After you reach a certain age, connecting with old friends, especially those you haven’t seen in decades, is a bittersweet moment filled with equal parts nostalgia, joy, and catharsis. The memories dredged up can feel like they were lived by another self, in a different lifetime, the hopes and ambitions of that person you were maybe realigned for better or worse.
Such was the case when the Wife discovered that some of her high school buddies from the East Coast were now in residence in the Boulder area. Each ready and willing to connect after nearly 30 years, eager to discover what had elapsed in their lives. When considering a location for the gathering, a place whose doors we had never passed through, yet still held a certain affection for us, came to mind: Avery Brewing.
Avery’s beers have been filling our fridge since they began distributing in Denver more than a decade ago. Their IPA has long been a go-to for me, a perfectly balanced hop gem that delights my taste buds no matter how long it has been since the last time it’s passed my lips. Nearly every Avery brew we’ve sipped has impressed us, each style overwhelmingly well made. So, in addition to meeting the Wife’s old acquaintances, I was to experience an old and welcome friend in the brewery itself.
The Saturday afternoon in May was cool and overcast as we parked next to an almost empty patio fronting the brewery. Rain had been sporadic throughout the day and threatened to drench once again the industrial park Avery resides in. Thankfully it was warm and dry, if not noisy and crowded, in the taproom. A quick glance through the three rooms, a long L-shaped bar, an adjoining area of elevated pub tables and stools, and a separate back room of large tables with chairs, left only the rear with the required seating needed.
We had intentionally arrived early to have a few tasters, snap some photos, and to procure a table for the gang. Couples old and young, budding families with infants perched in carriers, and students from the nearby CU campus all enjoyed every available space and each others company. And, of course, the beer.
I started with the sublime Maharaja Imperial IPA while I took notes and we waited for arrivals. At 10.4% ABV and 102 IBU, it’s definitely a sipper, the creaminess and over the top hop load enticing. While I’d had it a number of times before, it never disappoints, new flavors and notes making themselves apparent in each sip.
All had agreed on Avery as a rendezvous mainly because of the highly rated food the taproom serves, prepared by the nearby Savory Cuisines. We nibbled upon generous portions of bacon wrapped shrimp as the Wife’s friends arrived, exchanging amazement and hearty greetings with the long lost comrades. The catering company’s further fare fortified all as the stories were told , the laughter commenced, and the beer flowed.
As the chums caught up, I limited myself to an IPA and a trio of tasters so as to remain competent enough to drive us back to Denver when the night was over. Each sample held its own special merits, competing to be a favorite. The 3Point5 Session Ale lived up to its moniker, at 3.5% ABV as the name implies, the 40 IBUs make a crisp and hoppy brew that won’t go to your head too early. It reminded me very much of another Avery favorite, best enjoyed in the Summer, Joe’s Pilsner. The second of the trio, the Simcoe/Chinook Hopped IPA was also light on the palate, but a step up in ABV at 6.5%. The piney hoppiness is well balanced with a clean and simple mouthfeel. A taproom only selection, it’ll probably only make it out into the world as an inspiration for some other Avery brew.
I finished up the flight with the Hog Heaven Barleywine. The deeply ambered hue hints at the complexity of this multiple award winner. At 102 IBU, the generous hop bite fills out the thick texture, and the 9.2% ABV made me glad I only had a taster before having to get behind the wheel.
In the end, ties were reconnected, and the tales updated. New memories were made, and added to in the months to come. For me though, the visit to Avery had to suffice me as a one time experience since I most likely won’t make it back until the new, bigger brewery is completed. Scheduled to be completed in 2014, the brewery will have space to meet the increasing demand for their beers. So when I do make it back, it’ll be like seeing an old friend with a facelift, but with their heart and personality intact.