"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Ostentatious Circumflex

Certain diacritical marks hold different connotations.  For example, the festive tilde makes me think Sweet!  Probably some sweet tacos around here.  The stoic umlaut make me think Shit!  Probably going to get a jackboot to the face.  And the circumflex?  The circumflex makes me think Great!  Some pretentious prick is trying to impress me.  Such was my thought when I first heard about Odell Brewing Company’s (Ft. Collins) latest offering from the corked Single Serve Series: Avant Pêche Imperial Porter (9.5% ABV).
I’m not some curmudgeon who’s upset that beer is being wrenched from the craggy hands of the working class and being transformed into a libation for the big city intellectuals.  Truth is, some beers aren’t for everybody.  Most people aren’t going to knock off work, drive their truck to Dave’s Saloon, and order an Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout (Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver).  Conversely, I’m not so snobbish that I won’t drink a Bud Light or PBR.  When it comes to certain situations like BBQs and sporting events, I actually prefer the cheap stuff.  I see both sides of the argument but Avant Pêche makes me lean towards the “beer is the everyman’s drink” philosophy.  The name just oozes with pompousness.  It sounds like the name of some black turtlenecked freak’s art exhibit consisting mainly of rotted fruit cores Super Glued into Lovecraftian shapes.  Don’t ask him what it’s supposed to be, he’ll just call attention to your unenlightened, neo-fascist mindset and walk off in a huff.  Plus, I don’t like having to figure out how to make that stupid little mark above the “e” in Microsoft Word. 
Names aside, beer is about the taste.  This is how Odell describes the beer: “We aged a classic Imperial Porter in oak barrels with Colorado peaches and wild yeasts.  The blend marries a bold roasted chocolate malt flavor with a subtle peach essence, and the wild yeasts create slightly tart complexities.”  What piqued my interest, for a couple reasons, was the peaches.  For one, because everybody living in Colorado must sign a clause that they will be a hippie for at least 10% of their waking life, I appreciated the fact that Avant Pêche used local fruit in the brewing process.  The other reason I was interested was because Nicole and I have homebrewed a Colorado peach ale and I wanted to see how they compared.
Avant Pêche is black with very faint red highlights.  It has a light brown head.  It smells both tart and sour with hints of acetone.  I talked about Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout and it’s nail polish-like aroma in a previous post; Avant Pêche’s aroma is a subdued version of that.  With the first sip, Avant Pêche hits you in the front of the mouth with roasted malt and then lacquers your whole mouth like fossilized amber.  There is a tartness that dances on the tip of the tongue before heading deeper and eventually arriving at the roof of the mouth.  The oak-y quality of the beer is detectable but not overpowering.  Weak though it may be, the oak flavor stays on the tongue long after you swallow.  When you do swallow, it feels like watered-down liquor going down your throat.  It definitely has an alcohol burn.  The flavor and the aroma both mellow out as the beer warms.  I recommend keeping it out of the fridge for awhile before you pop the cork.
There was only one flavor that wasn’t predominate: peaches!  There’s no detectable peach aroma or flavor!  It’s right there in the name, one thinks it would be a bit more obvious.  When Nicole and I brewed our peach ale you couldn’t miss the peach flavor.  With Avant Pêche you have to hunt for it and, when you find it, you can’t be entirely sure you’re not just kidding yourself in to thinking you’re tasting peach.  Odell claims a “subtle peach essence” but I call that an overstatement.
Would I recommend Avant Pêche?  Yeah, why not?  It’s a decent porter.  However, I warn anybody who wants to try this beer not to get their hopes up about the peaches.  I’d like to see Odell tweak the recipe and double or triple the peach input; I think that would really make it stand out.  As is, Avant Pêche is a good Colorado porter adrift in a sea of good Colorado porters.                   

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