Vail Ale at Altitude column: Brewing innovative beers from traditional practices | VailDaily.com
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Vail Ale at Altitude column: Brewing innovative beers from traditional practices

Matt Thrall.
Jonathan Castner | Special to the Weekly |

If you go ...

Who: Matt “Handtruck” Thrall, head brewmaster at Avery Brewing Company.

What/when: Meet the Brewmaster and enjoy free samples on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. in Fireside Bar; Small Plates and Craft Beer Pairing on Saturday starting at 6 p.m. in Atwater on Gore Creek.

Where: Vail Cascade Resort, Vail.

Cost: Friday is free; Saturday event is $35 per person.

More information: http://www.vailcascade.com or 970-479-7014.

At Avery Brewing Co., we pride ourselves in pushing boundaries with nontraditional raw materials and process parameters. We’ve used everything from Peruvian passion fruit to Tasmanian pepperberries and all kinds of spices. (Cucumber hibiscus sour ale, anyone?)

We push ourselves to make beers outside of style guidelines, only limited by our imagination. Sure, we have some of the traditional brewery offerings, but where we excel as a brewery is formulating a brand new beer, a beer no one has ever tried to make.

CREATING BEER FOR BARRELS

Instead of asking ourselves which beer in our lineup we are going to age in a barrel, we actually write a recipe and brew a beer specifically for aging in said barrel.

We employ the latest and greatest in brewing technology and production practices, yet we never forget beer’s roots and it’s always a pleasure to give a nod to brewing’s flavorful history. Instead of centrifuges and recirculation tanks and all the other newfangled ways of doing things, sometimes we need to harken back to the days of yore and put our faith in brewing’s second oldest vessel, the wooden barrel.

Our take is a little different than most. Instead of asking ourselves which beer in our lineup we are going to age in a barrel, we actually write a recipe and brew a beer specifically for aging in said barrel.

To us, wooden barrels are not solely a storage vessel; they are also an ingredient. We have used various red and white wine, tequila, bourbon, rum and an assortment of other liquor barrels. With each barrel, we carefully choose a recipe and process to bring out the best of both worlds: age old vessel and brand new beer style.

THE BEGINNING OF A GOOD THING

Avery Brewing Co.’s barrel aging program officially began with the first release in February 2009 with Brabant. We have been playing with barrels since 2004, but outside of a few offerings available in our tap room, we hadn’t put anything into package.

From the selection of toasted and roasted malts to the 100 percent Brettanomyces fermentation, Brabant was purposefully built to incorporate the preexisting flavor of the Zinfandel barrels.

BARRELING AHEAD

Fast forward to today, and our barrel program has grown to more than two dozen releases with a handful on the schedule for the remainder of the year. Just this year we have released a prickly pear sour aged in tequila barrels, an 18 percent ABV pumpkin porter aged in bourbon barrels, and several grape and beer hybrids.

In 2014 alone, we have used over 1,000 oak barrels from multiple countries and continents.

Each barrel was chosen specifically for its previous contents and what it would bring to the beer we craft. All of the barrels were meticulously monitored throughout their life and the brewery could not be happier with the results.

While barrel-aged beers aren’t for everyone, few can resist the charm of Old World barrels coupled with New World flavors. Perhaps our brewing will take us back even further in time? We better start kilning the clay pots now.

Established in 1993, Avery Brewing Co. has developed a reputation as being one of the most daring and visionary breweries in the nation. They are the brewers of Avery IPA, White Rascal Belgian-Style White Ale, The Maharaja Imperial IPA, Mephistopheles’ Stout and more than 20 other year-round and seasonal beers. Having a true passion for beer, Matt “Handtruck” Thrall is Avery’s head brewer, production manager and general know-it-all.


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