Two years after it pulled out of the Northern California market, Colorado’s Avery Brewing is finally coming back. The company announced this week that it would partner with distributor DBI Beverage to bring the eccentric line of powerful, flavorful beers back to the area, starting in San Francisco but eventually rolling out to the company’s whole territory, which covers much of the region from the city up to Sacramento and as far north as Mendocino and Lake Counties. The one kink in the plan is that DBI does not cover the key Bay Area counties of Sonoma, Marin, and Alameda.
“We’re working on it,” promised National Marketing Director Darin McGregor on Friday, though there is no specific timetable for getting the beers in the bars and restaurants in those counties. But at least you can look for Avery products back in stock in San Franciso now and in the near future in Napa and other DBI counties.
Avery was one of several breweries that had to pull back from the edges of their distribution areas in the past decade, as demand for craft beer far outstripped the ability of many mid-sized breweries to meet. McGregor said the company was having trouble reliably delivering beer to accounts in the San Francisco area and decided it was better to pull back pending a major expansion of production rather than continue to tease customers and retailers. They stayed in Southern California, which was their second largest market outside of Colorado.
The brewery in Boulder is now up to about 55,000 barrels per year, not far behind good-sized breweries such as Bear Republic, which makes about 65,000 barrels per year. Avery is about to break ground on a new facility in Boulder that could eventually boost production to 300,000 barrels, meaning there is little danger that they will bail on us North Bay beer drinkers again.
Avery is one of the big names in the second generation of craft brewing, starting in 1993. That puts them in the same cohort as such familiar names as Lagunitas, Bear Republic, Victory, and Dogfish Head, all founded in the heady early and mid 90s and all survivors of the great crash that followed less than a decade later, which claimed many a small brewer.
Founder Adam Avery is a colorful and energetic presence in the brewing community. He’s probably best known locally for avoiding a potentially expensive legal clash with Russian River Brewing when the two breweries discovered that they each made a beer known as “Salvation.” Instead of fighting it out in court, Avery and Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo met over beers and decided to co-produce “Collaboration Not Litigation” ale, a beer that Avery sells to this day. And both still produce their separate versions of Salvation too, an unusual compromised in the trademark-jealous world of brewing.
McGregor said he expects pretty much the full line of Avery beers to be available locally eventually, excepting perhaps some very small batch offerings. The lineup includes such standouts as Avery IPA, Ellie’s Brown Ale, and the tasty New World Porter. It will also include some of the well known big beers: the Holy Trinity series (Hog Heaven, The Revered and Salvation), The Dictator series (The Maharaja, The Kaiser, and The Czar); and the Demons of Ale series (Samael’s Oak Aged Ale, The Beat Grand Cru Ale, and Mephistopheles Stout).
And good news if you’re traveling to Boulder (which is well worth the trip for beer fans): The new Avery brewery will feature a large restaurant. The old brewery has a beer-only tap room, though they had lately been allowing customers to order from an unrelated catering company located nearby. But still, a good brew pub is a great thing, particularly if you are traveling with kids who, I can tell you from painful experience, hate it when they are stuck in a tasting room with no french fries and root beer to ease the boredom.
– Sean Scully