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The Czar of Colorado

Aubrey & Ecrvich Talk with Adam Avery
Interviews March 13, 2003      
Written by RateBeer

Santa Rosa, CALIFORNIA -

Avery Brewing was founded in Boulder, CO in 1993 by Adam Avery, his father Larry, and a family friend. With such popular craft beers as their IPA and Hog Heaven, the brewery is certainly no stranger to locals. Since then, many new creations such as The Reverend, Salvation, and The Czar have reached a wider audience as distribution has grown, gaining quite a strong reputation for Avery. RateBeer decided to find out more from Adam about the past, present, and future of this small brewery with such big beers.

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RateBeer: The history of the brewery itself is fairly well documented on your website, so let’s talk about you, Adam. How did you personally get interested in brewing? How did you learn the craft?

Adam Avery: My passion for beer began way, way, way back. As a teething, crying infant, my aunt would put beer on my pacifier to ease my pain. Now look at me. Got rid of the pacifier and replaced it with a brewery. Let’s see, in between those events: As a teenager, I started drinking the imports available in the early 80’s. Stuff like Heineken, Moosehead, Beck’s, St Pauli’s, etc. After graduating from Regis College in Denver in ’88 and drinking a lot of that local Coors brew, I moved to Boulder in ’89 and tasted my friend Kevin Volz’s homebrew. I was hooked. It was the best, freshest, most flavorful brew I’d ever had! A nice, strong, hoppy brown ale. I still remember it. Kevin was my boss at the time. We both worked at Eastern Mountain Sports and were total climbing and ski bums. Fun times. He’s still there and we occasionally down a brew (an Avery, of course - he lets me do the brewing now) and he’ll remind me how much I owe him. I tell him to just keep drinking. Anyway, after that brown ale I immediately bought a homebrew kit and went berserk! I had at least one and sometimes up to four batches going at a time for three solid years. I had cases upon cases stacked in the basement. Gave sooooo much away to friends and even strangers. I brewed more than I could ever hope to consume. Addicted, you bet! I had "brewitis" in a bad way! Or is that good? I decided in the spring of ’93 that I could turn my hobby into a profession. I put together a business plan that impressed my father, Larry Avery, and his friend, Steve Wagner, enough that they financed my dream. Put a little 7 bbl system with a 700 bbl annual capacity in a small building and have been growing the brewery ever since.

Were there commercially available beers that you wanted to replicate?

I would say it’s more like personalizing some of my favorites. For example, I was drinking a ton of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in the early 90’s and thus, you can understand my love of hoppy beers. I believe our IPA is a bit less bitter with a more complex hop nose. That’s what I like in a beer. Nothing against Sierra, I still drink it. Thank God they make beer the way they do. They have educated the American beer drinker to the pleasures of an overtly hopped beer. This has opened doors for our brewery. Kudos to the folks at Sierra Nevada!

Do you still develop most of the recipes, or is it a cooperative process with the rest of the brewing staff (Steve Breezley, Steve Wadzinksi, and Greg Miller)? And what about this new Imperial Stout you call The Czar? How did that recipe come about?

For the most part, I am responsible for all of our recipes. I make the beer I want to drink. However, on our latest creation, The Czar, I collaborated with my head brewer, Steve Breezley on the recipe. He’s been with me for over a year and I trust him and his decision making like no other employee I’ve had. Great palate, too. He deserved to be a part of the recipe formulation and I’m glad he was! I wanted to do a true English-style Imperial Stout. More toffee than coffee, if you follow. I had the pleasure of drinking a 1992 Courage Imperial Stout last year and was blown away. I knew I needed to brew an imperial right then. Steve and I sat down and over the course of a few days came up with a game plan. We both got our ways on some ingredients, but were denied by the other on some. It was fun!

It’s definitely a big hit with RateBeer members, currently ranked as one of the top 50 beers in the world! Are you surprised by its popularity? Any plans to make a year-round beer, or will it remain a seasonal?

We think the result is quite good. Our sales and the feedback from folks like the Ratebeerians would definitely indicate that big beer lovers feel the same. We only produced 700 cases but will brew more this year as we could have easily sold three times that amount. Many of our distributors didn’t receive any. Look for the 2003 to release in early November. I highly suggest cellaring some bottles to compare through the years. We’ll brew it as a winter seasonal, November - March.

2003 marks the 10th anniversary of Avery Brewing Co.

Wow, ten years! Seems like yesterday Dad and I were hand-filling and labeling bottles.

So what will you be doing to celebrate? I presume you have a special beer in the works? Can you divulge any details?

