Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Avery Review #18 - The Reverend

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Oct. 31, 2012

Well, we’re cranking through these last few beers of The Avery Project.  #16 and #17 were ticked off over the past couple of days, making #18, Avery’s The Reverend, our third beer review in three days.  This was more like the pace I imagined when I first began this project…over a year ago, but what are you gonna do?

As the second beer in the “Holy Trinity of Ales Series”, this is one of the three Avery bombers that you can be sure to find year-round at any liquor store that carries Avery products.  It is also almost always available in the Taproom, so The Reverend is another Avery beer that I am fairly familiar with already and a lot of you Avery fans out there probably are as well.  Until now, however, I have never given it the proper attention it deserves for a full review.  I know I have always enjoyed it, so I am anticipating some solid numbers here, but let’s see what I find:

Location: Ace Wine & Spirits, Boulder, CO
Cost: $7.99/22 oz. bomber
ABV: 10%
IBUs: 24
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: Belgian-Style Quadrupel Ale
Average Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.82 – Very Good
My Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.13 – Excellent
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate: 738
Brewery Description: Avery The Reverend
Bottled: NA

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) Nice, Barleywine-like mahogany in color, the Reverend appears to be every bit as strong as the 10% ABV and its categorization as a Belgian Quad would suggest.  The head is off-white, a solid half-inch and stuck around for a good two minutes or so after the pour, settling into a patchwork cap of different sized bubbles resembling a topographical map.  A nice lacing developed when the head dropped and it stayed intact throughout the glass.

SMELL:  (3.5 out of 5) The Reverend has the aroma of richness.  Banana and clove are strong up front with caramel, brown sugar and dark fruits rounding out the smell and providing that richness.  If the aroma were stronger this would get a higher rating.

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) The big caramel and molasses flavors build throughout the sip.  They start out strong and just keep getting stronger.  Booziness is present, but the sweet flavors make it dangerously easy to deal with.  As the beer warms brown sugar, banana and clove present themselves while bready flavors and a touch of roasted malt tie everything together.  Finally, for a purely Sterling hopped brew, The Rev has a decently bitter and hoppy finish.  The only real difference between this and a Barleywine is that there is a little more spice characteristic, some earthy funkiness and less hop character.

MOUTHFEEL:  (5 out of 5) The medium to big body pairs well with the medium carbonation here giving this beer a…well…for lack of a better word…a gulpable feel.  Not that I endorse that, but it really goes down quite easily and it is the kind of thing you want to take big sips of.  It’s like a good dessert that isn’t super sweet, but just sweet enough that it makes it tough to stop eating.  This is the beer equivalent of that; smooth and exceptionally easy to put down.

I have to say, I never noticed this about The Reverend, but then again, this is the first time I have taken the time to focus on it.  While I cannot quite give it 5s in other categories, there is no doubt that it gets a 5 in the mouthfeel department.  This struck me as odd at first, but after checking out some other reviews it is clear that I’m not the only one who feels this way. 

OVERALL:  (4.5 out of 5) I am really happy that I took the time to review this beer.  I typically only drink it when I am in the taproom and I want to introduce a visiting friend to some of Avery’s lineup.  I’ll almost always get a taster of The Rev to share because so many people have such a good reaction to it, but I rarely take the time to appreciate it myself.  That will most certainly change on my next trip.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Avery Review #17 - Salvation

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Oct. 30, 2012

Salvation – An appropriate word and beer to rinse away my memories of our last review here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights.  Avery’s Salvation is also a beer with a great story.  It essentially became the mother who gave birth to Avery and Russian River’s “Collaboration Not Litigation”.  For those too lazy to click the link, the short story is that after Adam Avery and Vinnie Cilurzo (of Russian River fame) became friends they realized that both of them had a beer called Salvation in their line-up.  Rather than fight about it or choose who removed the name from their portfolio of beers, the two decided to simply brew a beer together which contained elements of both and to both retain their respective Salvations. 

As we approach the end of The Avery Project, this was a beer I had to get into The Project.  Sure, it was great to taste and review some of the rare Avery offerings, but any serious look at this brewery as a whole would be incomplete without this Boulder staple.    

