Quick Take: Two Big IPAs

Avery Brewing is a brewery I’ve had my eye on for a while, but had only tried about four or five of their offerings. I had seen their Maharaja Double IPA several times, and finally, with a few extra ducats in my pocket, I decided to try it. Here’s what I thought…

The color is a pretty standard IPA look. It’s a clear carrot orange. The head is white, bubbly and fantastic. As the head shrinks, it leaves an icy lace behind, and it takes its sweet-ass time going away, like a friend who doesn’t get the hint when it’s 1:30 AM and you’re talking about your early morning meeting the next day.

The aroma is heavy. Sweet, flowery hops right off the bat. Like sticking your nose in an alcohol-laden bouquet. There is heavy pine wafting above, followed immediately by perfumey flower petals. Thick rye malts and that sting of alcohol. Intense, but great.

I was a little worried that the taste would be a classic over-hop, but it’s actually a well-balanced roasted malt, with those flower-pine hops, and a burning brandy-like alcohol blast on the way down. Really strong and with a major bite. The malts, along with being sweet, have a bitter rye-bread type quality. A beautiful balance all the way around.

This heavy beast of a beer has a creamy but buttery, oily and smooth feel on the way down. Great on the palate and even better on the taste buds. If you are gonna finish the whole thing, make sure you call up your designated driver or give yourself lots of time because this one packs a punch.

Harpoon is a brewery with which I am not unfamiliar, but with which I have not often been incredibly smitten. This is not to say that I have actively disliked any of their offerings: to the contrary, their UFO Raspberry and UFO White are both model examples of their admittedly limited styles.

So when Harpoon came up with their own “big beer” series, known as Leviathan, I was not overly excited, although their label and packaging looks terrific. I took a flier on a four-pack (priced at about $10) of their Imperial IPA to see if their foray into extreme matters was worth the investment.

The appearance is very nice: bright, clear light orange. A small amount of tiny carbonation bubbles. The head is bold and white, like shaving cream. Outside the glass is a cold-looking frost, as well as a frosty lacing inside the glass.

The aroma: severe, woody hops. Heavy heavy pine and citrus. There is about the same amount of woody pine as the Maharaja, but more citrus, which gives it a slightly richer character in the nose. Also has those rye-like malts: it’s bitter, but also fresh. Toucan Sam would follow this baby into the pint glass and have himself quite a weekend.

The taste is bitter, bitter, bitter. Tons of woody hops, with a deep oak and an uncommon pine character. The citrus is more of an intermittent hint here, with a good amount of orange and a curious apple flavor. The tartness at the swallow is nearly Belgian. It’s creamy and substantial, and wonderfully bitter.

If I had to choose between the two of these, I wouldn’t. I would drink them both and then call in sick the next day. Lovers of Imperial IPAs cannot go wrong either way.


~ by William H on June 18, 2009.

One Response to “Quick Take: Two Big IPAs”

  1. You may have noticed Maharahajahaha was on my top beers of ’08 list. Avery seems pretty solid all the way around! The Leviathan Quad is pretty darned tasty as well!

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