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Avery Tectum Et Elix

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The last year has seen many breweries upgrading their facilities and increasing production, often dramatically. Colorado's Avery brewing is among those ranks, with a new facility, increased production, and a greatly expanded barrel aging program. 2 years ago, they had 250 barrels aging a variety of beers in their warehouse and they're now at around 2000 barrels. This a welcome development and probably explains how I could get my grubby hands on several of their barrel aged beers over this past year. I'm pretty enamored with those beers, so when this beer, part of a recent trend that's been dubbed Sour Spring, showed up in my local bottle shop, I took the plunge despite never having had any of their sours before (unless you count the infected Black Tot, I guess).

Tectum Et Elix translates to "roof and grains", a reference to their new brewing facility. The new building also seems to be the inspiration for the cryptic little description for this beer, number 26 in their barrel aged series: "Conceived in the alley. Born under a roof on Nautilus. Where 'drain' isn't just a noun but finally, once again, a verb as well. FINALLY!" The new brewery is located on Nautilus Court in Boulder, Colorado, so that line is easy to figure out. Presumably there's an alley next to the building where people hang out and come up with beers or something. And the notion of drain being a verb rather than just a noun is perhaps a reference to draining barrels after a long wait? This beer spent 9 months in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels along with a mix of yeasts and bacterial beasties (apparently straying from their normal Brett strain to experiment with others). Worth the wait? Let's take a closer look:

Avery Tectum Et Elix

Avery Tectum Et Elix - Pours a clear, golden orange color, radiant with a finger of white head. Smells intensely earthy, lots of funk, hints of fruit, sour cherries, but really earthy, horsey, barnhouse stuff (supposedly due to the use of different Brett strains than normal Avery sours). Taste is more on the fruity side, sour cherries, some earthy funk, sweet fruit, and a little vinegary sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, moderately acidic, light bodied. Given that the normal barrel aged Avery beer is somewhere north of 14% ABV, this sucker feels downright approachable at 5.5%... Overall, it's a nice little sour number, nothing ecstatic, but really very nice and quite tasty and it grew on me as I drank. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/24/15. Bottled: Apr 16 2015. Production: 908 cases.

On deck is Insula Multos Collibus, a sour aged in bourbon barrels with cherries. After that, who knows. The production on these things is way, way up, so I'm sure we'll see more Avery barrel aged wonders as time goes on. In the meantime, I've got my hands full with VT and Boston beer, so it may be a while...

Uncle Jacob's Double Feature

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While the origins of Bourbon are not well documented, there are a few legends and claims that are frequently made. One credits an early distiller by the name of Jacob Spears with being the first to call his product "Bourbon whiskey" (named after the location of his 1790 distillery: Bourbon County, Kentucky). This sort of obscure historical reference would normally be enough for a brewer to get all hot and bothered and brew a Bourbon barrel aged beer, but Adam Avery's sister discovered this tidbit while doing a genealogy project and it turns out that Jacob Spears is their 6th Great Grand Uncle.

As a fan of Bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts, I've been on the lookout for this beer for a while, and as luck would have it, I snagged a bottle late last year not realizing that it was a 2013 vintage. Then, when the new 2015 batch came rolling around, I started seeing it everywhere and obviously I cannot resist such temptation. It was fate, and I knew I needed to drink both side-by-side. Of course, both are 16.5+% ABV, so it's important to find a night where I could pace myself. So here we are, comparing two vintages of Uncy Jacob's Stout:

Avery Uncle Jacobs Stout

Avery Uncle Jacob's Stout (2015 Vintage) - Pours an almost cloudy (hard to tell, since it's so dark) pitch black color color with a finger of brown head. Smells of dark, roasted malts, a little caramel, bourbon, oak and vanilla, maybe a faint hint of coffee. Taste is all rich caramel, bourbon, oak, and vanilla, faint hints of dark malt in the background, an some booze in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, surprisingly well carbonated, but still a little sticky in the finish. Thick and viscous, I'm guessing a relatively low attenuation here. A pleasant amount of boozy heat. Overall, it's a pretty fantastic Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, worth seeking out. A low A

Beer Nerd Details: 16.9% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 4/11/15. Batch No. 4. Bottled Feb 13, 2015.