Location: Ace Wine & Spirits, Boulder, CO
Cost: $7.99/22 oz. bomber
ABV: 9%
IBUs: 33
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: Belgian-Style Strong Pale Ale
Average Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.82 – Very Good
My Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.98 – Very Good
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate: 482
Brewery Description: Avery Salvation
Bottled: NA

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) Beautiful, brilliant and light golden in color, this beer is a looker.  The rich head rests gently on top and reaches about a half-inch before receding.  The head is gorgeous, but retention could be better.  The lacing is not bad at first, but it isn’t strong enough to hang on throughout the whole glass. 

SMELL:  (4 out of 5) Lemon zest, spice, other citrus (grapefruit) and that touch of funk immediately identify the Belgian yeast and noble-like, aromatic hops in this one.  Nothing out of this world or completely unique here, but this is simply a pleasant smelling beer.

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) Citrus and tropical fruits (banana in particular) lead the way here, but those fruit flavors are all complimented with some nice spice.  A little clove, maybe a touch of cinnamon and a tiny dose of brown sugar.  It oddly has many of the same flavors as a good Barleywine, but this is obviously much lighter in body and far less hoppy.  Although, the noble-like hops flavors do come through here, it is not lacking in the hop department.

MOTHFEEL:  (3.5 out of 5) As I mentioned above, the Salvation is fairly light bodied.  It is on the dryer side, but has a slightly sugary and sweet finish.  Carbonation is light and tickling, providing a crisp and clean mouthfeel.

OVERALL:  (4 out of 5) This, the third beer in Avery’s Holy Trinity Series (along with Hog Heaven and The Reverend).  While it is not as complex as some other Belgian-Style Pale Ales (to be fair Avery calls it a Belgian-Style Golden) it is nicely balanced, easy drinking, refreshing, crisp, clean and a nearly perfect beer to use to win over a Coors Light drinker.  If they’re open-minded enough to at least try this beer it will not offend them, but should pleasantly surprise them with a ton more flavor and certainly with a bigger, better buzz if they drink enough. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Avery Review #16 - Oud Floris

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Oct. 29, 2012

…And we’re on the home stretch of The Avery Project with Review #16, a.k.a. Avery Barrel-Aged Series Beer #12, a.k.a. Avery Oud Floris.  These last few reviews will go relatively quickly.  After today’s review I have one more already written, I have two other Avery beers in the fridge and the plan for #20 is to head to the Taproom sometime before Election Day to do that one – which should give you a hint as to what #20 will be.

But back to the beer: the Oud Floris is a blend of brown ale aged in four different barrels – 67% in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, 17% in Bourbon barrels, 8% in Rum barrels and 8% in Chardonnay barrels.

I went into this one very excited – the Flanders Oud Bruin is a style I have enjoyed greatly in New Belgium’s La Folie and Monk’s Café.  Plus, I was in the mood for something nice and sour when I cracked this beer open.  My true excitement, though, was from the variety of barrels involved in process and I was hoping to pick out unique and distinctive flavors from each of the four barrels.  Here’s what I found:

Location: B Town Wine & Spirits
Cost: $7.99/12 oz. bottle
ABV: 9.39%
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: Flanders Oud Bruin
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.09 – Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: D+/2.43 – Poor
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate: 17
Brewery Description: Avery Oud Floris
Bottled:  June 14, 2012

APPEARANCE:  (3.5 out of 5) Deep, dark brown throughout, but when held up to the light a much lighter brown (think the color of the old, light brown M&Ms) comes in at the top of the glass.  A small head disappears as fast as the beer is poured, leaving a bright, off-white ring of foam around the edges of the glass.  Bubbles are flying up the sides of the glass, giving this beer a very lively look.  There is some lacing, but very minimal.

SMELL:  (4 out of 5) Funky.  There is a lot going on in the nose here, but in a very subtle way.  Some vanilla, a little oak, a hint of grapes, tart cherry and maybe even a little nuttiness waft up from the glass.  The aroma is pleasant and light, but also contains warning signs of an intensely sour beer.

TASTE:  (2 out of 5) Jesus.  This is like a sour punch in the mouth.  Tart cherry is the only thing I can taste at first.  It completely dominates the beer in a way I have never experienced.  It’s like Brian Urlacher nearly single-handedly bringing the Chicago Bears back from a 21-point deficit against the Arizona Cardinals in the second half in 2006, or Michael Jordan…well, anytime ever…that dominating.

