Category Archives: Barleywine/Wheatwine

3 Ravens ‘James Bean’ BA Barleywine


“Historically, brandy was often referred to as “liquid currency” – alluding to it having more value as a commodity for trade than as a beverage. In the modern world, barrel-aged barley wine has become the new Liquid Currency. Despite no one asking for it, we’ve gone and brewed another barley wine and we’ll be damned if this isn’t our best one yet.
Boiled for 8 hours and aged 14 months in first fill American oak bourbon barrels, this is a big dumb beer of the highest order.”

Glassware: Teku.

Appearance: Gorgeous colour. Exactly how we want a Barleywine to present – rusted mahogany with a cola-like hue. Very little head formation and as expected, not a skerrick of lace as we go.

Aroma: Hot damn. The can alone is genius (it’s like an Aldi rip off of Jim Beam) but to also have the Bourbon lifting off the way it is, is incredible. It’s working in tandem with the base beer so beautifully too…uber rich caramel and toffee, dark fruits, spice etc. Then the magnificent oak and sweet/spicy Bourbon coming in over the top. Top shelf aroma.

Flavour: And might we add too…a top shelf flavour profile. Picking up where the aroma left off with truck loads of chewy, rich and sweet caramel, toffee, dark fruits, spice and residual sugars but the way the Bourbon/oak encapsulates it all is the masterstroke. Picking up really subtle fortified wine, molasses and even a pinch of nutmeg as it finishes big and boozy but also sweet and caramelised.

Mouthfeel: Dense and saturated. Medium-full bodied but not too muscly. Low-ish Co2 and the 13.6% ABV is well behaved for its size.

Overall: This brewery is one that deserves so much more attention than it gets. They are the epitome of indy OG’s (opened in 2003) and are humble operators. Kudos 3 Ravens this is a seriously impressive Barleywine.

Hawkers ’23 Apple Brandy BA Barleywine


“Emerging from the depths of the unknown, this Brandy Barrel-Aged Barleywine embodies the characters of the brandy barrels while retaining the rich complexity of the base beer. A delicious monster! Enjoy now or cellar it for a rainy day. Even better, treat yourself to this one and grab a second for future you. Future you will be stoked.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Somewhat muddy, rustic brown complexion with a short khaki head which slowly recedes and settles at the rim. Little to no lacing as we go.

Aroma: The Apple Brandy barrels really pop. Even to the point where we’re literally getting apple juice wafting out. It’s actually quite a nice little fusion…the sweet yet tart apple mingling with the rich caramelised sweetness and spice of the base Barleywine is a nice touch. Just a hint of musty oak peeking through as well. Getting the conventional toffee, dark fruits, spice and honeysuckle too. Pretty damn good.

Flavour: Pleasantly surprised. It’s rich, complex, but well balanced and exudes that typical Barleywine indulgence – toffee apple, treacle, dark fruits like plum, dates and raisin, oriental spice, apple-infused honey and a certain earthiness to boot. Our only gripe is that the apple character takes on a bit of a cloying and artificial nature at times but that’s it.

Mouthfeel: Slick, gelatinous, chewy. Medium-full body with good Co2. The 11.2% ABV although noticeable is on point.

Overall: A couple of minor setbacks throughout the experience but ultimately it was pretty enjoyable and far better than anything from their BA Imperial Stout range. Decent.

Sierra Nevada ‘Bigfoot ’23’ Barleywine-style Ale


“The beast. The beer. The legend. After the workday grind, reconnect with your wild side through our untamed barleywine-style ale. This classic lives up to its namesake: massive malt body, sheer hop intensity, standing at 9.6% ABV.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Attractive pour – deep burnished copper/red, slightly muddy but translucent on the edges. Two fingers of finely maintained head perched on top. Good retention and thick blotchy lace clings to the glass as it ebbs.

