In my beer travels, I've come across two types of beer drinkers. The first want a smooth, easy-going beer - something that they can drink without pushing their palate too much or leaving much of a flavor in their mouths. The later want a beer that's going to kick their ass by way of their G.I. track; one that pushes boundaries and makes them re-evaluate what they like, and don't like, about beer.
OK, so there are probably a dozen other types of beer drinkers in between those two extremes. But I'm oversimplifying to prove a point: There are beers, and entire breweries perhaps, for both of those types of people. And if you fall squarely into category one, you can probably skip the rest of this. Go ahead, shoo. Are those people gone yet? Good, they were cramping our style. For the rest of you thrill-seeking manly-man and womenly-women types, this week's beer is a brew after your own heart. It's The Reverend, a Belgian-style quadrupel ale (no, not quadruple) from the always bold and adventurous Avery Brewing Company.
Avery hails from Boulder, Colorado, a landscape full of sharp, pronounced features; features which inform their style of beer. The tiny craft brewer's axiom is "Small brewery, BIG BEERS," and it definitely holds water. Everything I've tasted from Avery is full on stuff, deep and complex with the attitude cranked up to 11. They name their beers as boldly as they brew them, giving them regal titles like the Maharaja, the Czar, and the Kaiser. And the separate their beers into two categories to further illustrate that fact: Big Beers and Seasonal Beers (note the distinct absence of the word "small").
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Avery specializes in English and Belgian styles mostly, which is where the Reverend comes in. It's a quadrupel ale, a style of Belgian beer typified by deep, rich flavors and colors of dark fruit and spices, with a very high and noticeable alcohol content. The originators of the style were Trappist monks, those Benedictine followers who are well-known for their artisanal beer production and supposed vows of silence (though they do not always actually take vows, silence is considered golden, much like their brew). Another interesting characteristic of this style is that quadrupels age quite well, allowing cellering four years (in the case of the Reverend) or even longer.
If you choose to crack your Reverend before the four year mark (and who could blame you), you'll notice a strong clove and coriander scent, rounded out by pronounced citrus and a strong whiff of alcohol. It pours thick and heavy, with a deep orange and red honey hue and a foamy, lacey head. The first sip is a wave of varying flavors: you've got a sweet, molasses malt from the Belgian candy sugar that comes on strong, followed by deep waves of thick-skinned berries and a tangy yeastiness reminiscent of the strongest of Belgian beers. That gives way to an intense level of peppery spice and a deep, warming glow from the high alcohol. It's a beer you actually feel going down - you'll want to sip it like a whiskey. It's thick and creamy, but also heavily carbonated - it bites back, for sure. We first drank it from a mug, which was the totally wrong way to go about it. The Reverend will kick and scream without a proper glass to let it breath - a goblet would do just right.
I drank the Reverend by itself, but it would make an excellent accompaniment to gamey foods - I'm thinking a meaty lamb burger with thyme and a melting wedge of brie. It would also be nice with peppery salads and lettuces like arugula. Just remember, this is a BIG beer.