After a few sips though, some other flavors emerge (or at least the palate is so desperate for them to do so that it imagines them).  Vinegar is second to the cherry and a good dose of wood in the form of vanilla and oak.  The caramel and spicy flavors of a typical Flanders Oud Bruin seem to have just been decimated.  Also, sadly, the bourbon and rum barrel flavors are nearly non-existent (save the hint of vanilla). 

MOUTHFEEL:  (1.5 out of 5) A little carbonation and a shit-ton of pucker is the only way to describe the feel of the Oud Floris.  This is not an easy beer to drink.  I never say this, but I’m going to have a hard time getting this one down.

OVERALL:  (2 out of 5) I love big, bold and aggressive beers.  I love gigantic double IPAs, huge Imperial Stouts and ridiculously sour beers, but this might have been the first sour beer I have tasted that has gone too far.  Call my palate undeveloped and immature, but I can’t taste all four barrels that this was aged in, which is an enormous disappointment. 

I have very, very rarely said this about a beer, but it is over the top.  Too much.  I would have loved to taste the subtle flavors of bourbon and rum barrels alongside the funk of wine barrels.  I had so much hope for this brew, but it ultimately let me down.  I think the only option here is to take my second bottle and age it for two, maybe three years and see what happens.

Now, with this all said, I think it is worth noting that there are plenty of people out there who disagree with me on this one, and for some extreme sour fans who I can see how this would work.  I also think that this missed the mark, not because of a lack of effort on Avery’s part, but because they tried to do something different and this time it simply didn’t work.  Maybe 67% on the cabernet was too much.   

As with many of their beers (and all of them in the Barrel-Aged Series), however, it was brewed as an experiment.  There are few breweries out there willing to take the same risks that Avery does.  Dogfish Head comes to mind immediately and as almost anyone who is a fan of the Milton, Delaware brewery can tell you, sometimes their crazy ideas simply don’t pan out.  When you take risks like this and do something completely out of the box you win some and you lose some.  95% of the time Avery wins, but I have to place this one in that rare 5% category.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beer and Space Part 2

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Oct. 25, 2012

Yesterday I set out on a little adventure through Colorado.  After writing this post, in which I discussed the idea that the actual physical space in which a beer is consumed makes a big difference in how that beer is perceived by the drinker.

I set out to have a beer at two different breweries.  My first destination was Dostal Alley in Central City, CO.  I picked this location out specifically because of the crowded nature and lack of space I had read about in Dostal Alley's reviews.  Several people had written about it being cramped and difficult to find the room to relax.

When I arrived I was sorely disappointed.  There seemed to be plenty of room!  I was there during a slower time, of course, but still the tables didn't seem too close together and the small, downstairs bar was empty.  The upstairs bar, however, was what I had read about and this was the main bar.  As a bar/brewpub/casino, the upstairs bar had video poker machines built into the bar and I began my adventure there.

The machines were not as tightly packed together as I had suspected, there was plenty of room for your beer.  However, it was fairly annoying to have the machine right there.  The room was full of bright sunlight, though, and it had nice, high ceilings and felt very open.  The interesting thing was that of the four other people at this big, long bar (which had about 14-15 seats) only one was actually playing the machine.

In terms of simply enjoying my beer, it was not all that difficult.  In fact, after sampling the brown ale and the IPA I decided to go with their Gulpin Gold House Special IPA and it was quite good; a nice, grassy, hoppy and assertive IPA.

The only real problem with the machines at the bar was that they made eating there a little annoying.  After ordering an appetizer I chose to move to the downstairs bar to finish it along with the rest of my beer.  I was the only person sitting there, which gave me the opportunity to learn a little more about the beer from the bartender and to spread out a bit.

So, yes, the weird bar setup did negatively impact my experience upstairs, but not in the same way I had imagined.  I wished that it had actually been as cramped as I suspected it would be.

Anyhow, on to another brewery.  I finished up my one beer in Central City and then made the nearly hour-long drive to Golden, Colorado - home of Golden City Brewery.  Golden City likes to call themselves the second largest brewery in Golden, but despite the literal truth of this statement, there is nothing large about it at all.

