The Blue Nile never disappoints.

Stopped in earlier this week for my very loosely organized monthly gathering of fellow craft beer lovers, and had a chance to chat with Al, who was recovering from what sounded like a very successful “Battle of the Belg” Belgian beer fest the previous weekend. There weren’t any leftovers on draught from the event, but as always, Al had a number of great offerings available for us to sample, including Boulevard’s Tank 7 Saison (just about as good as the one from their Smokestack Series), Surly Cynic (spicy and excellent as usual), and one I was very pleased with, Avery’s Hog Heaven Barleywine. 

Based in Colorado, Avery has always been pretty solid in my book. Founded by a home brewer in 1993, they put out a number of locally available beers, including a few that I’ve tried like The Czar Imperial Stout, Samael’s Oak-Aged Ale, and Ale to the Chief double IPA, all impressing in their own ways.

They call Hog Heaven — part of the brewery’s “Holy Trinity of Ale” series — an imperial red, but to me it’s just a great example of an American-style barleywine. Poured a nice amber coloring and a noticeable alcohol viscosity, with some legs running down the side of the glass. American hops for days, with an assertive citric characteristic. The beer’s 104 IBUs come screaming through right away in the flavor, but it’s all quickly balanced out with a distinctive chewy, caramel sweet malt backbone. At a little over 9% ABV, I was happy to share the bottle considering how quickly this beer could put you on your ass.

Not quite Stone Old Guardian level, one of my favorites of all time, but a very nice beer nonetheless.

Rating: A-