Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review: Avery Sixteen vs. Avery Fifteen

Avery Brewing has thrown itself a birthday party with the release of Sixteen, the latest of the Boulder brewery’s anniversary ales.

Sixteen doesn't go too far afield from the saison style that has served Avery well in the past. Saison is a light Belgian style that readily showcases ingredients that the brewers choose to add. Sometimes, an odd ingredient can overpower a saison. But not in this case.

Sixteen was brewed with peaches, jasmine and honey, thus inevitably becoming known as the “Three Strippers” beer. Avery fermented Sixteen with Dupont yeast and hopped it with Sterlings. It comes in at 7.69 percent ABV and, as is typical of saisons, lacks any noticeable bitterness.

Soggy Coaster picked up a 22-oz. bomber bottle during a recent visit to the brewery. Sixteen was bottled in May 2009.

Sixteen pours a pale yellow with little head. The color was reminiscent of a witbier, and Sixteen is in fact brewed with malted wheat. The aroma suggests that characteristic Belgian funk.

Sixteen tastes a bit like white wine. Tartness leads, yielding to a gentle honey sweetness. It’s a refreshing and complex beer suggestive of spring and summer. It paired well with a fusilli pasta dish topped with mushroom, tomato, sage, garlic, basil and parmesan.

As luck would have it, Soggy Coaster happened upon a bottle of Fifteen soon afterward at a Durango liquor store. It was just sitting in a refrigerator a year after its release. Apparently the $6.79 price tag for a bomber bottle deterred shoppers for 12 months, much to Soggy Coaster’s benefit. Given that I lack the patience to age a bottle for a year, it was awfully nice of Liquor World to do it for me.

Sixteen's immediate predecessor, Fifteen took home a silver medal at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival in the “experimental” beer category. A Belgian Brettanomyces ale, Fifteen was brewed with black mission figs, hibiscus flowers and white pepper. It was bottled in April 2008.

Fifteen poured a color a shade darker than honey, but lighter than copper. The ale showed minimal head. Age has really brought Fifteen’s tartness to the front. Brettanomyces yeast will sour a beer with age, and that has clearly happened here. Soggy Coaster enjoys a good sour Belgian, so the change was entirely welcome.

Sixteen was more complex that Fifteen. If anything, Fifteen has become less complex with time as the sourness has come to dominate. I didn’t get any of the figs or flowers as promised in Fifteen’s taste, but some white pepper could be discerned. By contrast, Sixteen did show some peaches and honey.

Avery uses a metal basket as essentially a tea bag to flavor beers with fruits and spices. They basically just dunk it in the tank.

I’m glad I waited to deliver a verdict on Sixteen. A taster I had at Avery’s brewery was oddly flat and lifeless, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Savoring a bottle with dinner at home allowed Sixteen’s true flavors to emerge.

I write quite a bit about Avery. Simply put, it is among the best breweries in the country and we’re lucky to have it in Colorado. Avery’s big, experimental beers keep pushing the boundaries of what beer can be. The anniversary ales are one component of that.

It’s heartening to see Sixteen improve upon and add depth to Avery’s experiments with Fifteen. Give Fifteen a B+. Sixteen deserves an A-. Happy birthday, Avery.

As previously noted, Avery is collaborating with Durango's own Ska Brewing Co. to brew an imperial hefeweizen. Last I heard, Adam Avery was supposed to be at Ska on July 1 to actually brew the beer. It should be released toward the end of July. I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

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