Avery Brewing Company began their barrel-aged series some five years ago, with No. 1 Brabant being bottled in February of 2009. This provided an amazing outlet for experimental beers that were brewed with a “one and done” mentality, some of which soared to amazing heights and others that taught valuable lessons. Occasional releases that are typically released for sale at the brewery with small amounts reaching retail outlets, these beers run the gamut of styles from wild fermented ales aged in wine barrels to strong and sweet stouts begging to be sipped upon in front of a roaring fire.
Recently, the Brewtally Insane staff gathered for a tasting of the entire series to date, from No. 1 to No. 22 with the exception of the delayed No. 21 Black Eye. It was a relaxing evening of tasting as we sat around the fire in the chiminea and enjoyed a variety of hors d’oeuvres. Across the board, the range of beers was overall well received. Each of us had personal favorites and some that we would leave behind.
Greg: My personal favorite was without a doubt, No. 15 Momi Hiwa. The rich decadent chocolate melded with muted coconut and hints of rum hit dead center in my pleasure zone. Reminiscent of a Mounds candy bar, this is one for slow sipping on a cold winter’s night. A close second for me was No. 6 Margarete. The nose screamed out chocolate covered cherries and it tasted of bitter chocolate. Another amazing beer to savor. My biggest surprise was No. 18 Opuntia. I was reluctant to try this one with the tequila barrel aging but much to my amazement, the sweetness of the prickly pears with the tartness of the sour fermentation provided a perfect canvas for the tequila barrel to shine. I take back everything I’ve ever said about you tequila, you’re alright in my book.
Mark: Although it wasn’t easy to pick a favorite, for me, the sours stole the show. Each one special in their own way, dependent upon the type of barrels, yeast, age, fruit (if any) and so on. As for the cellaring impact, a few of the earlier releases seem to be reaching a plateau or even declining, while the middle releases seem to be shining right now. No. 5 Quinquepartite was probably my favorite of the night. The label says it’s a blend of “37% Ale aged in Cabernet Savignon barrels, 25% Ale aged in Chardonnay barrels, 21% Ale aged in Port barrels and 17% Ale aged in Zinfandel barrels”. An absolutely perfect Wild Ale that strikes a nice balance of sweet, tart and sour. Not over the top, Quinquepartite has clean flavors of ripe fruits and oak, while remaining lightly acidic and highly drinkable. After 3 years, No. 7 Dihos Dactylion is still holding up well. Dihos is a Wild Ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels that is vinous and offers up oak, sour cherries, ripe berries and jam, along with a touch of earthiness. No. 12 Oud Floris is a Flanders-style Oud Bruin that’s also drinking especially well. The beer’s full-bodied, tart and packed with sour cherries, oak, red wine flavors and thankfully less vinegary than other examples of the style.
Scott: Like Greg, my favorite was No. 15 Momi Hiwa. It’s a big, boozy, sweet beer, although the heat from the original release (a year ago) is much more subdued. The coconut and rum are a combination I love. Note that the coconut floatees are still there. My second favorite was No. 12 Oud Floris. I’m a huge oud bruin fan and I think time did this beer well. I think many of the sours held up pretty well, although a couple of the early ones from the series did fall a part a little bit. No. 3 Black Tot was obviously infected, but it was not nearly as bad as I was expecting. It had a sourness that dissipated quickly and revealed a roastiness that was not all that bad. Drinkable, but not necessarily enjoyable.
While this was an amazing experience, critically analyzing 21 beers in a single evening is a daunting task at best and we would advise anyone else looking to try the same range of beers to space it out over two evenings. We had originally planned to include verticals of Uncle Jacobs’ Stout and Rumpkin, but wisely decided to hold off for another day. Drink lots of water, you will thank us later!
Avery’s released some phenomenal beers in the series so far and with Tweak, Pump(KY)n and other fun releases coming later this year, Barrel Herder Andy Parker’s certainly seems to be on a roll. Be sure to check our site and follow Avery’s social media outlets for updates and releases dates for the series.
No. 2 Sui Generis – we opened two bottles and both were gushers. It’s drinking well, but ours were charged-up and we lost about 1/3 of each bottle.
No. 3 Black Tot – infected and was recalled by the brewery shortly after release.
No. 21 Black Eye – has yet to be released.
Lastly, we created a tasting menu that included the notes from each label. With such a wide variety of beers, they turned out to be pretty handy throughout the evening. I’ve attached a copy at the bottom if you’d like to steal them for your own tasting or e-mail us (brewtallyinsane at yahoo.com) and we’ll send you one directly.