Aroma: Arguably one of the world’s most recognised iterations of the “Barleywine-style”. It’s not big and hedonistic but more mellow and exquisitely balanced. It’s rich with those hallmark residual sugars, caramel and toffee but it has a line of tangy orange/rind and dark fruit that runs through it. Subtle yet notable scents of fortified wine, pine forest, tree sap and earthy spice in support.

Flavour: Quite similar to Dogfish Head’s 120 minute IPA in the sense that it’s rich and malty sweet but there’s a distinct hop profile to it. It’s hard to say where the Barleywine begins and where the Imperial IPA ends. It hits a crescendo with a grapefruit acidity before the rich malts once again smooth it out for the well drawn out finish.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, gelatinous then dry and acidic post swallow. Medium body and a slightly recognisable 9.6% ABV.

Overall: A cracking drop. It just exudes class at every step. May have to buy a whole lot more for the cellar!

Dieu Du Ciel! ‘Solstice d’hiver’ Barleywine


“This noble winter beer is brown in colour with flaming red highlights. Its taste is delicately sweet and liquor-like with a hint of burnt caramel coming from the malt and a prolonged boiling time. It is a very bitter beer with aromas of hops and alcohol, and flavours reminiscent of red fruit brought by the English-type yeast we use to ferment it. The aftertaste is accentuated by the wonderful flavour of hops.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Exactly what we envisioned it to look like – muddy dark brown with a short khaki head. Very finely beaded. Fine lace work as it subsides.

Aroma: The whole time we were writing the appearance we could smell what we thought was Bourbon but a quick look at the specs doesn’t show any barrel aging or spiking. It’s just a ridiculously complex and well layered beer! Massive caramel overtones initially, followed by toffee apple, brown sugar, marzipan, golden raisin, dates, pumpernickel and earthy spice. Oooft!

Flavour: So incredibly smooth for its size. It does have this line of delicate bitterness that extends through to the finish which is absolutely crucial to the overall balance. Other than that it’s just dense caramel and toffee, dark fruits, earthy spice, residual sugars and an obscure bready-ness which is hard to describe. It all aligns for such a delicious and intriguing finish though.

Mouthfeel: Chewy yet silky smooth with a dry bitterness developing in the swallow. Flat-ish Co2 and a very well behaved 10.2% ABV.

Overall: It’s been quite a few years between drinks for us and DDC. These guys have always been our favourite Canadian brewery and still, all these years later, they still are…and for good reason!

De Molen X Rodenbach ‘Wieken & Krieken’ Fruited Barleywine


“For this collaboration we have brewed a full-bodied classic barley wine to which we added many classic Rodenbach ingredients after fermentation, such as cranberry, elderberry and sour cherries. This has resulted in a beer with a unique taste dimension. At first you taste the full-bodied barley wine with its maltiness and ripe fruits, after which the nicely balanced, classic Rodenbach acidity comes up and you can clearly taste the cranberry and sour cherries.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Burnished copper pour with a wispy off white overlay. The head peels off rather quickly but still manages fine rings which mark each sip.

Aroma: We’ve been eagerly awaiting this and we’re pleased to say that on initial meeting it smells the goods. We were unsure how a sour Barleywine would present but when 2 names like De Molen and Rodenbach come together how couldn’t it be good?! An amazing array of mixed red berries and currants, roll ups, toffee apple, dates, golden raisin, glazed cherry, earthy spice and pine needle tantalise the olfactories.

Flavour: So rich, sticky, fruity and sweet. It almost behaves like a really good Quad. We were anticipating sourness but there really isn’t much at all. If anything there’s some tartness from the berries/cherry but it’s the exquisite balance between the rich and decadent malts and the tart fruits that has us in awe.

Mouthfeel: Dense, sticky and gelatinous. Co2 is kept low and the body is medium-full. The 9.2% ABV adds just the right amount of warmth.

Overall: Very impressive. It’s like a fruity Barleywine with traits of Belgian Quadrupel and English Strong Ale. This kinda stuff is our jam right now. Superb.

