(Boulder, CO) — Two years ago, Avery Brewing Co. was playing around with a couple of their beers and ended up creating a flavor combination they knew they had to bottle. A complex creation with a simple name, Avery will unveil their new beer, Vanilla Bean Stout, this Sunday, December 13 at their brewery.
“For the sake of experimentation, we aged a couple kegs of our Czar Imperial Stout and a couple kegs of our Out of Bounds Stout in fresh Bourbon barrels,” says Avery Chief Barrel Herder Andy Parker. “Then I blended the two barrel-aged beers in various ratios and ran them through a blind tasting panel of employees until I found the best ratio.”
Everyone loved the blend, but the Bourbon barrels imparted a lot of charred oak flavors and astringency. Thoma Ledder, Avery’s Barrel Romancer, had the idea to balance those harsh flavors with vanilla. “In the next blind panel, it was unanimous that the blend with vanilla helped the Bourbon and charred oak notes shine,” says Ledder, “without allowing them to overpower the beer.”
As they do with most of their experiments, Avery tapped this beer in their tap room to gather feedback from employees and customers. “The night it went on tap, I drank four pints of it,” says Founder and CEO Adam Avery. “I ran up to Andy and said, ‘This beer is awesome. We have to bottle this.’”
Avery’s capacity constraints in their former location kept them from bottling the beer right away, but it was a priority after moving into their new brewing facility in Gunbarrel.
“We had the malts dialed,” says Parker, “but we had to dive into the whole wide world of vanilla.” Avery tracked down seven kinds of vanilla from different suppliers and different regions. “We also did blind tastings of extracts and powders but they didn’t give us anywhere near the richness and roundness of flavor that whole beans did.”
To test the seven types of vanilla beans, Avery’s brewers once again turned to the palates of their employees. “Our employees walk into our sensory room and don’t know what they’re tasting or why—they just say what tastes good to them,” says Parker. “I feel so confident about this beer because we put in the time and effort to find the best vanilla for the job, which turned out to be Tongan, Ugandan, and Mexican.”
Avery aged the vanilla stout in fresh Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels for 3 months and bottled the beer on December 10. “It came in at 10.8% ABV but I get so little heat on it that it’s mind-blowing” says Parker.
Avery’s goal wasn’t to create something that tastes like vanilla or Bourbon or chocolate malt, but to create a balanced beer with a variety of complex flavors that play off one another. But balance doesn’t mean this beer is weak by any stretch of the imagination. Says Parker, “When I drink a bomber of Vanilla Bean Stout, my chest hair instantly turns into a shag carpet.”
Vanilla Bean Stout joins Raspberry Sour in Avery’s Botanicals & Barrels series, which features barrel-aged beers brewed year-round. Bottles and draft of Vanilla Bean Stout will be unveiled at Avery on Sunday, December 13 at 11am. After the brewery release, this first round of Vanilla Bean Stout will make its way to AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, KS, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NC, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, VA, WA, WI, and WY.