Well, for our anniversary we’re doing two things. First, a 10 Year Anniversary beer. Think Imperial IPA. Hops have defined our brewery from day one, so it’s fitting. Plus, it’s my favorite style. I’m the definition of a hophead. Look for 10+ ABV, 100+ IBUs, massive dry-hopping, and subtle, interesting light specialty malt flavors. Second, we are gonna throw a huge party on a Sunday in August. I’m thinking a couple of roasted pigs, turkeys, ribs and, of course, some very special kegs. How about a keg of the original batch of Hog Heaven? Five years old. Just tasted it about six months ago and it is nice! I’ll probably also sacrifice one of only two kegs of Czar I have in stock. Original batch of Reverend, you get the idea. I think I’ll invite the state of Colorado to come over and any Ratebeerians that can make it, please do!

Tell us a little about distribution if you could. How many states besides Colorado get Avery products currently? Where do you see Avery going next?

We have distribution in 14 additional states. After last year’s 43% increase and an even bigger rate this year, I’m a bit afraid to open more states. When we can produce more beer, we’ll look at some other good microbeer markets.

The New World Porter is a rather unusual, very hoppy example of the style. Tell us some background info about that beer. Does it change at all from year to year?

New World Porter is one of my favorite beers. It’s a black IPA, if that makes any sense. Fresh, it’s a beautiful hopbomb full of chocolate and caramel notes. Age it for a year and it has a smooth Sam Smiths, English quality to it. This year we took five IBUs off and I think it is much more enjoyable. Rounded the finish off a bit.

You don’t seem to have any "macro clone" beers in your product line, i.e., an American Standard/Light beer for drinkers who prefer Coors. For example, Rockies Brewing recently released Sulley’s Light Lager, apparently to tap into that market. Do you ever see Avery making a beer like that?

We sort of made a beer that’s a little less aggressive in Calypso Wheat Ale. It’s a bit lighter bodied but hopped like many breweries’ pale ales. Not super hoppy, by our standards, anyway. It has been our summer seasonal for the past three years and sales have been good. However, we decided it really didn’t fit into our lineup. We produce big, different, challenging and aggressive brews. So this year we are brewing a true Belgian Wit.

Very cool. Are you going to make it as close to the traditional style as possible, using the usual coriander and curacao spicing, or is it going to have a trademark Avery twist?

Pretty traditional: coriander, orange peel, and lots of wheat. I’m excited about it. It’s an up-and-coming style in this country. Blue Moon and Sunshine Wheat are paving the way in Colorado and I’ll give the people maybe just a bit more in ours.

Do you have a name for it yet?

The recipe is finished but we are still looking for a name. Any ideas out there?

The addition of the witbier to Salvation and The Reverend shows a marked interest in making Belgian-style beer, styles that are made by a relatively small number of American breweries. Do you find them to be difficult and/or expensive to replicate? Or do you suspect most brewers feel the styles would not sell well to American consumers?

They are, without a doubt, much harder, more expensive, and challenging to produce than most beers. I think that because you need unique, imported ingredients, yeast, grain, hops, candy sugar that most brewers don’t want to hassle with it. But we don’t think of it as a hassle; it’s a challenge. And we truly are passionate about beer and about educating drinkers on the diversity of styles. Also, at our size, it is cost effective to produce a beer that may only sell 3,000 cases in a year, whereas larger breweries would laugh at 3,000 cases.

Many RateBeer readers know that you hosted a two-day strong ale festival in early February...how and why did this come about? I assume you’re hoping to make this a yearly event?

The First Annual Boulder Strong Ale Fest was a blast! I saw you there and I know you had a good time. I basically stole the concept from my friend Tomme Arthur who throws the San Diego Strong Ale Fest at the Pizza Port in Carlsbad, CA. The Pizza Port beers are some of my very favorite in the country. Tomme makes some crazy ass Belgians that are out of this world at the Solana Beach facility and Kirk makes my favorite IPA, Wipeout IPA, in Carlsbad. Anyway, they inspired me to bring 40 draft beers, all 8% ABV or higher, together from across the country and throw a party at the Barrel House here in town. Volunteers pour the beer so brewers can just drink and talk to their fans. It’s a great way to structure a fest. It was fun for me because many of the brewers told me they had never drank as many as 30 of the entries. Next year I hope to have more selections, especially from some of my favorites back east. Turnout was more than I expected but I hope more people show next year.

Anything you’d like to say in general to RateBeer readers in closing?

It’s fun to read the ratings and I learn a lot from them. Keep it up! You guys and gals are the "real beer culture" of America [and the world! - Ed.]. You are just as passionate and involved in beer as we the producers are. Maybe even more so! Peace to everyone!



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