Hawkers 2021 BBA Barleywine


“Rounded and polished by months of rest in ex-bourbon barrels, this barleywine is an exemplary amalgamation between a rich malt profile and complex barrel characters. Drink now or cellar for a rainy day—the choice is entirely yours, however there’s nothing like having one now and cellaring a second one for later.”

Glassware: Tulip.

Appearance: It displays that classic light brown colour with rusted reddish hues. A wispy overlay on top and a fair bit of suspended sediment. Healthy lace clings to the glass as it subsides.

Aroma: We can pick up the alluring notes of bourbon oak from a metre away! Under the nostrils it intensifies but also shares the space with gorgeous wafts of rich toffee and caramel, tonnes of dark fruit i.e dates/prunes, raisin, fig and blood plum. Port, residual sugars, herbal tea, tobacco, maple syrup and an undercurrent of mixed earthy spice also. Man that is bloody impressive!

Flavour: Holy moly before we even start we’ve gotta hand it to them for hiding the near 13% ABV…it’s insane how well buried it is. It follows on from the nose with this rich and luxurious marriage of toffee, caramel, dark fruit sweetness and the kinda spicy bourbon oak. It never takes a backward step either, finishing silky smooth and drawing out well.

Mouthfeel: Sticky and gelatinous. Low-ish Co2, full body. As we’ve already mentioned…that 13% ABV…oopht! Where is it?!

Overall: This is an absolute ripper. By far the best beer Hawkers have put out for a while. We recall trying Bommen & Granaten by De Molen not long ago and this would surely beat it. Outstanding drop.

De Molen ‘Bommen & Granaten’ BA Barleywine


“Barley wine aged for a year on whisky & wine barrels.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Pours a deep burgundy hue with a short head which snaps back to the rim. Minimal lace as we go.

Aroma: We’re getting a tonne of the classic rich malty sweetness but it’s the flamboyant fusion of whiskey and wine that has piqued our interest. It’s so well integrated we can’t tell where the whiskey starts and where the wine ends….then right in the centre is this decadent concoction of dark fruits, rich caramel/toffee, Rosé Port, burnt orange, caramelised sugars, soy sauce, vanilla, mixed spice and botanicals.

Flavour: Pretty much the same reaction we gave the aroma…wow! Bourbon, wine barrel, warming booze, rich sweet malts and dark fruits rush the front palate. A slightly bitter burnt orange note mixes with hints of Brandy and Rosé Port midway then leads into an intense finish of burnt sugars, toffee, orange rind, caramelised pear and red wine.

Mouthfeel: Dense, chewy and gelatinous. Low-ish Co2 but full body. The 13.1% ABV is ridiculously well concealed.

Overall: Even though it only comes in 330ml bottles our advice is to share it. Not only for the sheer weight of it but the extremely rich flavour profile. Very very complex but very very nice!

50/50 Brewing ‘Annularity’ BA Barleywine


“The FiftyFifty Brewing Company has done it again by releasing another delicious brew unto us, the craft beer loving masses. The Annularity is a rich Blond Barleywine with hints of brown sugar, citrus, carmel, and honey that can be tasted through each and every satisfying sip. The beer ages gracefully in oak barrels, which lend a slightly bitter quality to the overall taste, keeping the sweetness of the sugars in check.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Muddy bronze to light brown with a rapidly vanishing head. It leaves nothing but a very fine halo which struggles to lace.

Aroma: Oh wow, when barleywines are done right they’re such a beautiful thing. The intense sweetness is only rivalled by the bold and rustic barrel characters which provide old, musty and woody oak notes. Plenty of toffee/toffee apple, candy cane, fruit cake, rich honey and maple, subtle spicy whiskey, dark fruits and a lovely earthy-ness which lends it overall balance and bottom end. Brilliant aroma.

