ever becoming too conspicuous.  This beer tastes like a nice, but tart, medium-bodied red wine with some carbonation added.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4.5 out of 5) As I mentioned above, The Sauvage has medium-bodied feel along with some oak tannins that attack the front of the tongue.  As the smell suggested, the Récolte also defies its color and turns out to be a very light and lively beer.  The sparkle is strong, but tickling - it is not a palate wreaker by any means.  Surprisingly, there is no heat from the booze at all.  Maybe that’s because I just reviewed Uncle Jacob’s Stout the other night, but either way, I can’t tell at all that the ABV is 11%.

OVERALL:  (4.5 out of 5) This is yet another unique standout of a beer brewed by Avery.  In my opinion, it is superior to its fraternal twin, Muscat D’Amour (although the Muscat is a pretty good beer).  Additionally, it is the much more difficult of the two to find as the production run on this one was only 121 cases as opposed to 194 cases of the Muscat. 

On a separate note, while I drank the Sauvage I munched on some tangy blue cheese from Oregon that I picked up earlier this week and the combination was brilliant.  A nice, sharp blue will work with this beer any time. 

One final note: I split this beer with Emily and had six ounces of it.  Both of us are feeling a lot more tipsy than we should given that it was 6 oz. of an 11% beer.  This is the first beer I have ever been suspicious of having been mislabeled in terms of the ABV.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Avery Project - Avery's Best Beer?

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

June 11, 2012

Last week we reached the halfway point of The Avery Project with our review of Muscat D’Amour.  Initially, I had predicted that this project would take a month or two to complete. 

Haha.  Hilarious. 

If I were a pregnant woman when I began this venture I’d have a child by now…and we’ve only reached the middle.  The second half, however, should move a little more quickly given that The Barleywine Project is on somewhat of a hold until Barleywine season comes around again in the late fall. 

This is just the second project to have reached the midpoint here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights.  The first, The DIPA Project, is now complete, but when we reached halftime of that one we took a break from the routine to do something a little different.  Emily and I settled the score between two of our favorite Bourbon Barrel Aged Stouts – the Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island and the Kentucky Breakfast Stout from Founders.  Now, it is time to settle an intramural score – what is Avery’s best beer?

Of course, this will not be an easy task and am certain that many of you will disagree with the three beers I am putting up against each other, but I went with my personal highest rated Avery beers that someone outside Boulder may be able to track down and try for themselves at some point in the future.  Taproom exclusives and one-time brews that will never be seen again are out.  So the three competitors tonight are Maharaja, Uncle Jacob's Stout and Rumpkin.  I know that it will be impossible to have perfectly consistent conditions for each beer, however with both the Maha and the Jacob’s being fresh and the Rumpkin still less than a year old I figured this would be my best opportunity to give them all a fair shake at the same time for at least another year. 

The other issue is that of my palate.  While none of these beers will be palate wreckers, they will certainly run the gamut of flavors, so this will be far less scientific and much more subjective and fun than anything else.  So place your bets now folks, and read on to see which Avery beer comes out on top here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights!

By the way, if you really want to get the most out of this little exercise I would recommend going back to check out my original reviews.  I’ll put in a link for each one below. 

Review #11 of The DIPA Project
Reviewed on April 11, 2011
Batch #13
IBUs: 102
ABV: 10.54%
My Ranking: A+/4.68

APPEARANCE:  5 out of 5
SMELL:  4 out of 5
TASTE:  5 out of 5
MOUTHFEEL:  4 out of 5
OVERALL:  5 out of 5

Tonight, the Maharaja will be the only beer that is not from the same batch that was originally reviewed.  However, I’ve had the pleasure of tasting Batch #14 and Batch #15 since I reviewed Batch #13 last year and they have all been consistent.  I am also drinking this Batch #16 offering about as fresh as possible.  It has been on the shelf for about a week and I expect deliciousness.  It is worth noting that the ABV is a little lower on the 16; 10.17%. 

OK, here we go:  The color and appearance are just about the same as I described in my initial review.  The Maharaja still has a gorgeous and thick head along with a marvelous color.  The smell, however, is stronger than it had been when I first reviewed it.  I would probably go with a 4.5 now.  In that first review I used the word “symmetrical” to describe each sip and I fully stand by that, only this time I think the bottle I am drinking from is just as malty as I had remembered it being in the taproom. 
So my conclusion?  Yep.  The Maharaja is still an exceptionally tasty beer, worthy of the high praise and hype it often gets.  This is Boulder’s best regularly (although not always) available beer.  Pick some up before this batch runs out.  It’ll be the last until next winter.  While you’re out, make sure to grab some Point Reyes Blue Cheese – it is the perfect pair. 

