Adam Avery was at a boss’s Super Bowl Party in 1991 when he had his “a-ha” moment. He had just been accepted to law school at the University of Denver and was considering his next steps. His climbing buddies, many of whom were already lawyers, told him there was no way he was going to enjoy the next couple of years if he proceeded down this masochistic path.
Avery’s boss was passing around a small batch of homebrewed brown ale. “After that, I started brewing and it took over my life,” Avery says. “I got bit by the bug really, really hard.”
Avery grew up in Decatur, Illinois, and moved to Colorado to attend Regis University. He says beer has always been a part of his life, despite his somewhat roundabout arrival at being a quintessential figure in Colorado beer. “I grew up in farmland, so beer was the liquor of choice.”
About “a gazillion beers ago,” he launched Avery Brewery sometime in September 1993 at its original location in a warehouse on east Arapahoe.
Avery’s parents had recently moved to Boulder. His father, a distance runner who is still traversing thousands of miles per year at the age of 82, arrived in town with plans of opening a running store. He instead chose to invest in getting Avery Brewing off the ground.
“It was the school of hard knocks there for a while,” says Avery. Things didn’t really start to turn around for the small brewery until 1998. “It was a hobby run amok.”
Then came Hog Heaven.
After five years of crafting beer, Avery and his cohort decided to try something a little different. “Rather than making these ubiquitous, sessionable beers, let’s move into something that’s going to differentiate ourselves,” Avery says. With the introduction of Hog Heaven, an Imperial Red Ale with an ABV that sits at nearly 10%, Avery Brewing embarked on a path that continues to define its ethos and situate it among the top ten largest craft breweries in the country.
Avery Brewing still makes plenty of beers fit for easy drinking, with expressions like White Rascal, Avery Lager and Avery IPA acting as the company’s bread and butter. But it’s the Barrel-Aged Series, an ongoing succession of one-and-done experimental creations, many of which have an ABV between 15% and 20%, that are the heart and soul of a brewery that never has had any shortage of character.
On Saturday, July 29, Avery Brewing will host its 30th Anniversary Invitational, an all-day event featuring over 100 specialty beers, rare barrel-aged releases and live music from an all-star lineup of local talent. “The first time we celebrated was in 1998. It was about 12 people and I was on a grill flipping cheeseburgers,” says Avery. This year’s roster includes 65 breweries from across 14 different states and five countries.
The lineup on tap includes Golden’s Cannonball Creek, Longmont’s Bootstrap Brewing, Belgium’s Lambiek Fabriek, and Miami’s Tripping Animals. Music will be provided by Drunken Hearts, The Desert Furs and a supergroup featuring David Johnston on banjo, Dango Rose on upright bass, Silas Herman on mandolin and Taylor Sims on guitar.
While the sheer volume of the event will inspire both beer geeks and average drinkers alike, one of the biggest draws of the event will be the debut of the 30th Anniversary Ale. Using a smorgasbord of ingredients, the monster American strong ale will feature Chinook, Columbus, Centennial, Simcoe and Strata hops, aged in fresh Stranahan’s Whiskey barrels. “If you want a chance to drink the liquid history of Avery Brewing Company, come to the party,” Avery says. “I’ll be the drunk dude there for sure.”
ON TAP: Avery Brewing 30th Anniversary Invitational. 1-5 p.m. Saturday, July 29, Avery Brewing, 4910 Nautilus Court, Boulder. $93