Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Avery Brewing Company – The Beast Grand Cru Ale


No, I haven’t just returned from a trip to Colorado, but I was able to find this one (and other Avery offerings) at Oliver’s beverage in Albany, NY. Oddly enough, I was actually a bit annoyed at myself after reading my receipt. I always run up a decent tab at great beverage centers, but this one seemed a bit high. I examined the receipt to find that I had payed more than $8.00 per 12 oz. bottle that I had purchased of the Grand Cru. I must not have been looking at the prices as I was making mixed six packs. So I put off tasting this one for a while, because I really hoped it would be worth what I paid for such tiny bottles.

Looking at the label, it is a very high ABV – 14.6%. This is, I should note, the 2006 batch, so its aged for the past two years. Its possible that the alcohol has increased over time. And I should have known there was something special about it because the bottles were covered in red foil, and featured a beautifully luminous label that shined with metal paper. 
It poured thickly, slowly, with a dark, cloudy brown color and a thin eggshell colored head. I could smell it even when it was several feet away from my nose during and after the pour. The aroma can best be described as having the sweetness and alcohol of brandy, with some malts and a hint of toffee and spices, maybe some molasses. It is a strong aroma, no doubt, and probably foreshadowing something that’s going to pack a wallop of taste.
The taste hits you like a sack of bricks. Its sweet, almost to the point of puckering. It has retained a lot of the alcohol, which leaves a sting on the tongue. This one is so strong that I had to sip it in tiny bits. It leaves a sweet citrus taste on the lips after tasting, and I could almost see myself cooking with this, to get at the complexities of the flavorings. There is a tartness in the second wave, which is like an amplified Belgian taste. The taste overall isn’t mellow, is intriguing but barely gentle enough to be put onto the tongue again and again. It isn’t that I don’t like the taste, its that the taste is so amped up that it’s hard to actually enjoy or taste it. 
As it warmed, and as I got over the shocking taste, it began to grow on me however. The initial sting mellowed and more raisin and malty flavors took over. The sweetness still had me sipping small amounts at once, but it was far from the sack of bricks that the first taste yielded, like a beast that had escaped to wreak havoc on my taste buds. 
It reminds me vaguely of Unibroue’s  Seigneuriale with its yeasty almost sourness. This is one mother of a complex beer, and it is released annually. From what I’ve seen in reviews, it varies a  lot from year to year, and even the ABVs differ by several percentage points (for example, the 2008 brewing was 16.4 %). 
In conclusion, I’m sure that this is a complex, and deserving beer. But it’s hard to get through in one sitting, and would be better enjoyed in an aperitif glass than in a full twelve ounce bottle. It is certainly a testament to what a beer is capable of if you push it far enough, but I’m not sure its something I’d recommend that you run out and get. I have heard fabulous things about Avery, though, so I won’t let this prevent me from checking out more of their offerings. 
I’m curious if any of you out there have tried this before, and what you thought. Leave me a comment and let me know!

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7 Comments

  1. Pat.C

    I heard this beer is better as it ages even more, I was able to track down a bottle from 06 as well, and had it around April, so thats five years-ish of aging. And oh my lord does it mellow out, you get all the secondary tastes and flavors you mentioned from the get go, if you can find an 06 bottle or have kept one around, this would be a great time to open it up. Great review too. 🙂

  2. lemasney

    Hey Beer Babe, you’re the best! Avery does some killer brews. They’re most definitely sippers. Their packaging usually foretells of their quality and specialty, and the beast is no different. You have to taste with a brick-in-the-face attitude, but once you do, you can ‘slow down time’ like a superhero, and really enjoy getting smashed in the face with the brick in slomo. No pain necessary. 😉 Delicious!

  3. Jez

    Big beers like this I prefer to share with people. Maybe even 3 other people – 3 oz apiece.

  4. Chipper Dave

    I thoroughly enjoy Avery beers and savor that I can go to any store here in Colorado and pick some up. Every so often I’ll taste a brew from this brewery and be a bit overwhelmed. I’ve seen it in their Barleywine, a couple of their Anniversary brews and also in this type of beer. Strong is ok once in a while but at some point you just have to wonder if bigger is better. If anything, it’s the novelty of the brew that gets me to purchase a bottle every so often. And like you, it sometimes takes a while to “warm up” to a brew. It’s worth it for the experience every once in a while, but not the type of brew you want to drink on a regular basis.

  5. Brewmaster Matt

    I tell a story about this all the time. I had a bad day at work last year and I grabbed it out of the fridge cause I wanted something different but I didn’t want to drink 22oz. So I grabbed the 12. After about getting through a 3rd of it I was feeling all nice and warm in side and I went to get the bottle to see what I was drinking and this was it. I really liked it and I agree with you its too potent to be 12oz that you drink by your self.

  6. techcommdood

    You know, I’ve had The Beast many times and never once noticed “Grand Cru” on the bottle. I must be ripping into the bottle too quickly. 😉 This is a favorite of mine from Avery. It is definitely complex but the high ABV and maltiness really hides the fact that it’s a grand cru. Tart, yes, but I’d hesitate to call it sour. For sour, try a Rodenbach grand cru. It’ll pucker you up as if you ate a lemon!

    Avery is one of a small handful of breweries whose entire line I consider to be exquisite. And yes, The Beast is best split with another, as a full 12oz at once is a bit much for the taste buds to handle! I recommend snifters over a very, very long conversation.

  7. B.E. Earl

    My blog buddy Heff tried it a few weeks ago. Here is his review.

    http://heffsbarandgrill.blogspot.com/2009/01/whats-on-tap-heff-bar-and-grill-mailbag.html

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