Flavour: Like an explosion has been set off on the palate. Big, rich and hedonistic caramel, musty oak, toffee, rye whiskey, honey and earthy spice. Just a gentle warmth from the booze in the background. Hints of dark fruits like cherry, plum and raisin before another good dose of rye whiskey leads in to this perfectly balanced finish.

Mouthfeel: Sticky and gelatinous. Medium-full body with low Co2. The 12.5 % ABV is ridiculously well concealed.

Overall: Can you expect anything less than perfection from these guys? They’ve cemented a spot in our top 5 all time breweries without a doubt. Remarkable beer from a remarkable brewery.

Dollar Bill 2020 ‘Winter Parlay’ BA Wheatwine


“Dark fruits, plums, layers of berries and almonds finishing dry and spicy. Flaked spelt and oats fill out this Wild Fermented Wheat Wine blended with sour ale and Mourverde pressed whole bunches.”

Glassware: Teku.

Appearance: Pours like dark Ribena! But with a creamy light purple head. Retention is ok…some patchy lace here and there. Looks intriguing!

Aroma: Trust DB to come out with something incredibly unconventional. Initially it’s all berries and tart dark fruits with subtle touches of raw nuts i.e almond, cashew and pistachio. Definitely picking up a vinous character…soft tannins and lees then looping back around to berries again. Cinnamon, yoghurt and complex oak also fused through.

Flavour: Not like any Wheatwine we’ve ever tried before. It kicks off with a discernible lacto sourness which quickly turns to wine. And we mean wine…it actually tastes like a good medium bodied red with its tannic qualities, spice, earthy-ness and almost salty/olive-like notes. This just goes on and on…and on!

Mouthfeel: Nice and sharp. Some acidity to it but the pucker rating still sits at a decent 3/5. Light spritzy Co2. The big one is the 9.3% ABV, ridiculously well hidden.

Overall: These guys continue to impress us. The edgy-ness and outright complexity of this beer demands respect. Kudos DB!

Mother Earth ‘4 Seasons’ BBA Barleywine


“A big American Barleywine is something to behold and a style every respecting brewer seeks to perfect. We are bringing sexy back to a traditional English style with the addition of pecans and American oak. Expect a mahogany beer with a big body, buttery texture and caramelized pecan finish. Bourbon barrel-aged.”

Glassware: Tulip.

Appearance: Attractive chestnut brown with two fingers of lightly tanned foam perched on top. Good retention and lace as it subsides.

Aroma: Displays rich caramel, toffee and butterscotch with the pecans adding a subtle yet defined nutty sweetness that ties in beautifully. Then there’s the hallmark bourbon accents that throw out vanilla, spice and somewhat floral tones. Aged oak also getting amongst it as well as sweet dark fruits as it warms. Superb.

Flavour: Follows on from the nose with a wave of decadent caramel and toffee then spiked with a vigorous shot of bourbon which provides the quintessential spice, vanilla and residual sugars. The pecans are evident from the beginning, playing more of a structural role in the background. Slightly cloying as it finishes sweet, spicy and nutty. Excellent length.

Mouthfeel: Silky smooth, sticky and well rounded. Medium-full body. 12.1% ABV! Unbelievably well hidden.

Overall: Exceptional way to kick off proceedings with this Idaho-an (??) brewery. On point and very well executed. Gonna have to get our hands on more from these guys.

Goose Island ‘Bourbon County’ ’18 BA Coffee Barleywine

71509204_1183449631839180_8071866205008297984_n“Working with our friends at Intelligentsia, we flew down to Guatemala to source some of the world’s best coffee to use as we release the first-ever Coffee Barleywine. The beer is an English-style Barleywine, meaning malt forward, and aged in 4+ year old Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels before adding La Soledad coffee beans right before packaging to retain a bold coffee aroma and flavour.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: A real muddy brown kind of affair. It forms a wispy head which vanishes instantly. No lacing whatsoever…as expected.

