Beer Man

Uncle Jacob's Stout from Avery Brewing, one of Colorado's best beers, returns Sunday

Uncle Jacob's Stout is one of best beers made in Colorado -- if not the best. That's not an opinion. It's a fact, or as close to a fact as you can get when it comes to beer.

Made once a year by Boulder's Avery Brewing, Uncle Jacob's has garnered the highest possible ratings from the nation's two largest beer-ratings websites, Beer Advocate and RateBeer, along with high marks from many local publications, including Westword.

See also: In an era of trademark battles, would Avery and Russian River still collaborate, not litigate?

But maybe the biggest testament to the beer's popularity is that it is sometimes referred to as Colorado's Pliny the Younger -- if not in style, then in stature. Every February, people line up around the block to get their hands on one glass of Pliny, an intensely popular and highly-rated triple IPA made by Russian River Brewing in California.

"If that is what people say, then we are flattered," Avery spokesman Darin McGregor says of Uncle Jacob's. "We certainly recognize that is is popular and we want it to continue to be that way. We like to use it to create some excitement and get people to the brewery. That's why we do a brewery release and don't just send it out on the streets.

"But did we do it by design?" he asks. "Probably not."

On Sunday, February 9, two days after Pliny is tapped (a few kegs of it will find their way to Colorado later this month, by the way), Avery will release its third bottled batch of Uncle Jacob's, a 14.83 percent ABV imperial stout aged for six months in bourbon barrels.

And beer lovers will be lined up at Avery's Boulder taproom starting several hours before sales of Uncle Jacob's begin at 1 p.m. It's $12 for a single twelve-ounce bottle -- cash only, please -- and fans are limited to 24 bottles.

The release comes just seven months after the 2013 vintage. The reason, McGregor says, it that space constraints in the brewery delayed production last year. Now that Avery has broken ground on a new $27 million, 68,000 square-foot showplace brewery in north Boulder, however, the company was able to better dial in its brewing schedule.

"We've always intended it to come out at this time of year," he explains. "We didn't intend for such a big beer to come out in the middle of the summer last year."

Avery bottled 713 cases of Uncle Jacob's this year; only about 30 percent of that will hit liquor store shelves, and will likely be gone almost instantly.

In a statement about this year's batch, the brewery says it hasn't made too many changes, but that flavors are melding better in 2014 than they did in 2013:

"Just like the past two years, the biggest challenge was bringing balance to a brew of such high alcohol content. To offset the natural astringency from the alcohol and the barrels' oak tannins, dark specialty malts with caramel and toffee flavors were chosen over more roasty and coffee-like malts. A liberal dose of flaked oats was also added for richness and mouth-feel. After four weeks of fermenting with an English ale yeast and 6 months resting in the oak barrels, the brew boasts flavors of coconut, toffee, caramel, and vanilla from the Bourbon barrels, as well as dried currants and cherries."

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes