I am not in the least ashamed to admit that the first thing I did when sitting down to write this review was look up the word “callipygian,” and I’m glad I did. Leave it to Avery to have a little lexicographical fun in their beer-naming habits. Observe:
Callipygian: “of, pertaining to, or having beautiful buttocks,” 1800, Latinized from Greek kallipygos, name of a statue of Aphrodite at Syracuse, from kalli-, combining form of kallos “beauty” + pyge “rump, buttocks.”
Cheeky, Avery. I presume that the name was chosen in reference to this latest barrel-aged beer’s rather ample figure and seductive full-bodiedness. No. 36 in Avery’s ever-growing barrel-aged series, Callipygian is a whopper of an imperial stout at 17.4% ABV. That alone would be noteworthy enough, at least for most non-Avery breweries, but this offering is also aged with the following: Bourbon barrels, cocoa, cocoa nibs, coffee and vanilla. Yeah. If that beer-description has a butt-related analog, it’s definitely of the beautifully shaped variety.
In all seriousness, though, it’s impressive the way that Avery continues to explore certain themes in their barrel-aged series while finding little variations to make each beer unique unto itself. One might expect Callipygian to come across as quite similar to another of their huge barrel-aged stouts such as Tweak (also with coffee), but the differences are distinct and intriguing.
On the nose, this beer is absolutely rocking the chocolate additions. It’s like nothing so much as an expensive chocolate liqueur, or perhaps chocolate-covered espresso beans, an aroma that suggests untold richness. It’s like what I imagine would happen if you took a gallon of Founders Breakfast Stout and reduced it in a pan until it had the consistency of pancake syrup.
On the palate, it’s not quite syrup-thick, but it’s close. As on the nose, this viscous stout is packed with chocolate—cocoa is the signature flavor by far, which isn’t surprising given that they incorporated it in two different ways. It’s positively fudgey cocoa, like drinking raw brownie batter. The coffee addition is there, but it’s hard for it not to be swept away in the chocolate and booze. And oh my yes, there’s booze in this thing, although the barrel is actually more subtle than you’d expect in such a huge beer, with very little overt oakiness. It’s impressive that the booze doesn’t overpower in the flavor department, instead adding strong dark fruit impressions such as raspberry. The booze does, however, add a near-overpowering presence to the mouthfeel and finish, making this the definition of a slow snifter sipper. You could presumably put this away for five years and find it wonderful to drink, assuming the chocolate flavors stick around.
Regardless, this imperial stout is a decadent treat, and boasts ridiculous cocoa flavors in particular. It is in some respects the beer that most artificially chocolate-flavored beers would dream of being. It will undoubtedly be too intense for some palates, but in small doses it’s sure to be a treasured dessert beer experience.
Brewery: Avery Brewing Co.
City: Boulder, CO
Style: Barrel-aged imperial stout
ABV: 17.4% (!!!)
Availability: Limited, 12 oz bottles (split this with a few people, seriously)
Jim Vorel is Paste’s resident beer geek supreme. You can follow him on Twitter.