Avery Uncle Jacob's Stout (2013 Vintage) - Looks pretty much the same, though I guess it's a clearer looking beer, even if that doesn't really matter because it's so dark. Smells much more of bourbon and oak, a little caramel and vanilla, brown sugar with an almost fruity aroma. Taste is similar to the 2015, but it again features a new brown sugary molasses type of character and less in the way of dark roasted malts. It feels a little more sweet and a little less boozy. Mouthfeel is the same - full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, a little sticky. Perhaps not quite as thick, though it's still a pretty viscous beer. The booze is a little more tame here as well. Overall, it's another fantastic BBA stout, a little sweeter and more integrated than the 2015. Just a tad too sweet though, so I'd go with 2015, though they're very close. A high A-

Beer nerd Details: 16.53% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 4/11/15. Batch No. 2. Bottled Jun 27, 2013. Production: 848 Cases.

So there you have it, a beer I'll totally get every year if I luck into it at Whole Foods like I did this year (while I had given up beer for a while, no less). It is certainly knocking at the top tier door, even if it isn't quite there just yet. But you never know. I gave Parabola an A- the first time I had that, and now it's an A+ candidate (yes, this is a thing, I should really get on that, seeing as though I have not awarded an A+ in, like, 2 years).

Avery Pump[KY]n

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And the parade of high-ABV Avery "session" beers continues. What's that? 17.22% ABV isn't a session beer? Well, according to Adam Avery, it is: "I try to just limit myself to one per drinking session. So I'd call it a sessionable beer... your session just ends quicker." In fairness, it's only about 13-14% more than your typical session beer. Someone alert Ding.

I greatly enjoyed Rumpkin, Avery's rum barrel aged pumpkin beer, and what we have here is a bourbon barrel aged pumpkin porter. Oddly, I wound up having this both on tap and from the bottle on Friday night (a local drinkery had just tapped it before we arrived for happy hour), so I've got you covered. Or something like that.

Avery Pump[KY]n

Avery Pump[KY]n - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells full of pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, a little in the way of bourbon, oak, and vanilla as well. Taste is very rich and sugary, but not super sweet, lots of pumpkin pie spice comes through in the middle, with that bourbon, oak, and vanilla coming through more towards the finish, which is fairly boozy when you start drinking, and gets more boozy as you go along. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, rich, and chewy. The spice comes through a little as well, as does the warming booze character. Overall, it's pretty damn great, easily the equal of Rumpkin, maybe better. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 17.22% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 10/24/14. Batch No. 1. Bottled Sept 12 2014.

At this point, while I'm pretty much done with Pumpkin beers for the year, I'm on board with Avery's barrel aging program in general. It seems to be expanding, so I'm guessing we'll see more of their stuff around here too. Next up, if I can snag one: Uncle Jacob's Stout.

Avery Rumpkin

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Sometimes the Kaedrin beer acquisition department conspires to kick my ass with their high-ABV game, which of course, means they've gone on a purchasing jag of Avery beers. First, there was the rather fantastic 5 Monks a couple weeks ago, a beer which has earned the dubious title of most-alcoholic-beer-I've-ever-consumed. Then their machinations directed me to a bar serving a recent incarnation of The Beast Grand Cru, which depending on its exact vintage was somewhere between 16%-18% (and with that one, you could really tell*). This reminded me of the Kaedrin cellaring department's meticulous aging of a bottle of 2010 Beast, which I figure is about ready to drink (the cellarman has been instructed to make preparations).

Finally, this past weekend, a chance occurrence lead a Kaedrin rep to overpay for a bottle of Rumpkin (amongst other treasures). In a bit of serendipity, circumstances sought to keep clean and sober for most of Saturday, so when I finally had a chance to dip into my fridge for a libation, this single bottle seemed mildly appropriate. Clocking in at 16.73% ABV, it's not quite the monster that 5 Monks was, but it shares a lot of similar flavors. It is basically a huge imperial pumpkin ale that has been aged in rum barrels, one of their regular barrel aged releases. The flavor profile is similar to 5 Monks, but it's got those additional pumpkin pie spice notes that really do differentiate it. It's an admirable and intense take on a much maligned style, but it matched well with my annual horror movie marathon (which is being chronicled over at my generalist blog, if you are so inclined) and of course, 'tis the season for mutated fucking gourds:

Avery Rumpkin

Avery Rumpkin - Pours a very dark amber color, brown in the glass, but with beautiful highlights when held up to the light, finger of off white head that has decent retention. Smells intense, lots of pie spice, cinnamon and ginger coming through loud and clear, and the rum barrel character adds a rich sweetness to the proceedings, a complement to the spice rather than something that overpowers. Taste is very sweet, lots of rich, sugary molasses, a little caramel, with a spicy/fruity note emerging in the middle (that pumpkin and pie spice coming through), followed by boozy rum, vanilla, and oak. Mouthfeel starts of very smooth, full bodied, rich, and syrupy, with ample carbonation, ultimately yielding to a more boozy, hot finish. Overall, this is very complex and interesting, a little sweet and boozy, but well, this is my kind of pumpkin beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.73% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a snifter on 10/11/14. Batch No. 4. Bottled Sept 22, 2014.

