The Maharaja is one of the most dynamic and delicious ales on earth, but I hesitated to tell you about it. This brew is a seasonal offering and if you people run out and buy all this year's stock, I will be forced into a beer sadness rampage. But I must preach the word, so here goes.
Avery Brewing is known for producing a variety of big, strong, aggressive brews. I call them daddy beers, as in dad needs a stiff drink at the end of a hard day's work. Among Avery's selection is a trio of Imperial style beers, the Dictator Series: there's the Czar, a Russian Imperial Stout; the Kaiser, an Imperial Oktoberfest Lager; and The Maharaja, an Imperial India Pale Ale. I have a particular fondness for the fierce complexity of The Maharaja.
Pour this medium-bodied, gently-carbonated ale into a tulip glass, where the brilliant orange body creates a thick white head that leaves a dense web of lacing on the sloped sides. Citrus rind, grapefruit flesh, and pine waft from the glass, with a slew of spicy notes like coriander, allspice, nutmeg, and clove. Initial tastes are dominantly orange and coriander, similar to a strong Belgian pale ale. Then, an acidic bitterness explodes in your mouth and down the back of your throat. It’s an aggressive, earthy, medicinal-herb bite, like ginseng mixed with citrus rind and ginger ale. During the finish, sweet oranges return to the tongue, which balances the warm, dry bitterness that lingers in your throat. It isn't a bad flavor, but it is strong as hell, like a sucker punch bar brawl on your taste buds.
I am a professional (don't try this at home, if only to save more for me), but a good 70 percent of the time I catch shivers from the first sip of Maharaja. For me, those uncontrollable tremors are the mark of a truly exceptional brew. If the first swallow makes you question whether or not the flavor is too powerful to continue, yet the taste is appealing enough to make you want another sip, it's a winner. Shake off the initial shock and delve into The Maharaja.
Just remember, though, this daddy is a sipper. With 22 ounces at 10.21 percent ABV, one bottle of The Maharaja is the same as drinking an entire six pack of domestic beer. Pace yourself. You don't want to contend with the wrath of mighty Maharaja.