Sometimes beer names are clever, sometimes they’re straight to the point. The Beast grand cru oak aged ale is both. At 16.8% ABV that number dominates the discussion. This beer packs a wallop of both complexity and booze, with a heavy fusel alcohol even once the beer warms from the too-cool fridge temp.
At the core of this grand cru styled beer is a sugary Belgian yeast strain that’s more fruity than spicy, a statement backed up by the label’s small print that describes it as “ale with dates, maple syrup, and honey.” At its core, these primary characteristics are strong, but you’ll also find an oaky finish that’s fighting with the high alcohol for flavor space.
It’s a highly complex beer, with the nose carrying hints of everything from the aforementioned fruits and sugars to cherry, cranberry, oak tannins, even toffee and candied sugars. Tasted at fridge temp, it’s mostly the sugars and a potent alcohol riff that burns on the tongue, but like any high ABV beer, warming it brings out the subtleties which, with The Beast, means the fruity flavors from the yeast strain, complemented by a dry maple and a light touch of dates with some caramel malt at the foundation.
It’s alternately sweet and dry, a maple sugar sweet that is quickly sucked off the tongue as the oak takes over the finish. It’s a beer that transitions completely from light fruit to sugar to oak to alcohol, finishing with a smoky charred oak.
By nature of what it is, The Beast is going to be a divisive beer. This one is more of a curiosity than a go-to. It’s quality and complex, but the alcohol content shifts the balance. This may be the first time I’ve said a 12-ounce bottle is too big a container, but The Beast is three beers in one, in both flavor profile and in booziness. It’s big, arguably too big.
Brewery: Avery Brewing Co.
City: Boulder, Colorado
Availability: 12 oz. bottle
Loren Green is a Minneapolis writer covering beer, music, and more. Follow him on Twitter at @lorenmgreen.