A Big Punch in the Face

Posted on 06.18.08 8:30PM under Alcohol, Barley Wine, Hops, IPA, Tasting

Avery The MaharajaAvery makes a lot of great beer. They have a solid lineup of standard beer like IPA, Wit, Porter, etc. that comes in user friendly six pack containers. They also have a wicked lineup of big beer like RIS, IIPA, Barley Wine, etc. that comes in brain smashing 22-ounce bomber bottles. Finally there are a select few monstrous offerings so huge that they come in single 12-ounce bottles. It’s safe to say that Avery spans the spectrum of beer choices.

I began my beer-loving journey inspired by the bitter bite of the hop that is epitomized in IPAs. No matter how deep into other styles or how broad through the world of beer that my journey takes me, the IPA remains my anchor to what I really love about beer. When it comes down to it, I’m a sucker for a hop bomb.

Avery does a tremendous job of appealing to the hop fiend in me. Hog Heaven was the first Avery brew that I really sought out. It was this past winter, and I was practically obsessed with Barley Wines. One day I read about the Avery Hog Heaven as a very hoppy Barley Wine that was barely Barley Wine, and more Hop Wine, or so they said. I was intrigued. Amidst Russian Imperial Stouts, Winter Warmers, and more traditional Barley Wines, the hops had become somewhat of a distant memory. I was eager for a reminder of the hoppy goodness that got me started. The Hog Heaven delivered. But this is not about the Hog Heaven.

This is about a more seasonal seasonal. Avery makes an Imperial IPA called The Maharaja. “The Great King.” It first came out in March or April, but I was sadly unable to procure it locally. Fortunately, I was able to sample it at the Craft Brewer’s Conference in San Diego, but in that field of absurdly hopped beers and more IPAs than you could shake a stick at (?!) it lost a bit of the mystique I had built up for it. Not that it wasn’t great, but it was just another beer sample at a hospitality tent, even if that was the tent where I actually stood in line with Adam Avery for a few minutes!

I languished for the time when I could once again sample the royally hoppy nectar that our friends from Boulder lovingly prepare each Spring. Finally, about a week ago, my friend Ed Cramer, proprietor of Gordon’s Yellow Front beer store in New London, CT emailed me to tell me that my precious Maharaja had finally arrived. A fresh batch, bottled in May (batch 8) was in the house, ready to move.

I wasted as little time as I could, and got down there to pick up a few bottles. Even at nearly $9 a bottle, this beer is so decadent that it’s worth every penny. I only picked up two bottles, and I wish I got more. I’ll have to go back there soon and pick up several additional bottles.

So you might be wondering, “What does this have to do with a punch in the face?”

Some beers are like a kind stranger. They meet you and greet you, and they’re so gracious with their fine balance and delicate finesse. On the other hand, some beers are like a big brother. They get in your face and hold you down forcing to slap your own face in a strangely enjoyable ritual of abuse.

You might guess that a 10.2% ABV 100+ IBU IPA like the Maharaja is not the delicate beer with finesse. It is the punch in the face. And that’s just what I love in an IIPA! I love to take a whiff, and almost have to pull back at the fully pungent piney earthy aromas. Then you sip it and it just smacks your tongue around with its layered hop assault. From the first hop flavors to the incredible hop bitterness to the enduring brutal finish, this beer makes no mistake in letting you know it has had its way with you. Then suddenly, a few moments later, there’s a subtle alcohol burn just to remind you the full scope of what you’re up against.

Freaky Avery The MaharajaFrom the first sip to the last, this beer makes you feel like a big bouncer has just picked you up by your shirt and pushed you against the wall – hard! And then he’s pushed your face and poked your chest as he yelled at you for a few minutes, and then let you down. Your heart races as you realize you’ve just gotten away with something and you quickly escape.

To me, drinking a beer like this is sort of like mountain biking in a big downhill section right in the middle of a brutal cross country ride after a long climb. It’s just this sort of rush of adrenaline that is as strong in the initial anticipation for the event as it is at the end of it. But at the same time, it is the type of rush that could overwhelm you should you seek it too often. Maharaja every night? Maybe not. Maharaja once a week? Definitely!

Read Comments

  1. Posted by Joe Cline on 06.21.08 8:13 PM

    yo man. great blog. where’s the rss feed?


  2. Posted by Keith Brainard on 06.21.08 9:36 PM

    Thanks, Joe!

    Here’s the RSS feed: