BOTW–Maharaja

The other day I was again at Healthy Spirits chatting with the nice gentlemen of the store.

I mentioned I was in the market for a dark beer, (more about that later,) and an IPA. We went over the beers I’d sampled for the “Hop Off“, and David Hauslein mentioned in addition to those, now would be the time to sample Avery’s Maharaja.

Beer Style: Imperial India Pale Ale
Hop Variety: Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Chinook
Malt Variety: Two-row barley, caramel 120L, victory
OG: 1.090 ABV: 10.24% IBUs: 102
Color: Dark Amber
Availability: Seasonally produced from March through August. 22oz. bombers, 1/6BBL and 1/2BBL kegs.

Maharaja is derived from the sanskrit words mahat, – “great” and rajan – “king”. Much like its namesake, this imperial IPA is regal, intense and mighty. With hops and malts as his servants, he rules both with a heavy hand. The Maharaja flaunts his authority over a deranged amount of hops: tangy, vibrant and pungent along with an insane amount of malted barley – fashioning a dark amber hue and exquisite malt essence.

Mrs. Flannestad had tried Maharaja on one or another of her out-of-state trips and I’d been on the lookout for it in the San Francisco area, but hadn’t found it before that afternoon at Healthy Spirits.

But, Mr. Hauslein’s point was that Avery had announced that it was pulling its beers from a number of states, including California. It turns out expansion and demand isn’t always a good thing, and Avery had slightly over extended itself.

Which led us to jaw a bit about the problem of expansion. Expansion is good up to a point, but when demand oustrips your ability to produce, it can become a problem. Alternatively, a presence in a larger state may require a lot of inventory, but if demand is low, beer is a perishable item. Unlike Whiskey or Tequila, it can’t sit indefinitely on a shelf. And if it does, your product may not be presented in its best light.

So what do you do? Purposely limit your distribution (a la New Glarus Brewing) or expand? If you expand, where does the capital come from and how will you maintain both your businesses internal culture and quality control in a larger, more industrial enterprise?

Which brought up Goose Island. Goose Island was recently acquired by shareholder, and multinational corporation, Anheuseur-Busch/In-Bev. A lot of people are up in arms that their favorite small-ish brewery has been wholly aquired by a multinational. The devil will be in the details, but neither of us were entirely sure this was a bad thing. If In-Bev allows Goose Island the Independence and latitude to produce the same beers they always have, is it a bad thing?

Isn’t it better that the multinationals invest and acquire smaller brewers than they produce fake micro brews, a la Blue Moon, and dilute the consumer’s perceived value of micro brewers?

On the other hand, at least in the distilled spirits industry, few spirits producers seem to manage to continue to produce the same quality product for very long after being acquired. A couple tequila producers come to mind. First there are new bottles, then there are new ad campaigns, then the product line is expanded, then what’s in the bottle seems to change. For the worse.

I guess it remains to be seen whether these beer companies are in this for a quick cashout or for the long haul.

But, for the time being, our first delicious bottle of Maharaja in California, may be our last.