The Sanskrit title “Maharaja” could not better describe Avery Brewing Company’s Imperial India Pale Ale (Imperial IPA). Much like its aptly named title meaning “great king,” this beer clearly rises above the status of a mere civilian. To call the Maharaja anything less than a dictator of beer would be a great insult. Thankfully, Avery Brewing Company has created a series perfect for such a beer: The Dictator Series.
The hoppy geniuses at Avery Brewing state that the “dictators represent an exploration of beer flavor through the medium of traditional ingredients,” Hate to break it to you folks, but you won’t find apricots, pine nuts, or dandelions in this one – only malt, hops, and yeast. To label this brew as simple, however, would be a vast misrepresentation. If I wanted a “simple” beer, I would head over to Ivywild and grab a pint of Bristol’s Single Hop IPA which features a single variety of hops (it was Simcoe on Sunday night I believe). The Maharaja, on the other hand, is actually quite complex, thanks to the four varieties of hops (Centennial, Simcoe, Columbus, and Chinook) along with several varieties of malts (two row barley, Victory, and Caramel 120).
The Maharaja pours a one-finger head with an inviting clear amber color into a Snifter glass with nice lacing and average retention. The amber color was definitely enhanced as I was drinking this brew around an outdoor fire pit. While there were others around, the inevitable satisfaction brought about by consuming a beer of such high quality did prove a distraction. The aroma featured pleasant floral and citrusy notes with hints of hops as expected from an IPA.
This is my favorite stage of drinking a new beer: that moment after taking in the aroma, but prior to taking the first sip. It is akin to that moment after reading the sexy description on a fancy bar of chocolate but before indulging your taste buds. Damn, it’s a wonderful feeling.
The first thing that hit me upon tasting this beer was the smoothness. Significant hints of citrus, especially grapefruit (and lots of it), were picked up in the beginning as all crevices of the mouth were quickly coated. Floral notes permeate as well, along with a slight sweetness. The mouth then experiences the fizzing of the carbonation, a sensation especially apparent on the tongue.
Unlike many IPAs out there that slam the taste buds with bitterness throughout, the hoppy bitterness in this beer is subdued from the beginning. Those of us who are impatient might even wonder if the brewers up in Boulder forgot to add bittering hops all together. Wait a few moments, however, and one is graced with a perfect amount of bitterness. Bam! The hops really shine towards the end as they carry with them a pleasant bitterness complete with complex flavors. Despite toting a lofty 10.2 percent ABV, the alcohol flavors are well-hidden. The mouth feel is big and full-bodied.
Damn girl, this is an extremely good beer. Quite a way to start off Block 7. As we venture further into spring, increasing temperatures call for a refreshing beer such as this one. The plants are beginning to emerge from winter dormancy, so why not you, too? Set down your stouts and porters until next winter and crack open a Dictator. You will not regret it. I highly recommend snagging one of these 22-ounce bombers at the store the next time you are in the mood for a fantastic beer (Weber liquor carries it). With a price tag of less than $9, the Maharaja is not only worth it, it’s a deal!