Call it a daring move by Avery Brewing Company, to name one of its "extremely limited" seasonal releases the same name (well, nickname) as one of the most notoriously bad beers in American history: The Beast.
You know what I'm talking about. Milwaukee's Best, described on its Wikipedia page under a heading called "terms of endearment":
Many Milwaukee's Best drinkers refer the original red shield simply as "Beast," or "The Beast," from a late-1990s advertising campaign that directed drinkers to "unleash the beast." Milwaukee's Best Light is known as "Beast Light," and the black shield variety is known as "Beast Ice."
Or on Urban Dictionary, by someone who clearly had a few too many before he wrote this (see spelling):
Refers to the nasty brand of beer called Milwaukee's Best Lite. This is one of the worst tasting beers that was ever brewed. Imangine taking a sip from a cup that tastes like someone pissed in it 3 hours before you drank it well that would be the aweful taste of "The Beast". Word of advice when drinking beer go for a lager not a piss colored or tasting frost brewed peice of crap.
Anyway, "The Beast" now established as a risky brand name, let's get back to Avery's August release, part of its Demons of Ale series, which also includes a super-high-ABV stout and barrel-aged brew.
The simple fact is, when you brew a big-boy beer that lands in the 15- to 17-percent ABV range — three to four times the ABV of a typical session beer — you can pretty much call it any damn thing you care to. Nobody's going to mistake it for a lame teenage or redneck party beer.
I found The Beast (or rather, it found me) while shopping for next week's Dine & Dash column at Weber Street Liquor. And yes, there were several more bottles ($8.99/12 ounces) there, as of two days ago.
This is the sign that grabbed me:
If you're having trouble reading the small print after clicking on the photo, it says:
The Beast is a seducer — accomodating, complicated, powerful, dark and created to last the ages. With a deep burgundy color and aromas of honey, nutmeg, mandarin orange and pineapple, this massive and challenging brew has flavors akin to a beautiful Carribean rum. Dates, plums, raisins and molasses are dominant in a rich vinous texture.
On the website, there's an extra note that the brew is "Cellarable for 10+ years," meaning the alcohol in it is so high — more than many wines, actually — that it will keep nicely in a cool dark space (fitting for a monster brew) to be enjoyed at a later date ... whenever the mood strikes you to "unleash the beast," as it were. As it ages, like wines, it should only get better.
Enough with the setup, let's get the tasting, eh?
First word to mind: complex.
Second two words to mind: holy shit.
To begin describing the flavor, it's probably best to envision a barley wine. Again, a higher-ABV concoction with much more sophisticated flavors showing up as back notes and subtle essences.
The Beast punches hard up front, not in the way a 100-proof spirit does, with straight fire and throat burn, but with an all-out flavor bomb. Just so much going on, all at once.
There's almost a sourness, almost a tartness, almost a fruitiness, almost a barrel-aged woodiness, and yet, none of the above. You'll sip, you'll stop, you'll think, you'll sip again, perplexed, and in a short time, you'll have had the equivalent of four other beers so you won't care, you'll just enjoy.
That said, I do recommend splitting this little bottle with a friend, as I did.
What is easily capable of being pinned down, flavor-wise, are the Belgian roots and high yeast profile, which as the short video on Avery's website points out, is the key to achieving a really high ABV. (A bunch of yeast eat a bunch of sugar and excrete a bunch of alcohol — hey, it's a party!)
Check out this BeerAdvocate page to see what others have said about The Beast's nine previous incarnations.
I wanted to tell you about it while the month is still relatively young (rather than wait for a later Dine & Dash when it has once again disappeared from shelves, thereby making me the monster). This is a special seasonal worth investing in.