Aroma: Seriously rich malt-driven number with the coffee and bourbon barrels taking centre stage. Nicely supported by the barrel adjuncts – vanilla, toasted coconut, spice. Lots of chewy caramel, molasses, toffee and butterscotch…even picking up distinct port and cognac traits which are driven in further by a heady presence of dark fruits i.e prunes/dates/fig. Exceptional.

Flavour: Like dropping a sweet malt bomb on the palate it explodes with rich and syrupy caramel and toffee fudge, burnt chocolate, brown sugar and molasses. The coffee gets involved nicely as does the bourbon barrels with its damp musty oak. She warms up nicely on the back end…showing a bit of that 15% ABV but also displaying toasted coconut, raisin/dates, burnt brown sugar and peated whisky.

Mouthfeel: Vigorous but no where near as full on as we were expecting (especially considering its size). Chewy as hell but at the same time smooth and luxurious.

Overall: We shouldn’t be surprised by the quality these guys have mastered the art of barrel aging extremely strong beers since way back when. We have to give special mention to the addition of coffee too…just enough to know it’s there without overdoing it. Absolutely flawless

Firestone Walker 2017 ‘Helldorado’ BA Blonde Barleywine

56938243_1071409749709836_9124575698713837568_n“Part of the adventure of aging beer in retired spirits barrels is the synergistic interaction of different malt flavors with the oak and spirit flavors from the barrel. Darker beers like stouts and darker barley wines have typically been the favored candidates for barrel-aging, due to their deeper caramel and roasted flavors. Helldorado breaks that mold with a deep golden color from being brewed solely with English and American pale malts.”

Glassware: Tulip.

Appearance: Burnished orange to amber complexion with a short yet reasonably well retained head. Eventually it settles to the rim with patchy lace as we go.

Aroma: Straight away we detect the bourbon barrels, vanilla and sweet buttery malts…it’s a trait that FW carry through almost all of their barrel aged range and we absolutely love it! Underneath it are rich caramel malts, toffee, ripe stonefruits, raisin, apple pie and cinnamon. Certainly get a flutter of doughy short crust pastry as well.

Flavour: Again lots of bourbon character, barrels and vanilla but with a balanced sweetness. The warmth from the booze (12.8%) predictably playing a role. Getting a floral aspect that’s fused through the sugary dark fruits and ripe stonefruit i.e apricot and melon. Finishes with warming bourbon, woody oak vanilla and dark fruits.

Mouthfeel: Not as dense and chewy as your typical barleywine but it’s still full and well rounded. Low co2.

Overall: Brash yet elegant. The use of pale malts definitely helps to create this light and delicate texture so uncommon to the style. Love the creativity and impulse to push the boundaries. Kudos FW!

Troegs Independent Brewing ‘Flying Mouflan’ BA Barleywine

42227705_954772071373605_228255401290760192_n“Some beers just belong in barrels, and Flying Mouflan – a resiny, chocolatey giant of a barleywine ale – is one of them. We pour every drop we brew into bourbon barrels, taming the sharpness of the hops and uncovering layers of salted caramel, pecan pie and rum raisin.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Rich mahogany complexion with a wispy overlay. The head snaps back to the rim and leaves a set of rings as we imbibe.

Aroma: Massive caramel and toffee overtones initially with waves of ripe dark fruits, woody oak tannins and dark chocolate following close behind. Tonnes of residual/candi sugars, figjam, glazed cherry, maple syrup and sappy pine resins. Getting just a flutter of tangy orange citrus creeping in as well. Phenomenal, the depth and complexity is just superb.

Flavour: Really good transition from the nose. All that uber sweet caramel, dark fruit and jammy sweetness dominates the front palate but the booze and subtle hops cut in like a hot knife through butter. Hints of chocolate and subtle oak slowly move forward in to the surprisingly dry bitter finish that offers earthy fig, toast and subtle citrus hops on the rear.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and dense, warming and a little dry in the swallow. 11.7% AbV and a whopping 76 IBU. Guess that explains the bitterness!

