The evolution of beer stems from experimentation. If brewers never gave the envelope a push, there wouldn’t be such a variety of beers. Without the Czechs dabbling in lager yeast, there’d be no Pilsener. Without the British brewing with too many hops, there’d be no IPA. And, without Avery Brewing tossing prickly pear cactus into their sour beer and then aging it in tequila barrels for nine months, there’d be no Opuntia (6.65% ABV), the 18th beer in the brewery’s “Barrel-Aged Series.”
Color: Halfway clear, Opuntia isn’t a thick fog but neither is it completely see-through. It’s a dark, burnt orange with yellowish highlights and cream-colored foam.
Aroma: The smell of Opuntia is a tart garden—sour apples, sour grapes, and even sour cucumbers. There are sweet, tropical undertones of peach and passion fruit, too. One assumes this medley of aromas is imparted by the prickly pear.
Taste: As multi-layered as is the aroma, the flavor of Opuntia is equally as complex. Firstly, all flavors in this beer are soft and round; there’s nothing unduly sharp or intense about Opuntia save, perhaps, for its spike of acidic sourness (although even that quickly subsides). Opuntia is candy-like and fruity, a Sour Patch Kid in beer form, all the while tasting like a raw slice of rhubarb stacked on a slice of cucumber. There’s a mild saltiness to Opuntia that’s strong enough to be pleasant, weak enough to not overpower. The flavor of tequila is detectable but sans the bite, burn, or strength of the popular spring break liquor.
Mouthfeel: Lively and effervescent, Opuntia finishes dry and is medium-bodied.
It’s hard to describe Opuntia; it has so much going on. It’s not simple, it’s not straightforward, but, despite its multifaceted nature, it manages to be easy-drinking and refreshing. It’s a fancy, expensive beer but it’s perfect as a post-lawn mowing, patio beer. That’s the consequence of experimentation: sometimes brewers get a dud, and sometimes they get something as wonderfully weird yet supremely drinkable as Opuntia.
Seek out Opuntia at Denver’s boutique liquor stores.