Alas, aside from the cellared Beast, no more Avery brews on the future horizon, but I wouldn't put it past the acquisition department springing a couple monster Avery beers on me. Bring it on, I say. In the meantime, they've got some other treats in store, and a line on some others.

Update: I have spoken too soon. A particularly ambitious Kaedrin purchasing rep from the acquisition department has informed me that I have a bottle of Pum[KY]n (Bourbon Barrel Pumpkin Porter) incoming. I'm pretty sure he's trying to kill me. Please send help.

* Seriously, The Beast was uber boozy and hot. I didn't take copious notes, but I plan on comparing this one to a cellared bottle in a few weeks or so. A friend got a coffee stout called Tweak, which also clocks in at around 16% ABV (I took a sip, and boy, the alcohol was much more hidden in that sucker. A pity it had so much coffee in it. Worth trying if you like coffee beers...)

Avery 5 Monks

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Well, let's hope this goes better than the last time I tried a beer from Avery's Barrel-Aged Series. Black Tot sounded good in theory, but wound up infected. Such are the perils of barrel aging. This one shows promise, if you can call not being infected promise. Which I think I can, so I will. You're not the boss of me!

So anyway, they're calling this a Belgian Style Quintupel ale, which is like 5 times better than regular beer. It's kind of a joke, but then this does clock in at a hefty 19.39% ABV which, yes, looks to have nudged out Black Tuesday as the strongest beer I've ever had. Fortunately, this time around, we've got a simple 12 ounce bottle, so it appears that Avery isn't trying to completely annihilate me. The ultra-high ABV game gets tiresome pretty quickly, but sometimes it can work. Is that the case here? Only one way to find out:

Avery 5 Monks

Avery 5 Monks - Pours a turbid, muddy brown color with half a finger of tan head that fizzes down to a ring around the edge of the glass pretty quickly. Smells of dark fruits, molasses, and boozy bourbon. The taste hits pretty hard with that molasses character, with some really rich caramel and brown sugar, maybe even a hint of dark chocolate, less in the way of dark fruit than the nose would imply, though maybe some of it peeks through. Tons of booze, bourbon, and a little of the rich sugary oak and vanilla character from the barrels. It's sweet, but never approaches cloying levels. Mouthfeel is rich, chewy, thick, and full bodied, a real monster. Lots of alcohol heat, it doesn't quite burn on the way down, but you'll get a warming feeling in your belly pretty quickly. Despite this prominent alcohol character, it's not as overwhelming as you might expect - there's enough other stuff going on that it all works. Very well carbonated and a surprising lack of stickiness make it more approachable than you might think. Overall, this is intense and complex, a boozy monster that has no real pretensions of balance, but works nonetheless. Kinda reminiscent of a boozier version of The Bruery's anniversary beers, with more molasses than fruit. It's probably the sort of thing that should be shared 3 ways from a 12 ounce bottle like this, but it made for an excellent sipping beer, something that works over long periods of time. I like. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 19.39% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 9/27/14. Bottled: July 17 2014.

So yes, I will most certainly be seeking out more Barrel Aged Avery. I actually have a bottle of something I've been aging for a while that might be worth pulling out now, so keep your eyes peeled. I'm sure we'll get to it soon enough.

November Beer Club

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Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded friends from work who get together every month at a local BYOB for libations and fun. This month, we hit up a local BBQ joint, which is always nice. Got me some smoked Chorizo, Brisket, and some fixins which made for a great accompaniment to all the beer. And there was a lot of it this time around. The picture is actually missing a bunch of bottles because we did not account for people showing up later with their own stuff.

beerclub-november13.jpg
(Click for larger version)

So yeah, lots of stuff this month, so these notes are almost certainly useless, but for the sake of posterity, I'm including them anyway. Because I'm a good person, that's why. Yeah, let's get to it: in approximate order of drinking (not necessarily pictured):

