Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Avery - The Maharaja Imperial IPA

What have I gotten myself into?  I generally do not find myself drinking IPAs as much as other beers, let alone Imperial IPAs.  They are usually proud to unapologetically destroy your mouth with hops.  While I do look for intense experiences in my beer (read: intense, rich flavors), I am generally not one for an exercise in painful endurance.  If that were the case, I would train to swim the English Channel or watch a marathon of "Sex in the City."  For the record that is the only Sex in the City reference I will ever make in this blog.  However, I found myself buying this bottle of Avery Brewing Co's - The Maharaja Imperial IPA for several reasons.
          The first is that I wish to develop my own palate.  I like to think I can tell a good IPA when I get it, even if they are not my "go to beer."  The second is that this looks like an amazing example of the style.  It lists the following things on the label:
1.  102 IBUs
2.  10.54% ABV
3.  "Supremely Limited"  (Yes!)
4.  Batch no. 13.  Mar, 2011 (Batch numbers are almost ALWAYS a good sign)
5.  Big shiny label.
6.  Apparently it is part of their "Dictator Series."

While I have not yet looked the "Dictator Series" up online, usually when a brewer introduces a series it means they are pretty damn serious about what they are doing.  It usually takes extra time and money to make as well as new marketing costs.  It is usually something that the brewer is proud of and I am ready to find out if they should be.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 11/12
Despite the beer's rating of 102 IBUs the primary aroma is not that of hops.  In fact, it is rather sweet carrying with it floral hops and fruity esters of apricots.  A bit of caramelly malt can be detected behind the esters and is an excellent companion to the apricot (caramelization & apricots are both in a good cobbler, right?).  After the head dies down, more traditional hop aromas arise, adding some pine and spice to the mix.

Appearance 3/3
Maharaja pours a translucent, bright, burnt orange.  The more than adequate head is the lightest of beige and leaves copius lacing on my glass.  Head retention is also excellent and leaves a thick collar, even toward the end of my glass.  EBC: 29-30

Picture is my own
Flavor 19/20
There are so many taste sensations that I hardly know where to begin.  Initial sips offer slightly tangy hops, but are overall a bit mellow and belie the IPA style.  There is a lot of the caramel malt that was only faintly present in the aroma, and quite a lot of malt going on here for an IPA, let alone a IIPA.  The caramel flavor blends nicely into the backbone of the beer where the hops become more present and eventually take their rightful and primary role.  The hops are spicy, grassy, and even some herbs are present.  They are all strong, but not overpowering and do not destroy the other flavors in the beer.  What a boquet of hops!  The finish emphasizes more of the spicy hops and brings back the piney notes from the aroma, while the caramel malt still clings to the tongue.  The aftertaste starts with the bitter of the finish, but fades nicely to a pleasant level - a very neat sensation.  The aftertaste is also the only point where the alcohol level of the brew becomes truly present as the warmth can be detected, despite its prior camouflage.

Mouthfeel 4/5
This is a medium-high bodied beer with a higher level of creaminess.  This texture when combined with the rich flavors and the high alcohol content, truly make this beer a "sipper."  The carbonation is spot on and provides the brew with plentiful, tiny bubbles that last until the end and never become prickly.

Overall Impression 9/10
A fantastic beer on several levels.  The hops are featured in several distinct styles and yet are balanced out with a complimentary malt sweetness.  The appearance is near perfect.  Body, carbonation, creaminess, and warmth are all a fantastic aspects of this beer.  Furthermore, one bottle (1 pt, 6 fl oz) on an empty stomach will get you feeling pretty darn good.

Overall Impression 45/50 (Outstanding)
This beer is not only BIG, but it is also appropriately balanced for the style and technically sound on almost every level.  I am pleasantly surprised that this IIPA did not attempt to murder me with hoppy bitterness, but instead featured the flavors of the hops with their bitterness and displayed the malt as well.  For those IIPA or DIPA fans, this will not disappoint.  For those who are reluctant to be slaughtered by hops and bitterness, I strongly suggest you give this one a try.  It is not a mild hop flavor by any means, but it does offer more than punishment.  In fact, it is a damn good beer.  It offers sweetness, body, a complex hop bouquet, and a nice balance.  It is too bad it is only a "supremely limited" release because although strong IPAs are not my #1 choice, I would certainly purchase this again.  Big kudos to Avery for this effort!

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