Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Ale To The Chief

Avery Brewing Co.
Boulder, CO

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 8.75%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

Pair With:
A few months back, during the height of the presidential primaries, Nigel wrote an article decrying the concept of the “beer vote.” At the time politics was on everyone’s mind and I felt it appropriate to share my two cents regarding the mainstream media’s belief, warranted or not, that many blue-collar voters would cast their ballots for the candidate that they most wanted to have a beer with, ignoring the plethora of important, urgent issues facing our country.

Upon further review, it was a bad idea. I’m proud to say the article was met with a collective yawn, proof of which comes from traffic reports that show it to be far and away the least read article/review ever written on this fine site (Nigel displays his trophy on the mantle above his beer fridge). As Eddie Glick noted, it was perhaps a bit outside of our focus area; yes, it was loosely related to beer, but it wasn’t exactly the type of insight our readers come to our site on a regular basis to see.

So … take two. Nigel is getting political again, but this time it is all about the beer, and to hell with the commentary. After all, a lot has changed since that March article. Exit Hillary Clinton, enter Sarah Palin (who?). Exit Mike Huckabee, enter, sigh … Ralph Nader. Exit Ron Paul, enter, er, uh … well, I guess we can’t get rid of Ron Paul. Most importantly, exit boring articles about presidential candidates and the “beer vote,” enter Avery’s Ale to the Chief.

I’m somewhat familiar with Boulder, Colorado’s Avery Brewing Co. I’ve had a few of their regular offerings, all of which came in bomber form, and found them to be of high quality. As I’ve stated numerous times in this space, Colorado is an oasis of craft brewing genius located on a Rocky Mountain island between the brilliant West Coast and Midwest brewers. Avery is one of a number of fine brewers in a tiny pocket of beer heaven that is better known as the greater Denver area.

Ale to the Chief is brewed to mark Inauguration Day, which isn’t until January 20, 2009. Be it Obama or McCain, Nigel will surely be holding a massive celebration that day for, uh … unknown reasons (read: Nigel is not a fan of current “president”). As a historian, I love Avery’s write-up on the side of the bottle, though I won’t say what historical document it spoofs. Most of you will know immediately, but my lovely girlfriend, Danish Princess, is a bit “historically challenged” (she thinks the Civil War was fought in 1965 between Britain and Germany), so I’m planning to quiz her. It reads as such:

“We the Brewers of Avery Brewing Company, in order to form a more perfect ale, require new leadership that can liberate us from our quagmires in foreign lands; embrace environmentally sound energy alternatives to imported oil; heal our ailing health care system; free us from tyrannical debt and resurrect the collapsing dollar. We hereby pledge to provide him with an ample amount of our Presidential Pale Ale to support the struggle for the aforementioned goals! Hail to the New Chief!”

So, Ale to the Chief is supposedly a pale ale brewed to mark the historical transition of power in this country. However, with an ABV of nearly 9 percent and a boatload of hops, I’m thinking this is a pale ale in name only; it has all the characteristics of an imperial pale/IPA, but Avery claims that it’s “not imperial … this is a democracy … it’s presidential!” Clever, indeed.

Ale to the Chief (daa daa da-da, da da-da da-da da-da duuh) pours with a mild white head of just under an inch, which quickly dissipates into a picturesque lace with some stickiness on the sides. A deep golden brown with a reddish tint, it’s a touch darker than many pales, imperial pales, or IPAs, perhaps an indication that there is more of a malt profile than you would expect from what on the surface appears to be a hop monster. The head retention is impressive, unlike our current commander-in-chief; perhaps a better comparison would be a surprising lack of sedimentation, indicating that there’s not much inside of that head (work with me here …).

The aroma is hops, hops, and more hops. It’s pleasant and powerful, with the citrusy zest and piney bite one would expect from a brew that has copious quantities of Cascade gold. There is a sweet, sugary malt backbone to the aroma as well, but you have to dig for it; the hops dominate, as does a hint of alcohol that grows in strength as the beer warms.

The taste is wonderful and more balanced than the aroma. Hops do continue their dominance but the malt is far more present, making for a complex, tasty, powerful brew that will surely make Election Day more tolerable for us Dorks. Initial flavors of Northwest hops hit the tongue immediately, with the trademark light, zesty citrus bite and evergreen undertones. Almost immediately the hops are joined in unison with light, sugary pale and caramel malt, giving it the sweet flavor of light brown sugar, caramel, and toffee. The hops and malt play off of each other exceptionally well in this beer, which is critical to making a fine imperial IPA; some brewers try to blow you away with the hops, but the best of the best tend to be more balanced. As the beer warms, the alcohol increases drastically, making it a bit rougher towards the end of the session. In spite of that, Ale to the Chief is a surprisingly drinkable brew, smooth on the palate without a powerful aftertaste, despite its high ABV.

I figured going in to this review that the creativity behind Ale to the Chief would bump it up should it be stuck in “mug purgatory” (between a four and five, a three and four, etc.). No need for that; creativity aside, this is an excellent beer and a wonderful example of American ingenuity, at least when it comes to brewing. If the Republicans and Democrats could unite like the hops and malt do in Ale to the Chief, our country would be far better off than it is now. A word of advice: don’t wait until Inauguration Day to try this one; pick up a bomber now and grab one for later as well (expect to pay around $7-8). Ale to the Chief will cellar well until the big day, a day that I’m sure many of us are looking forward to. Hail to Avery!


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on September 23, 2008.
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