Category Archives: Avery Brewing Company

Good Beer and Fare(well)

This post begins (what will hopefully be) a series of posts I’ve been meaning to write for quite some time, but (obviously) have not actually gotten around to yet. To briefly catch you up, I have recently moved from Athens to Winston-Salem and into the real world (college finally ran its course and I had to find a real job). Athens still holds a very special place in my heart and while I won’t be there nearly as much, I look forward to watching its beer culture continue to grow and blossom from afar. I look forward to exploring the local beer culture of Winston-Salem and the rest of North Carolina, as well as the entire Southeast region (and I plan to share as much of that as possible with all of you). But first, let’s travel back to May 5th for a bittersweet, but incredibly delicious event.

As someone who loves great food and great beer, and really loves the two smartly paired, I’m immediately interested in attending almost any beer dinner. When I heard that Richard Miley, chef at Chops & Hops, was hosting a beer dinner to bid farewell to two friends and fellow beer lovers who were leaving Athens, though, I didn’t have to think about whether or not I’d be attending. The night ended up being one I won’t soon forget and was full of some wonderful pairings of food and brew, but more importantly some awesome fellowship among beer lovers and friends.

For those of you who haven’t been to Chops & Hops, I highly recommend it. Chef Miley’s cuisine shows his training and technical ability as well as his Southwestern influence, but leaves no question of his unpretentious character. You’ll see no difference in the playful, but flavorful food from this dinner.

The evening began with a reception accompanied with a cask of Lazy Magnolia Reb Ale, a pale ale, on cantaloupe. Lazy Magnolia, a craft brewery from Mississippi that seeks to highlight classic Southern ingredients, recently launched in Georgia and has featured a limited lineup locally (only their Southern Pecan has been available in bottles with a few others intermittently on draft). The cask was a great beginning, with a light and moderately-hopped base and subtle cantaloupe flavor. I would reach for this beer a lot this summer if it were regularly available.

Once we were seated, the meal began with a course of beef carpaccio served with a homebrewed pecan pie brown ale. The roasted, nutty, and sweet flavors of the beer played perfectly with the beef, which seemed to melt in my mouth. The beer was unmistakably Southern and the carpaccio Richard’s Southwestern tinge, yet they worked together. I was so consumed by everything going on that I forgot to take a photo, so your visual experience will begin with the second course.

Next, we were treated to an oyster course which included buffalo fried and raw varieties of the molluscs with a habanero cocktail sauce, accompanied by a guava saison. As someone who has grown tired of the overplayed chipotle and other assorted pepper craze (I’m looking at you Bobby Flay), the habanero cocktail sauce was really great and provided a nice twist on the traditional horseradish kick. The spice and texture of the oysters worked really well with the saison, which brought plenty of tropical fruit flavors and just a hint of funk.

Shortly after finishing the second course, a slew of paper boats emerged from the kitchen with the third course: chili cheese fries made with Terrapin Moo-Hoo braised boar and habanero cured bacon. Chili cheese fries are about as “typical bar food” as you can get, but this deluxe version was full of rich, deep flavor in the boar meat, a bit of heat from the bacon and diced peppers, and an awesome combination of crisp and soft potato from the fries. Paired with this course was Founders Double Trouble, which enriched the boar with its hearty malt backbone and accentuated the heat with its ample hop profile.

Glancing at the menu ahead of time, I was a bit worried about this next course. I didn’t worry about how the yard bird & waffle topped with bourbon maple syrup and powdered sugar would taste, but it seemed like something that may be too heavy after three courses and…well, we’ll just say many beers. I shouldn’t have worried, though–the waffle was light and crisp, and the savoriness of the waffle and bird melded beautifully with the sweetness of the syrup and sugar. Paired with this course was Dogfish Head’s Burton Baton. The oak-aged hybrid of an Old Ale and Double IPA somehow snuggled right in between the savory and sweet of this dish and the wood lent a bit of earthiness to the protein.

Continuing the now ridiculous parade of gluttony was jerk swine, beans, and pineapple jasmine rice paired with Avery Maharaja. The jerk swine actually came from a whole hog, whose head was shared with the guests of honor (I may have stolen a bite as well). As the third Imperial IPA in a row, you might think that the beers were getting a bit boring. The nuances in each beer, though, were so well matched with each course that I don’t think anyone even thought twice about having three Double IPAs consecutively. In this course, the rich pork worked perfectly with the malt sweetness, while the spiciness and pineapple sweetness of the beans and rice enveloped the flavors of the hops. Another play on sweet and spicy, but somehow completely different.

As a sweet end to the bittersweet night, we were served Pastel Barracho made with Founders Breakfast Stout and Terrapin Moo-Hoo paired with a glass of the former. Meaning “drunken cake”, this Tres Leches-like cake was light on the dairy and heavy on the booze. The creamy and caramel flavors of the cake were exactly what you’d want with the dark Breakfast Stout and chocolatey Moo-Hoo, lending them levity and underlining their heft at the same time.

After dinner, I was treated to Cigar City Brewing Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, a local beer from Charlie’s, one of the guests of honor, future home. The bottomless pit of a stout was a great ending to the evening, with all the deep, robust flavors of an ideal Russian Imperial.

Lastly (yeah, I thought it was over too) before we left, I tried some of another special cask: Terrapin Monk’s Revenge aged in a Calvados barrel. The Belgian yeast and brandy notes made an awesome pair, and were still quite enjoyable…even after the entire dinner.