  • Southern Tier Krampus - An "Imperial Helles" is sorta like a contradiction in terms, but hey, it's an amped up Helles, and it works well enough. Nice uncommon hop character gives an otherwise clean beer the punch it needs. Really quite nice. B+
  • Ithaca Excelsior! White Gold - Bottle wasn't quite a gusher, and we managed to not lose any, but it was hugely carbonated and most of us poured a cup of foam that resolved into more normal beerlike appearance in a minute or two. Once we got to it, it was pretty damn good. Nice Belgian yeast character, wheat is there but not as dominant as you might think (slightly reminiscent of something like St. Bernardus Tokyo). This was one of the first beers we tasted, and I liked it a lot, but we revisited it towards the end of the night and damn, it got almost (not quite) sour. Big fruity esters started showing up when it was warm. Again, not quite sour, but it was going in that direction. All in all, I enjoyed this more than the Ithaca Excelsior Rye beer I had recently... B+
  • Victory Root Beer - Yep, it's a root beer! I'm no expert (hay, there's no alcohol in this!?), but it's really good as root beers go.
  • Sprecher Bootlegger's Bourbon Barrel Hard Root Beer - Not sure I would have pegged this as having anything to do with a bourbon barrel, let alone an alcoholic beverage at all, but perhaps the power of suggestion lead me to believe that there was some bourbon present in the taste. Or something. Ultimately, it drinks like a good root beer, which is nice...
  • Avery White Rascal - A beer I've had before and greatly enjoyed, it doesn't quite fit in with a tasting like this - it is easily overwhelmed by the other brews of the night. Still, I like this as a lawnmower beer on a hot day (alas, it's pretty cold here these days). B
  • River Horse Double Wit - I don't know if it's the 7% ABV or the way this was spiced, but it didn't really connect with me. It's not bad at all, and other folks appreciated the different take on spice and booze level, but it never quite hit me where I wanted it to. B-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Schwarzbier - We need to get on Ken to start entering his beers into untappd or something, because these are getting good. Not my favorite style, but it's a nice dark lager style beer, clean and crisp, lighter than it looks, and quite flavorful. Toasty but not quite full on roast. Me likey. B+
  • Kaedrin Xmas Dubbel - My homebrewed dubbel, with a slight dose of cinnamon when I was bottling, is actually drinking really well right now. The regular dubbel has really matured and changed a lot over time, getting more and more raisiny, but this one was more subdued (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'll leave it at B+
  • Lost Abbey Deliverance - One of my other contributions, and a beer I've reviewed before! It's still great. A-
  • Atwater Vanilla Java Porter - While opening this directly after Deliverance was a supremely bad idea, I still get the impression that this would underwhelm. It does have a nice vanilla character, but it's a little thinner than I generally want out of a stout and while I'm not a big fan of coffee, it's nonexistent here. Certainly a drinkable beer and would be welcome change of pace at a macro bar, but it's not something to really seek out. C+
  • Spring House Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout - Can I just point you to a review from a couple weeks ago? No? Well too bad, cause that's what I'm doing. Still a B+ in my book.
  • Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale - The younger, weaker, smaller sibling to Really Old Brown Dog is a rather straightforward brown ale, which naturally has its merits (nice toasted malt and some heft to it) but again, should've probably opened this earlier in the night. Still glad I tried this, just to give context to Really old Brown Dog if not for its regular solid nature. B
  • Saucony Creek Chocolate Cherry Schnickelfritz - An object lesson in things sounding better than they taste, this seems to be a relatively well made imperial milk stout, but it's got this artificial feeling cherry aspect that sorta ruined the beer for me. Not an abomination, but not particularly good either. I guess all the beers I bring can't be winners! C
  • Ommegang Game Of Thrones #2 - Take the Black Stout - These Game of Thrones beers are actually pretty solid introductions to the whole Belgian beer world, and they work well enough for beer dorks too (a neat trick, appealing to the jaded hardcore and mainstream alike). I actually would call this more of a roasty Belgian Strong Dark rather than a full on stout, but to each their own. It's got a nice Belgian yeast character, spice and light fruit, with a hint of that roasted malt too, but the carbonation (and presumably attenuation) cuts through more than your typical stout. Still, it's very good, if not my favorite Ommegang beer. B+
  • River Horse Special Ale - No idea why this was opened so late in the night, but it's such a profoundly average beer that I doubt it would have made that much of an impression earlier in the night. There's absolutely nothing wrong wit it, and it's certainly a step up from fizzy yellow stuff light lagers, but its not really something to get excited about. C+
  • Victory Harvest Ale - I totally fell in love with Victory's Harvest Ale last year (and while I'm not a big Pils guy, the Harvest Pils was pretty good too), but this year's take fell completely flat to me. Not bad, per say, but something about this is rubbing me the wrong way. Perhaps it was a different hop variety, perhaps they used their Kolsch yeast instead of their normally clean IPA yeast, but whatever the case, it didn't inspire like last years. Again, it's pretty good, but it's disappointing. And I had this a couple weeks ago straight from the source too, so it's not just palate fatigue talking here! B
Yikes, that was a lot of beers. Luckily there were a lot of people in attendance, so my tastes were limited on most of these (yet another reason to take my notes with a grain of salt), but this was a really fun installment. Here's to hoping the December one will be just as great!

