Thanks to Avery
Brewing Company, I’ve been able to hop around the world, meet some really
interesting characters, and drink their beer. First it was
The Kaiser . I
got to sit down and enjoy his tasty souped-up Octoberfest beer and really
enjoyed it. Next up was a meeting with
The Czar , and
boy did I ever enjoy his rich and delicious Imperial Stout. These encounters
did much to reassure my faith in the beer world, and so a consultation with
ensued. I encourage you to pick him up the next time your spirits are low.
Tonight, though, it’s time to meet royalty again: The Maharaja. Avery’s Maharaja that is. Those with some knowledge of both history and beer will surmise that this is an IPA, of course, an India Pale Ale. But this is a special IPA, one bigger than usual, an Imperial IPA.
Imperial IPA is a fairly new style, and one I’m not always sure works. Some brewers tend to use too much malt and hops and in the process lose the essential IPA character. Fortunately, Avery doesn’t do that here, and their Maharaja manages to be a very malty, very hoppy brew while still tasting like an IPA.
Most IPAs run about 1.070 in original gravity, or the weight of the liquid compared to an equal amount of water. The Maharaja runs a bit higher than that at 1.085. My sample, bottled in February 2006, lists an O.G. at that level, though the Avery website says 1.080. So it looks like this beer may be a bit bigger than in the past, no doubt in response to the wave of imperial IPAs hitting store shelves.
Certainly, the hops are the star here, and Avery uses a lot of them to attain the 102 IBU level. They use the spicy, citric northwest Magnum variety, aromatic Simcoes, the Cascade cousin Centennial, and grassy Crystals.
Did I mention this is a really big beer in every respect? We mentioned the higher original gravity, and that generally means not only more body but also more alcohol. At 9.9% by volume, the Maharaja has about twice as much alcohol as most beers. So, a 750ML bottle should do you quite nicely for the evening.
When I poured my bottle of The Maharaja into an imperial pint glass I was presented with a bright orange amber colored liquid crowned in true Maharaja style with a thick and creamy head formation. The nose was resplendent with grassy hops, and hints of citrus fruit also paraded over my olfactory sensors. As I sipped the beer, a very fine layer of Brussels lace clung to the sides of my glass right down to the last sip.
When I took a sip, I was surprised to find the body of the beer a bit lighter than I had expected. To be sure, it was bigger than your average IPA, but not so big that it makes the beer almost like a barleywine. This is where many attempts at the style fail, I think.
I did get a good rich mouthfeel full of caramel and a little toastiness. But it’s not long before the hops take complete control, intensifying into the finish where they’re grassy, slightly aromatic, very piney-resiny, citric and fruity. This beer has a very complex hop profile, though I suspect as it ages that will subside a bit.
The bitterness deposited upon the tongue is intense, long and dry, and lingers on the tongue a long time after you sip, just sort of morphing and changing a bit on the tongue. Indeed, after a sip I just let the flavors dance on my tongue for a few minute and took almost that entire time for them to completely subside.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I really liked this beer. It’s truly a brew fit for a Maharaja, and a beer geek hophead like me as well. The only drawback is the price, a bit more than most at $6.29 for a 750ML bottle. But you’d pay much more than that for an equal volume of fine wine. So why not splurge a little on fine beer?
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.