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.

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