Avery Black Tot

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Infection! With my love for barrel aged beers, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Barrels are difficult to sterilize and their rough, permeable surface provides an environment conducive to wild beasties like bacteria or wild yeasts. Of course, brewers like Russian River and Jolly Pumpkin are intentionally trying to sour their beers, so they love to use barrels because of the way they can harbor said beasties. However, this beer, the third in Avery's barrel aged series, was meant to be an imperial oatmeal stout aged in rum barrels. A few months after release, random reports of the "tot taint" started trickling in, and Adam Avery quickly responded to the BeerAdvocate and RateBeer communities, allowing folks with sour bottles to send the empty back to the brewery and get some sort of compensation. Very big of him, if you ask me. I'm not sure if every bottle is infected, but in Avery's letter, they mentioned that you should drink it as soon as possible (so, uh, I guess I shouldn't have drank this 3 years after bottling!)

Avery Black Tot

Avery Black Tot - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with a finger of light brown head. Smells faintly of that rum barrel aging, along with some fruity malt character that could foretell infection. Tastes... yep, infected. Definite sourness here, perhaps not completely overwhelming, but not exactly pleasant either. Astringent, with some bitterness apparent, not a particularly good combo. Mouthfeel is fine, full bodied, well carbonated, a little too astringent though. Overall, I'd love to have had a non-infected bottle of this stuff. As it is, it's a slog to get through... D

Beer Nerd Details: 10.08% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 2/16/13. Bottled: Jan 13 2010. Production: 315 cases.

It's a shame, as I don't think I've ever had a rum barrel aged beer before, and I'd really like to see how that turns out. Fortunately, I've got another, untainted bottle of rum barrel aged beer that came along in the same trade with Dave, so be on the lookout for that one. (I still made out well on the trade overall, so no worries there!) Despite the infection on this beer, I'm still looking forward to hitting up Avery from time to time. I've actually got at least one Avery beer aging in the cellar, one of the few, the proud, the purposely aged!

Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

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Great moments in trademark history: When Adam Avery of Avery Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing realized they both had a beer in their lineups called "Salvation" they considered several options. They could have pursued lawsuits, but that's boring and costly. They could have taken their dispute to Thunderdome, but they couldn't book the venue in time (also: it's a fictional venue). Instead, they simply decided to blend the two beers together, neatly defusing the crisis. Apparently over a drunken night at Russian River's brewpub (well, probably not, but I like to think of my brewing heroes as being constantly drunk), they mixed together the two beers in varying degrees and figured out the right proportions, eventually scaling the process up to commercial levels and releasing the result as "Collaboration Not Litigation Ale". It's pretty much the poster child of craft brewer solidarity and it's one of the reasons beer nerds love this whole craft beer thing (though there are obviously some folks who just don't get it...)

I've seen bottles of this around in rare instances, but never pulled the trigger. After my Pliny the Younger adventure on Sunday, I noticed this was also available and thus made the best of the situation:

Avery and Russian River Collaboration Not Litigation

Russian River and Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale - Pours deep brown color with a little amber peeking through and a solid finger of light tan head... Tons of lacing, industrial strength stuff, you could barely see through the glass even after I was finished. Smell is very spicy and peppery with a little bready Beligian character too. Taste is also quite spicy, with a nice sweet flavor, perhaps dark candi, and a little fruit. Mouthfeel very smooth, lightly carbonated, but still enough to cut through the malt and alcohol... As it warms, the texture becomes almost creamy... Overall, quite good and I'm really glad I got to try one of these! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.72% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 3/18/12.

Russian River's Salvation has actually been on my to-drink list for a while, I just haven't gone out and gotten a bottle. For that matter, I've not had Avery's Salvation either. I think it'd actually be very interesting to try one of each, then the collaboration, just to see how the flavors have blended. Avery is certainly a brewery I haven't had a ton of exposure to, but I've had almost uniformly good experiences with them (and Russian River too)...

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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