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Hoptopia IPALee Williams is a Colorado beer writer I follow, and the founder of Hoptopia.com, a website devoted to craft beer reviews and news. Back in January, he partnered up with Untappd, the social drinking check-in platform, to create a badge rewarding users who tried at least 3 of the hop-heavy beers from his “I Believe in IPA” list. Since it was a special edition badge, users could “level up” and earn the badge again over consecutive months, so once I started using Untappd, Hoptopia’s challenge quickly became one I looked forward to every month, inducing me to seek out a wide array of IPA’s. Colorado breweries figured prominently, others were difficult or impossible to obtain in Texas, and occasional themes like September’s Black IPA list always kept things interesting. For October, Williams posted what he decided would be his last IPA list, featuring some usual suspects as well as some harder to obtain labels – at least in Texas – like the hophead’s Holy Grail, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. Wanting to go out on a strong note, I earned my Level 5 on a limited release from Colorado’s Avery Brewing, the Maharaja, a few summer holdovers of which I found at Spec’s Downtown.

Avery MaharajaAs part of their Dictator series, Avery Brewing has released Imperial versions – which in the context of US craft brewing generally just means “stronger” with respect to hops, malts, ABV, or all of the above – of geographically named styles with imperial histories of their own. Thus, an Imperial Oktoberfest yields the Kaiser, an Imperial Russian Stout gives us the Czar, and an Imperial India Pale Ale (IIPA) brings us the Maharaja.

Maharaja uses 3 of the 4 hop varietals found in Avery’s standard IPA, only exchanging Cascade hops for Simcoe, which, because of the latter’s higher alpha acids, which brings a stronger hop bitterness, on top of the Columbus and Chinook hops, characteristic of an Imperial, or Double, IPA, though, as a dual-use hop (bittering and aroma), Simcoe also brings some citrusy and slightly piney flavors to the party. That sentence just set the land speed record for subordinate clauses. In any event, the malts provide a strong, slightly sweet backbone for the large hop presence, which in turn lends major grapefruit notes that mitigate the bitterness – though not as much as in the Rodeo Clown Double IPA from Karbach I reviewed recently. All of this served to mask the otherwise strong alcohol content, at 10% ABV.

So, while I’m sad to see the Hoptopia badge go, I’m glad it led me to Avery’s Maharaja, among the best examples of a carefully constructed Imperial IPA. There were only a couple of bottles left at Spec’s when I grabbed this one, and it’s no longer on tap at Anvil, the last place I saw it, so we may have seen the last of it until next year. But another Colorado brewery has put out an excellent beer here, and I’ll wait for it until then. Cheers.


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