For this week’s nightcap we headed to where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains: Boulder, Colorado, for a chat with Avery Brewing Company’s Chief Barrel Herder, Andy Parker. Join us for a pint as we discuss sours, fantasy sixers, and Andy’s path to craft beer.
NightOwl: What was your first experience with craft beer?
Andy: While I was in college, at Syracuse University. I didn’t drink at all in high school. As soon as I discovered what beer was, I said to myself, “Oh, well that’s kind of fun.” At 18 I discovered German Doppelbock and by 19 I had my first Rogue Old Crustacean. My reaction was like most people the first time they drink craft beer: “wait that doesn’t taste like beer, that must not be beer.” Once I had one of those Rogues, that opened my eyes to that big world of different flavors.
NightOwl: What’s unique about Avery’s beer?
Andy: The barrel-aged stuff that I do is not that uncommon from any other sour beer maker. There is definitely an Avery taste to our sour beers. If you took the exact same sour cocktail and gave it to another brewery it would change; it would be a different beer. You can’t really make that house flavor anywhere else.
NightOwl: How is your beer connected to the local area?
Andy: We try to work with as many local folks as we can. At our old location there was a really awesome coffee company that started up while we were there called Ozo, and Ozo has been silently crushing it here in Boulder for years. I’m actually going to stop by there later today to do some experimentation with a project for this weekend. That’s way more fun than ordering coffee online; I’m gonna go talk to our local coffee roasters and they know so much more about coffee than I do. We do the same with Bhakti Chai– they’ve been great teammates in making cool beer for years.
NightOwl: What style beer is most fun to brew?
Andy: Barrel aged sours. Simply because there’s so much variety out there. Anytime you put beer in a barrel there’s a little bit of a chaos factor. You don’t know exactly what’s gonna come out; things will change. Maybe you’ll end up with something great at the end of the rainbow, or maybe it’ll only be okay and you’ll use it as a blending beer, but I love that fun to it.
NightOwl: Has anything that you guys have tested gone into more of a mass production based on the reaction it got in an experiment?
Andy: A ton of them. An example: Liliko’i Kepolo (our passion fruit wheat beer) was a beer I started making nine years ago, influenced by my time in Hawaii. I used to make it by the individual keg and all of a sudden we got reports that people would drive up from Denver 20 miles away just to come drink this beer. We started making small tanks and every time we put it on, it would be one of the top two selling beers on our wall. Now we make it on large scale and I think it’s in every single state we distribute in. A lot of our research and development doesn’t happen in closed rooms with focus groups; we experiment full time and try a little bit of everything.
NightOwl: What was the last beer you tasted and said “man, I wish I had made that?!”
Andy: The last one would probably be Jester King’s Spon, their spontaneously fermented beer. They’re doing a great job down there in Austin and I don’t have access to a coolship. I’m really glad places like Jester King, Oxbow, and Allagash are able to step up and actually put in a coolship and do the pure artistry of it.
NightOwl: What is your dream 6-pack?
Andy: Okay that one’s hard. I’ll list off a few awesome beers that are in my hall of fame. First ones are Hennepin from Ommegang, Bierstadt Lagerhaus Slow Pour Pils, and Drie Fonteinen. I love smoked beers and sometimes I want them overwhelming and absolutely not balanced, so Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock – it tastes like you’re licking a chimney in all the good ways. I think I’ll throw an Odell IPA in there- they’re right up the road from us and they’ve been crushing it with their IPAs for ten years now. Coors Banquet, it’s a damn good beer. You get a lot of raised eyebrows when you make craft beer for a living and you’re drinking Coors Banquet, but that’s a beer I don’t know how to make and to me it’s just an awesome American lager.
NightOwl: You can only have one beer for the rest of your life. What is it, and why?
Andy: I might just go Ommegang Hennepin. Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll probably give you a different answer though that’s just off the top of my head.
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