The tasting room is in the coach house of the owner's personal residence (which is also where the small batch brewing takes place).  When I opened the door to walk in, I hit someone in the back who was sitting at one of the few tables in what probably used to be someone's living room.  He had to stand up in order for me to get inside.  And then I had to walk sideways between two tables to get to the counter where there were no bar stools, or even room to stand.  I ordered a flight, which included 5 of their 7 beers (two were out) and I carefully carried the tray to the lone open table - a 2-person booth in the corner.

Once I sat down, I had some space to spread out.  I set the small menu which described the beers next to my tray and sipped as I read.  This was clearly a cramped room, but as I sat there I noticed that the small space was not having a negative impact on me.  This felt like home.  Cozy.  And with a room full of warm bodies it was a comfortable escape from the sleet and snow that was just beginning to fall outside.

So as it turns out, not every small, tightly packed drinking area is so bad.  That said, there is a large beer garden outside Golden City Brewery, which on a summer day would be the perfect place to enjoy a brew or two, but for this cold, dark wintery afternoon, cozy was the way to go.

With the snow coming down and night setting in I felt like it was time to head back to Boulder.  After downing a pint of water I headed back north and reflected on the space issue (and just how crazy I must be to have driven 90 miles over the course of three and a half hours just to get a couple beers).  And after thinking long and hard about IT, what it came down to was an old adage; the size doesn't really matter, it's just how you use it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Beer and Space

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Oct. 24, 2012

Today, I am free.

The bad news is that the weather isn’t cooperating, so my plans to grab a sandwich, head up into the mountains and go for a hike have been thwarted. 

The good news, however, is that I am still free to enjoy Colorado.  It’s funny how when the threat of work isn’t directly hanging over your head, the bad news doesn’t impact you so much.  Anyhow, the new plan is to find a new brewery – one that I have never been to before – and go check it out.  Of course, here in Boulder, I have pretty much covered everything.  Same goes for Ft. Collins.  And as for Denver, well, I’m just not feeling Denver today (although there are certainly plenty of days when I do).

Anyhow, during my search for a new brewery, I came across some reviews for Dostal Alley in Central City, Colorado.  The reviews are not all that positive.  The beer seems to get average scores, but a common thread running through the reviews is that the place is simply too small and cluttered to actually enjoy your beer.  One reviewer mentioned that if you “can ignore the casino games built into the bartop” it is actually a pretty cool place.  Another complained that what disappointed him most was the fact that there was “no room to relax and have a beer.”

Now I really want to go to Founders in Grand Rapids, MI
This got me thinking…just as the freedom of time can impact someone’s outlook, how much does the freedom of the space that you are in impact your enjoyment of a good beer?  And as I began thinking about it, I realized that I do need a good deal of room to spread out in order to get the most out of my beer. 

Now, I have had some amazing tasting experiences in crowded places.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of GABF last week, I have had plenty of great beers at Avery’s Taproom during a crowded happy hour and of course, the few too many Uncle Jacob’s Stouts I threw down at Avery’s 19th Anniversary Party were amazing, if not consumed with dozens of elbows constantly threatening to spill my beer.  With that said, I believe that I would have enjoyed all of these scenarios a lot more had I been given some more elbow room…and more time for that matter. 

As I think back on it, most of my truly great beer tasting experiences have been in non-rushed, quieter situations where I have had the physical space that I sometimes feel is necessary to think.  Maybe I’m just claustrophobic and haven’t quite come to terms with that yet, but I don’t freak out when I’m jammed in a tiny elevator with a bunch of other people and, as I mentioned above, I have actually enjoyed a lot of tightly squeezed drinking experiences.  So is enough physical space truly a key piece of the equation in drinking a good beer?

I think it might be.

Thinking back on some of my favorite beer moments – a quiet night at Steamworks Brewpub in downtown Durango, a bright, sunny afternoon in Ska’s spacious and very open-feeling tap room, a cold, but sunny winter afternoon in which Emily and I were the only two people in Three Floyds’ tasting room.  There are dozens of others I could mention here, but I do think space matters.

So, now that I have the time to do it, I think the only thing to do is to go and find out for sure...ya know, for science.  A beer at two different breweries with a strong focus on my surroundings should give me some more of an idea.  Of course the quality of the brew is likely to differ drastically, but the point is to go out and truly focus on how much my physical surroundings actually impact my enjoyment of the beer.  And on that note, I’ll be back soon…