I was recently fortunate enough to be at the Avery “A Decade of Hog Heaven Barleywine Style Ale: 1998 to 2008“. Adam Avery was hosting the evening and the cellared beer came from his personal supplies. We wiped out his 1999 inventory. It was a remarkable beer tasting – not many US craft breweries can offer a 10 year vertical of their product.

The evening started with an open bar. I didn’t take detailed notes on these, but the special taps I remember included a brett IPA, an oaked Samael, and a dry hopped Ale to the Chief (out of this world good!) The food was exceptional. Heavy hors d’oeuvres – olives, many hard and soft cheeses, caprese salad, salami, roast beef, a cheese sauce drizzle on fresh veggies, crackers, etc. It was a very nice spread.

The Avery staff were hustling! I felt like offering to help – Adam, CV, Peter, Ted and Clarice were busy setting up the flights. CV provided us with a really nifty hand out “What happened to my bottle of Hog?”. It goes into depth regarding the science of what happens as beer ages… heat/alcohol decreasing due to ethanol conversion to acetaldehyde, hop aroma and bitterness decreasing, sweetness and toffee flavors increasing.

The flights, with my tasting notes, is as follows:
August 2008 – Dank, Herbal. A real hop bomb. 122 IBU, fresh hop aroma. All columbus hops – bittering, midboil, finish and dry hopping. 1.082 OG, 1.016 FG.
January 2007 – Bottled with new bottling line, reducing oxygen levels. Still very hoppy. Malts more prevalent. Starting to develop dried fruit character.
March 2006 – Hops starting to fade. Smoother, not as aggressive.
June 2005 – Sweetness starting to develop. Some oxidation characteristics noted (low levels of cardboard.)
June 2004 – Approaching english style barleywine. I noticed more heat, or a higher alcohol presence. Creamy mouthfeel. Smooth character.
March 2003 – Caramel flavors approaching molasses. This was a favorite for some at our table. Less nose then previous, increasing creaminess in the mouthfeel. Increasing oxidation characteristics.
June 2002 – “real sweet”. Okay, my notes are starting to fall off here.
February 2001 – Fruit prevalent. Some smokiness coming through. Darkest in color of all the samples. Hoppier then ’02.
June 2000 – Soft. Sweet. Oxidation increasing – noticeable cardboard. Malt forward. Fruitiness including plum and raisin.
November 1999 – “Dry” according to my notes, but it had a higher finishing gravity then todays standards (1.098 OG, 1.030 FG.) Sherry taste prevalent.

My favorite of the evening was the fresh hog – I love the hop bombs and Adam admitted that if they were naming the beer now, they would call it an Imperial IPA. Ten years ago that wasn’t a common beer style though.

There was some news regarding Avery’s release of Brubant – this is a Baltic Porter that has Orval Brett and the house Brett (same as was used in the 15th Anniversary Ale) which is aged in Norman Vineyard Zinfandel barrels. 600 cases will be released in January or February.

Avery brews 17,000 BBLs annually. They make 8000 cases of Hog which is brewed every 3 months. To quote Adam “without hog, we’re out of business.”