Friday, May 13, 2016

The Maharaja Imperial IPA (review)

Beer Review #115

Today i'm checking out my very first beer from Colorado's Avery Brewing, so why not start my exploration of the company's line up at or near the top with their mighty Imperial IPA, The Maharaja?

Believe it or not, I first heard about the company a couple years back in one of the many videos put out by Ultra Running phenom, Sage Canaday, who is sponsored by Avery. Located in the outdoor sports Mecca of Boulder, Avery was founded in 1993. At the beginning of 2015 the company moved into a new facility, increasing their product capacity exponentially. The Maharaja is part of their 'Dictator Series.'

In Sanskrit, Maharaja means "great king," and this mammoth 10.5%ABV, 102IBU Imperial IPA certainly fits the bill, right down to gold foil labeling on the 1 pint, 6 fl oz, bottle.

My initial impression is that The Maharaja is sort of the mountainous west's answer to Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA. For the most part we use the terms "Imperial IPA," and "Double IPA" interchangeably, with "Double," typically being the Americanized version. I recently saw an interview with a brew-master at Avery who prefers to reserve the term "Imperial," for beers coming in at over 10% ABV. In retrospect, I kind of like the idea of splitting the IPA up into three categories based on strength, as there are now a handful of beers like these that truly exist on a different level.

When IPAs get this big, they start to look, smell and taste differently than more typical  double IPA's in the 7 or 8% ABV range - and they become cellar-friendly beers that mature over time, rather than diminishing.

The Maharaja pours dark amber with a slight haze and off-while / almond foam. Fifteen minutes into this session, some of that foam still lingers on top of the beer and clings to the sides of the glass.

The aroma is rich and malty (brown sugar, warm bread), almost like a Barleywine, which should come as no surprise given the massive grain bill needed to yield an alcohol content over 10%. Hints of over ripened mango and pineapple emerge as the beer warms, and just a touch of spiciness. If there is pine, it is subdued in this 10 month old bottle.

The feel on the mouth is smooth, and perhaps slightly sticky. Carbonation is gentle/low, with just enough tingle on the end of the tongue to separate this from the thick, black beers I love in the winter months.

The labeling claims 102IBU's, but in a beer this big, that doesn't quite mean the same thing as it does in smaller beers. The Maharaja has an intense sweet malted backbone reinforced by pineapple and raisins. The amount of hops in the recipe must be huge. The "hoppiness" (but not necessarily bitterness) permeates each sip, as opposed to simply being "overlaid' on top of it. When a beer gets this hoppy / tightly wound, the hops have a way of almost tasting "soapy,' at the front of the mouth, if that makes any sense. But they "loosen" up as the beer passes over different taste receptors further back, leaving behind a lingering honey sweetness, and a surprisingly peppery, dry (mouth watering) finish everywhere else. I fucking love this beer.

Musical Pairing: Maha Kali (live) by Dissection

 Twin Tiers Beer Trail:
-Twin Tiers Craft Beer Club (Sayre)
I-86 Beer Trail
The Jolly Farmer, Waverly (Waverly)
Bluestone Brewing Company (Sayre)
- Diversion Brewing Co. (Chemung)
River Barge Brewing (Wyalusing)
The Grille at the Train Station (Sayre)
River Rat Brew Trail (Central Pa)

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