The entire meal was a great exhibition of Chef Miley’s mastery of the ingredients and understanding of how the each course would play with each beer. The sense of community felt that night as many of those who produce, sell, serve, and lovingly consume beer in Athens came together to send off a few of their own. As I prepared to leave town myself, it cemented the great things I had come to feel about the Athens beer community.


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Filed under Avery Brewing Company, Chops & Hops, Cigar City Brewing, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Events, Founders Brewing Co., Terrapin Beer Co.

Two Blind Pints

When possible, I try to avoid reading too much about a beer before I’ve tried it. There are so many great beer-related websites and social media outlets promoting breweries and their beers (considering the size of the craft beer industry, the volume of beer-related content online is truly a testament to the passion of a growing number of real beer drinkers), but all of this can sometimes be unintentionally detrimental to the enjoyment of a new beer. I’ve noticed that sometimes, I approach tasting a beer for the first time with so many expectations based on what I’ve read from ingredient lists and other drinkers’ tasting notes that I perceive what I should taste rather than what I’m actually drinking. Last night, I had the following two beers at Trappeze Pub without much prior knowledge (yes, I know I probably should have had them before, or at least heard about them, but I hadn’t). My “blind” tasting was further enhanced by ordering from the chalkboard (only listing the name and price of each beer, rather than reading descriptions in the printed draft list menu).

Avery's Maharaja

The first brew up was an Avery Brewing Maharaja. I knew this was an IPA, and I knew it was from Avery out of Boulder, CO-that’s about the extent of what I knew before I ordered this one. Served in a snifter, the Maharaja was a beautiful copper color with a gorgeous cream-colored head. The head retention was amazing; it reminded me a lot of the head on the Belgian-style ales I’ve had recently. A strong hop aroma is present, but along with a certain sweeteness-maybe toffee. The taste can best be described as BIG: a hefty malt backbone is followed by sharp, bitter hops. The hop flavor is quite bitter and astringent, and reminds me of the Tomahawk variety I recently sampled in a single hop IPA from Mikkeller. There are also some piney hop notes that must come from another variety. [Today, I discovered that I was on with the toffee hints but a bit off on hop identification as Maharaja is made with caramel and victory malts along with Simcoe, Centennial, Columbus, and Chinook hops.] The mouthfeel is pretty thick, but the beer still remains bright and fresh in a way. The intense hops really help to cut through the up-front barrage of malt sweetness. I might even guess that this is dry-hopped due to the very palatable hoppiness. Part of this beer does say IPA, but I don’t think it’d be crazy to say it’s close to an American Barleywine (again, super heavy malt, but never syrupy or dark). Almost halfway through the glass, I’m feeling the alcohol in this…I’d venture a guess of 9.5% [it’s actually 10.24% according to Avery]. Overall, this is an awesome beer I could see myself drinking year-round. The strong alcohol and malt have a warming effect and make it suitable for winter, but the hops refuse to take a backseat and would make it just as fitting in the hot summer months with a crisp, dry ending. I’ve had a few of Avery’s beers before, but it’s not exactly a brewery whose offerings jump out to me while perusing a beer list-I believe this beer has changed that. Maharaja is a great heavy-hitting beer that I know I can count on.

Next up was a Mikkeller Nelson Sauvin Single Hop IPA. [I lost the tasting notes I jotted down about this one on my phone-it’s more convenient, but apparently not at trusty as the pen and paper…anyway, the following is what I gathered from my memory] I tried one of these for the first time on draft last week, so this is my second time tasting it but still without having read up on it. This beer was poured into a tulip glass, and was only a bit lighter in color than the Maharaja-it appears unfiltered, perhaps from dry-hopping. This might not have been the smartest choice after the Maharaja, with its strength still savaging my tongue and perhaps leaving me a bit buzzed, but I tried my best to taste everything in the Mikkeller. The head stood a couple fingers tall, falling quicker than the previous beer but leaving nice lacing. The aroma contained light citrus, but most unexpectedly, mango-like hints. The taste was subtle compared to other varieties of the series I’ve sampled. I went in expecting a harsh hop bite, but got nothing of the sort. Instead, the Nelson Sauvin hops provide a light fruitiness, with white grape flavors and textures. With the exception of the malt, which is dialed way down to showcase the hops, the flavor reminds me a lot of a Pinot Grigio. In addition to the grape notes, I taste a little of the mango I got in the aroma. Also along the lines of a white wine, this IPA finishes with a light dryness instead of the harsher dry end associated with many hop varieties. This seems to be a much more delicate hop than some others highlighted by Mikkeller, which really shows the skill of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. He has restrained the malt just enough to show off the hops, while still keeping them in check. I’m unsure of when the hops are added in the process exactly, but additions at several different stages must be necessary to achieve so many different notes from one variety. I would recommend this IPA to anyone who enjoys and wants to learn more about different hops, but also to anyone who doesn’t think he/she likes IPAs-you may be surprised by this one. Tasting a beer like this reminds me what a wonderful and adept brewer Mikkel truly is. There are so many well-crafted IPAs available, but tasting such a delicate IPA shows Mikkel as an artist amongst many art students.

[Note: I’m aware that Trappeze Pub seems to be the setting of most of the beers I end up reviewing. While I want to highlight many of the other great places around town I love to grab some beers, I’ve been to Trappeze almost exclusively lately for the following reasons: a) the draft list has been amazing, I mean dyn-O-mite! and b) with the completed renovation of their kitchen, Trappeze has been turning out some wonderful plates of beer-inspired food. Some different beer joints around Athens will be featured very soon…as in I’ll be going out for “reporting” purposes tonight.]

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Filed under American Double IPA, American IPA, Avery Brewing Company, Mikkeller, Trappeze Pub