Saturday, May 24, 2008

Avery Fifteen Anniversary Ale review

Avery Fifteen Anniversary AleAvery Brewing Company of Boulder, Colorado just celebrated it's 15th anniversary this year and as it has traditionally done over that last several years, it has come out with a unique beer to commemorate it's birthday. 2008's Anniversary Ale entitled Avery Fifteen is described as a wild farmhouse ale and is fermented with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast considered to be a strain normally to be avoided by brewers unless of course that's the thing you had in mind. Whenever you brew with "brett" you know it's gonna be a wild ride as the organism tends to give a sour and somewhat tart affect.

Last years Fourteen ale was a dark American Strong Ale and was praised by the beer masses. Could this year's ale be even better?

So how did Avery Fifteen stack up? This beer poured a nice golden color with slight reddish overtones. The sunset shone through this brew with nice clarity. There was a nice big white head to this beer and had an abundance of bubbles coming up from the bottom of the tulip glass. So far so good. This looks like a great beer.

Avery created this ale with a combination of pale malt and wheat as it's base. Then they dug deep for some unique flavors and include some black mission figs, a sprinkling of hibiscus flowers and a dash of white pepper. Instead of using a typical Belgian yeast, Avery decided to experiment a bit and ferment this brew with Brettanomyces. Wikipedia describes it as:

"Brettanomyces is viewed as a contaminant and the characteristics it imparts are considered unwelcome "off-flavors". However, in some styles, particularly certain traditional Belgian ales, it is appreciated and encouraged."

If anyone knows how to deal with "brett" it would be a top notch brewery like Avery so you can assume this fermentation was going to be controlled. The first whiff of this beer revealed a somewhat sour and spicy aroma. It smelled vaguely of another sour Belgian "La Folie" from New Belgium, only a bit funkier. The aroma is intriguing and invites you to taste it. But be prepared, this beer could taste like anything.

I was expecting a very tart taste from this beer but it never came. Instead it was somewhat fruity and mildly spicy but not sour. That was a surprise. My initial reaction was "Hmmmm....". Not what I expected at all. It was a floral, semi-sweet and only mildly bitter beer. The figs probably account for the sweetness of this ale but the brett certainly gives this beer an indescribable funkiness that is truly unique. This beer was chilled well but changed in flavor a couple of times as it warmed. I suggest serving this beer well chilled.

One interesting thing happened half way through the tasting. I swirled the beer to stir up the aroma a bit. I suddenly got hit with a nasty off-aroma that did not strike me well. The initial sour aroma had turned slightly spoiled. I don't know how to describe it. All I can say it - avoid swirling this beer unless it is still cold. As it warms, agitating this beer will change it's smell. Once the beer settled down a bit the initial sour aroma came back.

After the first glass, I was a bit unsure if I wanted to finish the entire 22 oz bottle. The experience was a mixed one. It started out a bit surprising, then took a turn to the bad side but then something surprising happened. The near 8% ABV beer started growing on me a bit. It certain isn't one of my favorite beers, but for a brett it had a unique characteristic. I'm not about to pan a beer just because it wasn't what I expected. I've learned that lesson. The full experience of this beer isn't appreciated until you've had at least a glass and a half of it. By then, your senses have been flooded with it's funkiness and you start to get a taste for it.

I suggest you sip this beer slowly. You'll probably be put off initially and question what the heck this beer is trying to prove. But as the "warming" feeling of the alcohol hits you and it warms, it changes. You need to get past the first nasty affect of it and then it will grow on you. I managed to finish the entire 22 oz bottle and am glad I didn't stop at the first glass.

I realize that most of the beer review sites gave this brew a lower grade. Most likely because they tried to compare this beer with last years Fourteen beer. Well don't even try to compare it. Fifteen is it's own unique animal. It's not for everyone and I suspect the majority of you will be turned off by it. But like a marathon runner, you need to try to go the distance with this beer to appreciate what Avery was trying to create here. You're going to get the whole range of reactions to this beer. While it's certainly not my favorite and I question whether I'd buy it again, I'd still salute Avery for creating a having the guts to create a beer that doesn't doesn't try to fit the mold.

Check out the reviews if you will but wait until after you've tasted it for yourself before reading. Expect your taste buds be tested and tested hard. Look beyond your initial reactions and continue to drink. You'll either grow to appreciate it for what it is or outright dismiss it. I'll give this beer a 3.0 out of 5 rating but with a caution sign. If you can get past the first half dozen sips then you'll start to see what Avery was trying to do with this ale. Chances are Avery will take some notes on the reactions to this beer and continue experimenting for next year. (Brabant for example).

Related articles:
- Avery Ellie's Brown Ale review.
- Avery White Rascal review.
- Avery Salvation review.
- Avery Hog Heaven review.
- Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale review.
- Avery The Reverend review.
- Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest review.
- Avery Ale to the Chief review.
- Avery The Czar Imperial Stout review.
- Avery Redpoint Ale review.

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