Review #9 of The Avery Project
Reviewed on April 22, 2012
Bottled on March 27, 2012
ABV:  17.42%
My Ranking:  A+/4.7

APPEARANCE:  4 out of 5
SMELL:  4 out of 5
TASTE:  5 out of 5
MOUTHFEEL:  4.5 out of 5
OVERALL:  5 out of 5

On to beer Number 2; Uncle Jacob’s Stout is from the same batch as when I originally reviewed it.  It is less than three months old and with that enormous 17.42% ABV there should be no noticeable change to it at all.  Let’s see.

Well, my sense of smell must be in much better shape than usual.  I am getting a lot more on the nose this time than I have in the past.  Also, in addition to all that delicious vanilla and oak, there is a nice, fairly strong smell of milk chocolate.  Again, I’d up this one to a 4.5 in the smell department if I were to do another full review. 

My first thought after sipping this one for the first time this evening is that it is going to be tough to beat.  While the Maharaja is one of my favorite beers of my favorite style, the Uncle Jacob’s has it beat.  Bourbon Stouts are a close second to Double IPAs for me and this is just nearly a perfectly done beer.  I’m getting all the oak, vanilla, chocolate and cherry that I got the first time I reviewed this beer, but this time around I’m getting a little more caramel and a touch of nutmeg.  The mouthfeel is just right for the style and again, I think this might give Bourbon County Stout a run for its money.  I can’t wait to make that comparison.

Review #4 of The Avery Project
Reviewed on October 24, 2011
Bottled on October 5, 2011
ABV:  15.9%
My Ranking:  A+/4.68

APPEARANCE:  3.5 out of 5
SMELL:  4 out of 5
TASTE:  5 out of 5
MOUTHFEEL:  4.5 out of 5
OVERALL:  5 out of 5

Like the Uncle Jacob’s the Rumpkin is from the exact same batch that I originally reviewed, but it is nearly eight months old now.  Again, with an ABV this high I don’t expect very big changes in it at this point, but we shall see.

This is still not the best looking beer in the world.  There is nothing wrong with it, but it just doesn’t look like it will taste and smell as good as I know it will.  In terms of the aroma department, it is official; I’m having a good nose day.  In addition to everything I already know about this beer the toffee flavors are coming out incredibly strong and delicious like.  I wouldn’t bump this one up to a 4.5, I’d make it a 5.  Beer (or anything for that matter) can’t really smell any better than this.

Again, this is the perfect pumpkin beer.  It cannot get better for the style.  Rum was the perfect choice for barrel aging and the combination of pumpkin pie spices that were used to brew this beer is simply unbeatable.  I thought Uncle Jacob had this thing all wrapped up, but I’m not going to be able to decide. 

On one hand, the Rumpkin seems as though it cannot be improved upon in terms of smell and taste.  On the other hand, the Uncle Jacob’s is a little less boozy (in terms of taste) and it is a style that I enjoy more than pumpkin ales.  This is such a tough call.


The bottom line is that these three beers can stand up to almost any other beers on the planet and they are all brewed just a couple miles down the road from me here in Boulder at Avery.  I am very fortunate to have these guys in my back yard.

As much as I love the Maharaja and believe that it is one of the best Double IPAs available anywhere, after tasting it fresh, next to the Uncle Jacob’s Stout and Rumpkin it is clear that it is not the absolute best that Avery is capable of.  When they have time to slow down and really focus on what they do best they excel far beyond most other breweries in Colorado, in the U.S. and on the planet.  They routinely make fantastic beers that are unique to the style, but at the same time are somehow consistently right on target for the style. 

Rumpkin may be the best example of this.  There is no Pumpkin Ale out there that even remotely compares to Rumpkin, but at the same time there is no doubt, whatsoever, that it is an excellent example of the style.

