Based on the size of his beer cellar, you might think Adam Avery was the sentimental type. Over the past fifteen years, he’s collected hundreds — make that thousands — of bottles of his own beer: one-off sours, barrel-aged stouts, discontinued high-gravity ales that used to sell out the day they debuted.
But Avery and the brewery he founded in 1993 are moving on — and they won’t be shedding a single tear.
On Friday, October 6, at 11 a.m., the Boulder brewery will hold a massive cellar sale in an effort to liquidate hundreds of cases of rare, special and cellar-aged beer. There’s the Reverend from 2003, the Beast from 2005, Sui Generis from 2009, Depuceleuse from 2010 and Rumpkin from 2012, not to mention long verticals of Uncle Jacob’s. Some of these are more desirable than others, so it's likely that a line will form early.
“I’m not that emotional of a guy or that emotionally attached to anything in the past,” Avery says. “These are a culmination of 24 years of brewing, so it’s fun to look back and to taste them. But I am more emotionally attached to the projects that we are doing now and to the future. We keep marching forward.
“I just decided it was time to share the cellar, and this is a cool way to do it,” he adds. “We will walk away from a lot of money because we are doing suggested retail prices. But I didn’t want money to get in the way of what a fifteen-year-old beer would taste like. Not a lot of people have cellared beer as long as I have.”
Which is noble. But also, all that dusty beer was taking up way too much room in the warehouse cooler, says Avery spokeswoman Vanessa Cory. “It’s gotten out of hand, and we need the space.” (Ironically, a former Avery employee was arrested in 2013 and accused of stealing around 600 bottles of beer, with a total value of $15,000, from Avery's personal cellar at the brewery's former location.)
So why did he hoard so much of it? “A couple of reasons,” Avery says.
“I wanted to have reference points as we moved along. As we honed our craft and got better, I wanted to be able to look and compare and to see what we had done before,” he explains. Compared to wine and spirits, breweries haven’t been aging beers for very long, so Avery also wanted to build a base of knowledge about how different styles of beers oxidize over the years and how they change. “The cellaring of beer is such a subjective topic, because the only way to objectify it is with your own palate. Some people think you should drink all beers fresh. Others think you should age them to see how they change. Some really do get better.”
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Those include the 15 percent ABV-plus “monsters” like Uncle Jacob’s, the Beast, Mephistopheles and Samael’s Ale — the last three of which have been discontinued. Those might have some fusel alcohol flavors going on in the beginning, but they also might smooth out and bring other flavors forward as they age. There are many sour beers in the collection, too: “Sours are the most bomb-proof of any beer,” Avery says. “It’s so hard to detect oxidation in those; the acidity covers everything up. All of our sours have aged really well.”
Another reason that Avery saved so much beer is that he enjoys putting on special beer dinners with bars and restaurants where attendees can have a conversation about flavors and what Avery was trying to produce. “I've just accumulated too much, and we're not going through it fast enough,” he says.
To prepare for the sale, the brewery dispatched its “special projects” team to try a bottle of most of the older beers to make sure that they are still drinkable, “and while they have changed over time, everything that we are selling is still pretty decent,” the brewery says. Adds Avery: “Some have peaked. Some might have tasted better last year or the year before. But some of them might taste better. No one needs to be worried about coming in here and spending a lot of money and them being duds, though.”
To see the full list of what is for sale, go to Avery's cellar-sale Googledoc.