Sunday, April 20, 2008

Avery Hog Heaven review

Avery Hog HeavenDuring my most recent beer run, I wanted to try a few new styles of beer. One of the styles that has eluded me so far is an American Barleywine. I set my sights on Avery Hog Heaven from Avery Brewing in Boulder, Colorado. This is considered one of the "big beers" as it is one of the strongest beer styles out there. You know up front that you've got to prepare yourself. The beer has a 9.2% ABV and an IBU rating of 104. Yikes! I've had a few strong beers before so I kinda know what to expect out of this. Or perhaps I don't. I've seen this beer in the cooler over and over again but I've hesitated buying it as it is a Barleywine. I'm still garnering a taste for the big hopped beers like IPA's so taking up another strong beer category was something I put off until now.

This beer hit me as soon as I popped the top off the silver-foil topped bomber bottle. I could smell the hops and alcohol from 3 feet away without really trying. OK, time to prep myself for a big beer. This beer is a deep garnet color with some golden highlights coming from the bottom of the belgian snifter glass. This beer came with a nice big tan head that left a decent sized bead throughout the sampling. Now I must admit that my Spring allergies were starting to kick in and my ability to smell things is slightly impaired, but this beer broke through my congestion with little effort. It is unlike any beer I have sniffed to date. Perhaps it the high alcohol and high doses of Columbus hops that this beer had. I know that this beer has a ton of 2-row and Caramel 75L malts but whoa, it had an intense aroma. I might even say it was slightly offensive at first but later I realized it was just intensely hopped.

The taste was again different than what I expected. It had a strong mouth feel but it was lightly carbonated. I could sense the alcohol right away, a slight burn. Within the first half a glass I could feel how strong it was. Some strong beers don't hit you right away but this one does. I can taste a lot of caramel malts in this beer, but I also get a slight aftertaste which is hard to describe. It reminds me slightly of cough syrup but not in a bad way. I found myself going easy on this drink as I knew it was going to really hit me hard after the entire 22oz bottle.

This is probably one of the most intense beers I've ever tasted. It's close to one of those Flying Dog beers but with a much different hop taste and feel. The beer coats the tongue slightly and leaves you wondering just what it is that this beer reminds you of. Strong is a good word for this beer and is not intended to be drunk by a Bud or Miller drinker. It's dry hopped to the max. It "burps" well after a few quick gulps. Not sure if I could drink more of this. Certainly 1 glass was enough for me. I'm not sure just how long it's been on the shelf at the store. It had a slight layer of dust on it. That probably means it's been there several months, but that should be ok with this style as it supposedly cellar ages well.

Being a big beer, I figured that the beer ranking sites would like it and I was right. Beeradvocate gave it a B+ while Ratebeer put it in the 96th percentile of all beers with a 3.81/5 ranking. Hmm, that seems very generous for this beer. If you're not a Barleywine fan you may not like this beer initially and it will take some getting used to. After the first glass I was wondering if I really wanted to finish the full bottle.

By all respects, this beer looks good, smells intense and has a taste unlike most beers I've had. It's hard to really enjoy this beer without prior experience with barleywines. So perhaps my rating of this beer is premature in coming as I've not had any other barleywine to compare it too. It's not one of my favorites but is something I may want to revisit later once I've had a few more barleywines. But for now, I'm giving it a 3.1 out of 5 rating.

Related articles:
- Avery Salvation review.
- Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale review.
- Avery Fifteen Anniversary Ale review.

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