Indian Pale Ales are certainly not for everyone. Typically, packed with hops and slow brewed to maximize flavor, IPAs can be an ordeal for the unseasoned beer drinker.

The Maharaja Imperial from Avery Brewing Co. is no exception.

Maharaja is derived from Sanskrit words for “great king.” If this beer is king, the unrelenting flavor of hops and barley are its weapons of choice to conquer your taste buds. This dark amber ale is one of three Imperial brews from Avery’s Dictator Series along with the Czar Imperial Stout and the Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest.

The first sip of the Maharaja is heavy and comes with a blast of hoppy flavor. Drinkers who aren’t fans of hops should be aware, the intensity of the first sip lasts until the very last drop. Prepare yourself for an unforgettable experience.

The flavor of hops eventually gives way to a resounding chorus of barley that remains throughout the rest of the beverage after about three sips. This comes as a welcome surprise as the hops were threatening to be too much of an obstacle to the brew’s best features. The barley notes make the Maharaja more palatable and easier to drink, even for an experienced fan of IPAs.

Strangely enough, the Maharaja produces its best feature about halfway through a glass — sweetness. Finally, a flavor we can all get behind. As the hops and barley battle for supremacy in this war of alcoholic attrition, they eventually combine to produce a hint of citrus notes reminiscent of Lienenkugel’s line-up.

Flavors of citrus are not common among IPAs, especially not Imperials. In order to produce higher alcohol content, Imperials are typically heavy on hops with a considerable amount of barley as a supplemental flavor. With 10.2 percent alcohol by volume, it was inconceivable to think the Maharaja would have any sweetness. But there are exceptions to every rule.

The Maharaja, being as heavy as it is, is best paired with a low carb meal, like fish or poultry. This is not the beer for a full stomach after a steak dinner. Thankfully, the IPA is surprisingly low on carbonation, which makes for a less restrictive waistline and less eventful belching contest than many of its competitors can provide. Like most ales, the Maharaja is not the best choice for spring and summer drinking. The high alcohol content makes the lack of drinkability forgivable and will come as a welcome trade-off for those who are new to the IPA experience.

Despite its very likable citrus notes and overall enjoyable body, the Maharaja will be an ordeal for even the most seasoned IPA drinker. This is a brew to be enjoyed occasionally, not in bunches.

Unfortunately, for a flavor experience of this caliber, expect to pay a commensurate amount. The Maharaja Imperial costs about $8. Couple that with a decent tip or a few rounds, and you could be in for a tab as heavy as the brew. But the experience is unique and unlikely to disappoint fans of darker, heavier brews. In fact, if you enjoy the Maharaja, it is likely you would enjoy nearly any IPA.

In truth, the Maharaja accomplishes what many Indian Pale Ales do not – a bevy of flavor in a standalone, unmistakable experience. This beer does not taste like any other beer in its category and nothing to be afraid of.

If you would like to meet the king, you can find the Avery Maharaja Imperial IPA on tap at the Alcove International Tavern at 730 22nd Avenue in Tuscaloosa.

 

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