Beer Review 0554: Avery The Czar Imperial Stout

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Avery Brewing Company is located in Boulder, Colorado, and began operations in 1993.  The brewer was Adam Avery, and the company was the result of his efforts to perfect several homebrew recipes. Enter a couple of gold medals from the Great American Beer Festival, and popularity quickly followed, as is often the case in the beer world.

Initially only offered in 22 oz. bomber bottles, Avery fired up 12 ounce bottles in 1996, which allowed them to sell six-packs. In the same year, Avery brewed an IPA, one of their bestsellers. (I rated Avery IPA 89 points.)

Part of their “Dictator Series,” The Czar is an Imperial Stout that registers 10.3% ABV (alcohol by volume). Released once each year in November, each batch varies in ABV; the 2013 edition is the 12th running of The Czar, and this is the lowest alcohol content to date. All three of the Dictator Series offerings come in bomber bottles; see my review of The Maharaja Imperial IPA (97 points) for further insight into the line. The Czar is brewed with a host of malts but just Magnum and Sterling hops (although the side of the bottle says Hallertau); the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are at 55.

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The pour issued up an average size, soapy head that lasted long atop the beer. Color of the beer was a very dark brown and it featured some ruby red highlights when held up to a bright light. The color is a bit off for an Imperial Stout; the body is clear, has no particles or sediment, and the lacing is nice, leaving thin, soapy sheets of film.

On the nose, the surprise is how balanced this beer is between hops and malt — yes, it does lean more toward the malt end, as it should, but the unmistakable floral and herbal presence of Hallertau hops are definitely here. There’s a candy sweetness to this beer, which enhances the caramel and toffee aromas, but there are some darker things going on, like slightly burnt coffee and creamy milk chocolate. Add in a hint of dark fruits like cherries and raisins, and you’ve got an interesting aroma on this beer. It’s pleasant if a bit unexpected; I had prepared myself for massive dark malts, but that’s just not the story to be told.

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Tasting, there are deep flavors of dark chocolate and sweetened coffee, along with toffee, caramel, and a touch of slightly bitter grape jam. The sweetness amps up a bit in the middle of the taste, turning the dark chocolate into more like a cake frosting; sugary and making the already sweetened coffee richer and even more sweeter. On the finish, the hops begin to butt in, changing the sweet coffee to a bitter, highly roasted coffee (almost burnt) with another hit of dark chocolate and some licorice. The final flavors are moderately bitter and the 10.3% alcohol gives off a warmth, but never a fusel flavor. The Czar is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy texture.

I found this to be a really nice beer that is a change of pace when it comes to Imperial Stouts. I hesitate to call this a ‘light’ Imperial Stout, but it definitely plays up more nuanced flavors than just smacking you with coffee, chocolate, and dark fruits. The Czar has a nice complexity to it and I think it’s worth your time to at least check out a bottle.

Avery The Czar Imperial Stout, 90 points. Price: $8.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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