A friend and I met Allagash brewer Ryan at Novare Res on Friday night, and he let us in on this little secret: Avancé. Avancé seemed to be his project; aged for two years, with two hundred pounds of strawberries, and finally bottled. Sometime in the last week or two, the 500 bottles of Avancé were released at the brewery retail store only.

Avancé is kind of a big deal in the beer geek world. Ryan encouraged us to get our bottles ASAP, as they were sure to run out.

And running out they were. I was in Allagash at 2:30 on Monday, none of the singles were left. I had to buy Avancé gift bags, which include small chalices and a bottle opener. Snazzy! But after me, there were probably about ten bottles left. Total. That’s it.

The saddest part? Brewer Ryan only got one bottle for himself!

Now, I am not a huge beer geek. I don’t really care about all those technical differences in the brewing process that make a beer more x than y or y than z. Whatever. I get it, it matters, but don’t tell me about it.

Beer appreciator, certainly. Strawberries I get. Molasses I get. Allagash I get. So when I do get around to tasting Avancé later tonight – hell – I don’t care about the details of the brewing. I care about how it tastes. And the label, of course, because I might be a marketing geek.

So it definitely tastes like strawberries, and the molasses flavor isn’t heavy but certainly discernible, at least if you know what it is. Not the most amazing beer ever by any stretch, but good. And, you know, bonus points for being all special and exciting.

Darker than expected, the nose was sort of spicy/fruity/almost woody, which of course you’d expect from a dark Belgian with … strawberries and molasses.

About halfway through my small chalice (came with the gift packs), I revisited the nose. And this time – I don’t know if it’s because the beer had more time to breathe, release it’s flavors, whatever – I caught a distinct whiff of childhood. What is that? Pine? Oak? Cedar? And then it hit me; nights on my parents bed, my sister and I taking turns picking songs from the worn, torn, split-down-the-spine Grateful Dead Anthology, and my dad picking out the chords on his guitar. This beer SMELLS LIKE MY DAD’S GUITAR CASE.

I am not kidding. It sort of made me want to stop drinking; the inside of the guitar case doesn’t exactly smell great. But as long as I focused on the fruity sweetness, and the fact that, unlike a guitar, this beer was 10.8% ABV, I kept on truckin’.

Ah, another important characteristic of Avancé, and one that critically makes it a really good beer, is that it DOES NOT taste like a 10.8%-er. Normally with that high of an alcohol content, you’re looking at those imperials that definitely taste boozy, with heavy chocolate or coffee tones to pseudo-mask the bite. This baby’s got no bite. Smooth as Skippy.

All in all, worth it for the experience of being one of a few hundred people with bottles of this stuff. Exclusivity has its price. And it was a good beer, would have expected nothing less of Allagash. Stoked for my next insider’s adventure into beer geekiness.

FMI on Avancé here and here.