Overall: It’s no Alesmith Numbskull but it certainly holds its own. By the way if anyone knows what a ‘Flying Mouflan’ is would you let us know!? 

The Bruery ‘White Mocha’ BA Wheatwine w Cacao & Coffee

37763455_908116999372446_8203859337517465600_n“This is White Oak Sap waking up on the other side of the bed. Similar to White Chocolate, White Mocha is our bourbon barrel-aged wheatwine-style ale, known as White Oak Sap, but with fresh coffee beans (instead of vanilla beans) and cacao nibs. Rich notes of coffee and chocolate are joined by warm flavors of coconut, honey and vanilla that rise and shine on the palate. If you’ve never fancied yourself a morning person before, today might just be your day. Best served fresh in a tulip glass or biodegradable coffee cup.”

Glassware: Tulip.

Appearance: Bronze with a finger of head forming on top. There’s a casual retreat back to the rim but it still works a healthy lace down the sides of the glass.

Aroma: Very appealing. The fresh coffee beans come through instantly followed by well tempered notes of bourbon oak and bitter chocolate. Something kind of peppery/spicy in there that triggers the warming booze (even though its quite well obscured for its size). Tonnes of syrupy sweetness adding to the likes of maple, rich honey and molasses. Picking up a late hint of toasted coconut as well. Complex and alluring.

Flavour: On par complexity-wise with the aroma. There’s a neat little marriage of coffee, chocolate and syrupy sweetness wrapped up in the warming 16.3% AbV. Peppery spice, bourbon oak, caramels, molasses, truffle and raw figs moving in to a super boozy finish with toasty and earthy notes going the distance on the back palate.

Mouthfeel: Dense, chewy and full bodied. Carbonation is low. Big but still somewhat of a pleasant quaffer.

Overall: Jeez how to sum this up?! For one this is our first ever crack at a wheatwine (think we might be setting the bar a little high with The Bruery though!). It’s not too dissimilar to a barleywine in its rich syrupy sweetness but in true Bruery fashion it is enhanced with extravagant flavours. Very interesting beer.

Southern Tier Brewing Co. ‘Sapsquatch’ BA Barleywine w Maple

37607876_905952756255537_6538233778467241984_n”Introducing Sapsquatch, an elusive ale brewed with maple syrup. It spent 12 months “in the woods” developing strong character in three ways. One third of the beer was kept in bourbon barrels. Another third aged in bourbon barrels that once held maple syrup. The remaining liquid was aged on hand charred oak staves that spent time in Southern Tier Distilling Company’s American Whiskey. Sapsquatch is truly a complicated beast.”

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: It pours a kind of garnet/light brown to cola with a wispy head that eventually vanishes. Not a skerrick of bubble remains on the surface.

Aroma: It reeks of booze, residual sugars, salted caramel, plum, maple (coming through more as it warms), port, dates, brown sugar and figs. A little bit of oak which gives rise to a hint of bourbon, vanilla and toasted coconut. It displays its American roots with just the slightest touch of resinous hops. Mild undertones of cherry, molasses, damp wood and charred oak. This thing just keeps on evolving!

Flavour: Follows on from the nose beautifully. It comes on with extreme sweetness but with a flutter of char to take the edge off it. The booze is sharp and showing through the bourbon oak…really developing mid way. Molasses, maple, treacle and a touch of plum which builds up to a sweet, sappy and warming finish that goes the distance.

Mouthfeel: Sticky, sharp and caramelised. The 14.9% ABV doesn’t shy away! Low co2 with medium-full body.

Overall: This is one big and complex number. Lethal, rich and super sweet as well. Our only gripe would be that the maple and the oak don’t really present as well as they could have but really we’re just splitting hairs it’s a bloody fine offering!