The Jacob’s however, is clearly one of the best within its style – a style that happens to be flooded with outstanding beers that beer geeks clamor to get their hands on, so maybe it is a more impressive feat to be a contender as one of the best in the Imperial Stout category than it is to be the best Pumpkin Ale.  I don’t know for sure, but when it comes down to it, I don’t really care either.  I thoroughly enjoyed all three beers.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Avery Review #10 - Muscat D'Amour

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

June 3, 2012

I tasted Avery’s Muscat D’Amour back in March and wrote a thorough review of it, but until now I have not taken the time to edit it and add an intro.  I never planned it this way, but fittingly, Beer #10 in The Avery Project here at 20 Beer in 20 Nights also happens to be Beer #10 in Avery’s Barrel-Aged Series.  The 11th beer in our project will also be Avery’s 11th in Barrel-Aged Series beer.  In fact, #10 and #11 were released by Avery on the same day and a friend of mine managed to snag me a bottle of each since I wasn’t able to attend the release party at the brewery.

Both the Muscat D’Amour and it’s fraternal twin, the Recolte Sauvage were barrel aged in wine barrels for 14 months with wild yeast, making them both wine-aged, sour beers.  The big difference between the two is that today’s beer, the Muscat, was aged in Chardonnay barrels and the Sauvage did its time in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels.  Here are the specs on the Muscat:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Addendum to the DIPA Project - Review #21 - Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

June 2, 2012

For those of you who have been reading the blog since the beginning, you know that we began here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights with The DIPA Project – an effort to drink and review each of the 20 most reviewed Double IPAs on Beer Advocate.  That project was finally completed last fall when my beer trading buddy, Ren, was able to send me a bottle of AleSmith’s YuleSmith (Summer) Ale. 

The YuleSmith turned out to be one of my absolute favorite beers on The List, but it occupied the 20th spot (in terms of how many times it was reviewed on BA) on the list and on top of that it is a seasonal beer from a brewery that does not have very extensive distribution.  It was destined to fall out of the Top 20 at some point and two months ago it was finally overtaken by two different beers; Green Flash Imperial IPA and Sierra Nevada Hoptimum.  The Hoptimum, however, now holds the 20th position 19th position (Also surpassing Moylan’s Hopsickle) and given that nearly 300 people have reviewed this 2-year old release from Sierra within the last three months alone, I would imagine that it will continue to rise in the rankings before this year’s batch is all dried up.

Although the project is technically complete, now that the Top 20 have changed I feel as though it is isn’t.  So, with that in mind, I tracked down a 4-pack with the intent of updating The Project with Beer #21.  The first time I tried this beer was on tap at The West End Tavern here in Boulder.  I thought it was alright, but not worth all the hype.  This review, however, will be done from the bottle, at home, with much better conditions for tasting and without all the distractions of a bar.  So we’ll see how this second chance goes. 

ABV: 10.4%
IBUs: 100
Brewery Location: Chico, California
Style: American Double/Imperial India Pale Ale
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.06
My Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.73
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 889/19th
Bottled On: NA

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) Brilliantly clean, light orange in color, the Hoptimum has a nice, big, thick, foamy and stark-white head.  Good retention as the head has only receded about halfway in the past few minutes.  A big, thick, sticky ring of lacing is also clinging to the edge of the glass where the head has fallen from.  As the beer level recedes, that thick lacing continues.  It is covering nearly 100% of the back side of the glass – gorgeous. 

SMELL:  (2.5 out of 5) Dank is not a word I use very often to describe the smell of a beer, but in this case I do believe it is the only appropriate description.  The resinous pine has a very funky and earthy aroma to it and while I can see how many beer drinkers would enjoy this, it isn’t for me.

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) Although the aroma seems to be too earthy and a little overboard, the funky flavors are nicely muted by a big dose of malt and a bright, slightly bitter fruit profile.  The grapefruit is really sharp in this beer and very pleasant.  That weed-like resin from the aroma is still very strong, but it works really well with the rest of these flavors.  I have to say I am happy I gave it a second chance.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4 out of 5) The Hoptimum has an interesting mouthfeel.  It is sweet and a little sticky, but it’s also very crisp and refreshing.  It would be a little more crisp and refreshing if there were a decent amount of carbonation and sparkle, and the lack of that is a drawback, but it is still has a pretty good feel.

OVERALL:  (4 out of 5) I think I finally understand what people are getting so excited about with this beer and I really do enjoy it.  That said, the aroma is really a turn off for me and (this is the first time I have ever said this about a beer’s aroma) if it were toned down a bit I think I would enjoy the overall experience more.  As a side note, at $9.99 for the 4-pack, this is one of the most affordable, high-quality DIPAs available at the moment.