Well, winter is finally upon us in New England. I know I’ve been blathering on for the past month about special warming beers brewed to ward off winter’s nasty effects and we’ve had plenty of near winter conditions, but some lousy weather front, or stupid global warming effect prevents my bold decent into the basement for the really BIG liquid warmers. The time has come! And I couldn’t be happier! It’s Barleywine time! YES!!!!
To be honest, I didn’t know where the snow shovel was hiding, but I knew exactly where to find the Barleywine. Some of us have our priorities in order!
Barleywine is a misleading name. It’s not in any way, shape or form in the wine family. It does, however, possess wine-like strength; from between 8.5% and 13% ABV. English Barleywine is a deep colored, full bodied ale, with varying degrees of fruitiness in the aroma and taste. Citrus and/or resinous hop bitterness with noticeable caramel sweetness is common to the style. A potent alcoholic kick is a certainty. There are some beers listed as Barleywine that weigh in at fewer than 8.5% ABV, but they are probably better suited to the Old Ale or Strong English Ale family. Barleywines should be very strong ales! American Barleywines are generally more hop-forward ales, while the English style tends to be more rounded, earthy and balanced. A taste of “toffee” is more prominent in the English style, but not uncommon in the American versions. Both styles age very well in a cool, dark place. Serve cool, not chilled.
From the land of origin
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale – Manchester, England – 11.5% ABV
2000 Limited Edition. Sampled in 2004
Poured into a slim bodied Lindeman's Lambic glass to create a head.
It pours an orange-tinged deep amber with a substantial beige head and solid strips of horizontal lace. A big upfront vintage port aroma along with fresh bread dough, hops, sweet malt, alcohol and mild woody notes comprise a complex array of sweet smells. A full and sweet caramel Maris Otter malt house an amazing variety of flavors. Rich toffee, butterscotch, prunes, coffee, candy sugar and honey. A mild lime-like bitterness and beautifully balanced warming alcohol add just the right amount of contrast to this exceptionally well-crafted brew. Add a touch of creamy sherry and you get the picture. Bring on the winter!
Strong Golden Barley Wine – Samuel Smith Old Brewery – Tadcaster, England – 10.2% ABV - Cute 180ml bottle. 2010
Found in the small beer/wine section of the small convenience store next to our hotel in County Hall, Westminster.
Served in a globe-shaped glass.
It pours an oily golden color with a thin white head along with small specks of lacing.
A fumy Triple Sec-like aroma blasts out of the glass at first pour. Sweet doughy malt smells follow close behind. Wonderful fruit and citrus notes play nicely off the maltiness. A light smell of peppery spice floats in late.
The flavors mirror the aromas very closely. Add a taste of toffee and a somewhat harsh vodka-like warming alcohol taste in the breath.
The mouthfeel is a little syrupy, but that was to be expected.
I wanted to grab another bottle the next night, but I guess I got the last one. I do count my blessings though for having stumbled upon a rare find.
Leviathan Barleywine-Style Ale – Harpoon Brewing – Boston, MA – 10% ABV
12 oz. dark brown bottle. No freshness date. Served in a Piraat goblet.
Pours a ruby-hued amber with a 2” off-white creamy head and some patchy and spotty lacing.
A rummy and sweet malty smell vie for quick attention. Smells of citrusy and resinous hops flow forward, as does some peppery spice and prune juice.
Tastes of toffee and sweet malt are upfront. Flavors of orange zest, rum, tobacco and peppery spices come in right behind. A white rum heat is well masked within the spiciness and hop bitterness, but can be tasted in the breath ½ way through.
This is a bit on the thin side for a Barley malt, but not in a negative way. It’s just not as slick and only as many within the style range.
Shipyard Barley Wine Style – Shipyard Brewing – Portland, Maine – 8.5% ABV
Served in a short Corsendonk goblet.
Pours a dark woody mahogany color with a creamy inch and 1/2” fast-fading mocha head and some patchy lacing.
Smells of mashed figs and plums are upfront, with a whiff of sweet roasted malt. Light citrus notes slide in behind. A light whiff of Kahlua is noticed throughout.
The flavors, in Shipyard’s style are edgy and bright. Crisp flavors tart orange citrus, tobacco, peppery spice mingles with tastes of toffee, caramel malt, figs. A taste of amber rum rolls in late and hangs around.
This is a medium-bodied Barleywine with just a bit of oily slickness to the mouthfeel. It tastes a little stronger than the 8.5% ABV listed. Maybe it will keep folks (me) from pounding it down like a fool.
Our Finest Regards – Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project – Westport, MA – 13.5% ABV
22 0z. Dark brown bottle. Freshness date on cap label. 2010
Served in a short Corsendonk goblet.
It pours a mahogany/amber color with fast-fading mocha head and a fair amount a patchy and trailing lacing.
Big blasts of complex aromas rise at once. Mashed fig, banana bread, Tripel sec, citrusy and resinous hops, peppery spices and white rum, invite inhale after inhale.
The flavors are even bigger and bolder than the smells. Tastes range from rum-soaked figs and ripe banana, to toffee and buttery caramel, to Indian pudding, to resinous and peppery spice, and back to that rummy flavor. The tastes sometimes are similar and cross into a Quadrupel-like profile...not a complaint...just my perception.
The mouthfeel is wonderful smooth an silky, and not as oily as it appeared when pouring. I was going to cap it, but couldn't resist.
Must try/Grand Examples
Arquabus – Cambridge Brewing Co.
Next Week; American Barleywines
Quote; “Beer makes you feel as you ought to feel without beer.” - Henry Lawson, Poet – (1867-1922)