Firestone Walker 2018 ‘Sucaba’ BA Barleywine

35246319_870390989811714_6052729120549240832_n“After taking a year off, Sucaba returns for a curtain call in 2018. As always, this latest vintage delivers big, boozy bourbon and American oak aromas combine with soft chocolate malt undertones. Complex malt flavors are framed in oak with hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, toasted coconut and a touch of dark cherry. Sucaba is a one-of-a-kind sipping experience.  It is a beer built to last, and one that will reward careful cellaring for years to come. We highly recommend counting the years with an abacus.”

Glassware: Tulip.

Appearance: Rather dark for a barleywine. It hits the glass with an extremely deep mahogany hue with a short tan head forming on top. It quickly snaps back to a ring with some spotty lace as we hook in.

Aroma: Decadent and seriously rich. It has traits of the Parabola with that sticky, sweet and caramelised base. Lots of dark fruits with fig, raisin and prunes, hints of bourbon barrel, coconut, vanilla, toffee and cigars in support. Not a whole lot of that hallmark residual sugar sweetness but in all honesty it actually works well enough without it! Superb aroma.

Flavour: Oh man. Smooth, elegant and simply delicious. Sweet dark fruits a plenty with a hint of the bourbon barrels following close behind. Just a suggestion of warming booze (12.5%) which is incredible considering its size. Amazingly it burns off and finishes with a sticky sweet number which offers bourbon oak and delicate toasted vanilla on the rear.

Mouthfeel: Sticky and gelatinous. Full-ish body with moderate co2.

Overall: This is the George Clooney of beers. It’s classy, elegant and silky smooth! Kudos Firestone that is an absolute corker!

Dainton Brewery ‘Big Bad Bourbon’ BA Barleywine

31949632_852566928260787_2812730604196462592_n“Beer description: This beer is a bit mad, like us. And stupid, unlike us. Aged in three different types of bourbon barrels and brewed with a Belgian yeast. Tastes like vanilla, fights Ken.”

Glassware: Tulip.

Appearance: Sort of copper sort of cherry red thing going on with an inch of loosely held bubble on top. The head quickly vanished and leaves nothing but a foaming island in the center.

Aroma: It’s unique that’s for sure. We’re putting that down to the use of rye, which with its spicy notes, slightly offsets all of those uber sweet and rich caramels, toffee, port and residual sugars. Definitely picking up the bourbon and woody oak accents as well, very nice touch. Some earthy spice, fig, gluhwein and apple/pear cider just to make it a bit more complex!

Flavour: Not quite as aggressive as anticipated. It comes on strong and warming but it’s nicely softened by the rich and smooth caramel, toffee and syrup. The earthy spice plays a good support role as it hits a sharp sherry/brandy note in the middle. Clove, stewed oranges, bourbon, residual sugars and fortified wine finishes it all off.

Mouthfeel: Oily and somewhat gelatinous. The 14% ABV provides a hefty warmth but that’s to be expected.

Overall: Not bad. Probably one we wouldn’t seek out again but in saying that it’s seriously complex and very comforting. One to crack on a cold winters night we reckon.

Brooklyn Brewery 2012 ‘Monster Ale’ Barleywine

22815539_765032450347569_3237719762857128468_n“Brooklyn Monster Ale is a classic barley wine, a style of ale originally brewed by the butlers to the English and American aristocracy. It is brewed from three mashes of heirloom British malt and spiced with aromatic American Willamette, Cascade and Fuggle hops. After four months of aging, it has a magnificent burnished copper color, an aroma redolent of sherry, citrusy hops and fruit, a soft, warming, complex palate, a spiritous finish, and a strength of 10.3%. It is vivacious when young, but will age gracefully for many years, becoming more complex over time.”

