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Beer of the Week: Avery Brewing Co.’s 2011 Samael’s Oak-Aged Ale, Boulder, CO

At what point is a beer still a beer compared to a fortified wine? Avery’s Samael, in theory an oak aged English strong ale, is one of the strongest, most refined beers you will encounter. Stronger than any traditional wine, Samael’s is indeed akin to a Port wine. As Avery says, this is the best Port you will ever have. I won’t go that far having sampled some very fine Port wines. This won’t be tasting like a Sandeman Tawny or Graham’s Ruby, yet it maintains the same mellow structure with flavors of toffee mixed with gushing fruits that makes Port such a pleasing apertif or digestif.

Avery is best known for Colorado’s definitive IPA and its strong beer “Dictator” series with the likes of the Czar Imperial Stout and Maharaja Imperial IPA. However, having recently tasted a number of selections at the excellent tap room next to the brewery just outside downtown Boulder, Colorado, it’s the complex, barrel aged offerings where Avery truly hits its specialty stride. The taste avoids being a boozy, bourbon influenced one, though the oak from the barrel is very apparent. Hints of maple pop up as an aroma, never making it to the body. The body itself is more of a carbonated malt than the syrupy thickness of a Port. The taste and look remind you of Port, not the structure. At 15:31 % abv, you won’t be drinking this beer all day. That’s fine though, it’s a luscious beer worth sipping on before dinner or with dessert. Beer or Port or Port beer, Samael’s is worth savoring like a most elegant wine.

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