Halloween is still a week away as I type, and I’m still trying to catch up
with all of the Oktoberfest beers on the shelves. But walk into any retail
store, and you can see them stocking up on Christmas items already-and even
the liquor stores are getting in on the act. Just yesterday, I happened to
stop by Green’s Liquors here in Atlanta and they were putting up the
Sierra Nevada Celebration , the
Sweetwater Festive Ale
, and a new holiday brew in these parts, Avery Old Jubilation.
Since I hadn’t tried this one, I snapped up a six-pack and added it to my cart. It was a little pricey at $8.99, but hey, you only live once, right? Avery describes this as an English strong ale, and I would say that that is a fair stylistic moniker. The beer is dark in color but not as thick or dark as a porter or stout. Instead, it’s a dark ale brewed with five specialty malts. Old Jubilation is hopped with Bullions.
According to the brewer, you can lay this beer down for two years under proper conditions. I am not sure I would go so far. Sure, the beer is fortified with a higher alcohol content at 8% by volume, but the flavors here aren’t so bold that I think they would hold up that long. The key to cellaring a beer is that it should become more complex and undergo some interesting changes. I am just not sure that will happen, and don’t know if I have two years worth of patience, though I think I’ll stash a bottle for a while and get back to you some time in 2006.
Avery Old Jubilation pours to a deep mahogany color with a thick creamy head and a sweet chocolaty malt nose. The body is not at all thick or cloying, but the palate bursts with roasty chocolaty flavor. I get suggestions of raisin and fig, a little nutty malt, and overall the flavors are well pronounced but again, not as intense as in a porter or stout. There are no spices here, and Avery admits they’re not used. Anchor’s Our Special Ale has made that fashionable, but it’s nice to see a non-spiced brew once in a while.
In the finish a generous dose of slightly piney hops ends the beer with a gentle lingering bitterness. A touch of alcohol warmth leaves a pleasant sensation on the tongue as well. Overall, I really like this beer. It’s a very drinkable dark ale with a delicious malt character, though the elevated alcohol content means you won’t want it to be too drinkable, if you catch my drift. Still a very welcome addition to my holiday retinue of beers.
Update 7/24/2014: Did I say I'd get back to you sometime in 2006 with details on an aged bottle? OK, I'm a little late on that. Here it is July of 2014 and I'm popping a bottle of Avery Old Jubilation that I stashed last winter. The stuff runs $9.49 a six-pack these days, about average, but it's worth every penny. Those dark malty flavors of raisin, chocolate, toasted nuts and figs are a welcome respite from all the hop bombs so prevalent these days. The beer hasn't suffered a bit with age, either. I'll certainly have to pick this treat up again for Christmas 2014. I'll get back to you on that. Seriously.
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.