Served in a snifter. She pours a somewhat rusted bronze/chestnut hue with a wispy cap forming on top. It reduced back to the edges with little signs of lace as we indulge.
The nose is oh-so-rich. Driven mainly by the super sweet dark fruits like raisin, dates, fig and apricot. Toffee, caramel and butterscotch also hold a big presence. Lots of residual sugars, nutty malts, booze (rum, Sherry and port), stewed oranges and an undertone of vanilla. It’s interesting as we keep getting flashes of imperial IPA characters so the hops, although dank, are still well alive after five years.
Very complex in flavour. It’s rich and boozy with this big impression of burnt orange and brandy. The 10.1% ABV definitely isn’t shying away. A somewhat sharp and plummy note develops with a subtle tip of the hat to dried dark fruits and treacle. Sharp, bitey and dry as it rounds out the finish with incredible length.
The texture is dense and chewy but also rather dry and warming. Full bodied and the co2 is kept to a minimum.
We pulled this out of the cellar after holding on to it for about a year and a half. Of course it already had about 4 years on it and it’s still drinking with a bit of immaturity. It will be very interesting to see whether it has improved with another couple of years on it.

Bell’s Brewery ‘Third Coast’ Old Ale (Barleywine)

21617561_750410778476403_2062480755628173381_n“Third Coast Old Ale starts with a rich, caramel base, and finishes with a heavy hop bitterness. Sharply intense at first, it will age gracefully, adding complexity and subtlety in your cellar. Go ahead, test your patience.”

Served in a snifter. It pours a murky chestnut hue that’s capped off with a short tan head. It collapsed to a halo which posts inconsistent rings down the walls of the glass.
Monstrous aroma! Like a glass full of syrup and fortified wine. This is the 2015 release so the hops have all but dropped out, although there still is a delicate hint of pine and grass hanging around. Loads of sweet dark fruits like prune, raisin, plum and figs. Relentless wafts of toffee, caramel, butterscotch and treacle with earthy and somewhat cocoa powdery undertones. So many dimensions.
The flavour backs up perfectly with super sweet (but far from cloying) notes of port, dark fruits, spice, alcohol and hints of earthy tobacco. Feeling a bit of heat with an assertive bitterness through the mid as it rolls in to quite a well balanced finish that boasts a gentle dryness with lingering malt sweetness on the back end.
The texture is dense and chewy with low co2. 10.2% ABV presenting firmly. Slightly drying on the rear.
The brilliant flavour and aroma certainly makes up for the drab and boring old strip. We would love to see how this would go fresh because it is drinking pretty damn fine right now (even without the hops). So obviously it’s a beer that would age well, good thing we have a few left in storage!

Deschutes Brewery 2014 Reserve ‘Mirror Mirror’ BA Barleywine

21463193_748795898637891_1743194503447251062_n“The Reserve Series romance all began with our first release of this limited-edition brew. Mirror Mirror, born of a double batch of Mirror Pond Pale Ale, is an inspired barley wine ale layered with intriguing nuances. Explore this latest incarnation and enjoy its delicious complexity in every sip. (Released March 2014)”

Served in a snifter. Pours a bit like muddy swamp water with a two finger head forming on top. Retention is good with a wavy lave pattern following it down.
Phwoar! That aroma. The complexity, the intense sweetness, the brilliance of a well brewed and well aged barleywine is not only 2nd to none but would easily challenge a dessert wine as an indulgent after dinner aperitif or night cap. With all that toffee, port, raisin, apricot, gingerbread, fig, residual sugar, fudge, brandy and sticky vanilla this is the epitome of opulence! Outstanding stuff.
It doesn’t shy away in flavor either. Big and extravagant notes of port, caramel, fig, brandy, brown sugar and raisin are given an almighty boost by the 11.2% ABV which injects prickly layers of belly warming goodness. It’s only subtle but we can detect a vinous accent from the hefty aging process it undergoes in American red wine barrels.
The texture is dense and syrupy with enough lift from the booze to save it from being edible. The co2 is mild but effective…also very important in the overall balance of the beer.
Oh jeebus! What an amazing beverage we have laid before us. Holier than thou. We’re not worthy! What we’re trying to say is this is down right incredible. Top 5 material without a doubt.