Recently in Barleywine Category

Union Chessie

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To celebrate their underrated brewery's anniversary, Union brewing makes a barleywine named after local legend Chessie, a sea monster said to live in the midst of the Chesapeake Bay. As with most local legends of this ilk, there are many sightings but no actual evidence of its existence. Funnily enough, speculation meant to explain the sightings sound even more far fetched than a legendary sea monster and include a "mutant eel" theory, large river otters, prehistoric Zeuglodons, and South American anacondas escaping from 18th- and 19th-century sailing ships.

Fortunately, there's plenty of evidence for the beer's existence: namely that I was able to purchase and drink a bottle. It's a little over a year old and I get the impression it would be better fresh, but as it is now, it occupies that same strange territory in the DIPA/TIPA/Barleywine triangle. Regardless, Chessie's come out to play and behold! Photographic evidence:

Union Chessie Barleywine

Union Chessie 3rd Anniversary Barleywine - Pours a dark amber brown color with a finger or two \ of fluffy off-white head that sticks around for quite a while. Smells of faded citrus and resinous pine hops with some crystal malts lurking in the background. Taste also hits the citrus and pine hops pretty hard, with a light crystal malt backbone and dry, bitter hop finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium bodied, and surprisingly dry for the style. Not red wine dry, but still much more attenuated than your typical barleywine. Overall, this is an interesting beer, somewhere in that DIPA, TIPA, Barleywine triangle, tasty too. Would like to try fresh (or aged in a barrel). B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/23/16. Released: August 2015. Bottle No. 336/800.

This was the third anniversary beer, but they also released the second anniversary Chessie that had been aged in Elijah Craig 12 barrels last year. Here's to hoping I can snag the BA version later this year...

Barrel-Aged Tröegs Double Feature

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Semi-local Tröegs has been steadily expanding of late, and one beneficiary of their success has been their barrel-aging program, which they call their "Splinter" series. They've been doing them for a while, but the initial offerings were very rare and dare I say, walezish. Recent expansions have allowed them to step up their game and the availability of these beers has been getting better (though nothing seems to approach those original sour offerings just yet), even for those of us who hesitate to drive out to Hershey on a whim. The two I have here were relatively recent releases, basically just barrel aged versions of standard-lineup offerings. Oddly, their names have changed from "Bourbon Barrel-Aged" to just "Barrel-Aged", though I'm not sure if that means anything. In at least one case, the newer vintage has not lived up to the reputation of its predecessor, but it's still pretty nice. Let's dive in:

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Troegenator

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Troegenator - Pours a dark amber brown color with half a finger of off white head that is short for this world. Smells nice, lots of fruity malt character, raisins, light on the barrel-aged character, but oak and vanilla are definitely there and it's an improvement on the base. Taste hits the barrel aging notes more than the nose, adding rich sweetness, caramel, oak, vanilla, and booze notes to the base fruity malt character, which is lessened here in the taste. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated but smooth, with a warming alcohol note. Overall, this is really nice, certainly an improvement on the base. A strong B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 6/18/16. Bottled: 02/23/16.

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Flying Mouflan

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Flying Mouflan - Pours a deeper, darker amber brown color with a finger of off white head. Smells good, less in the way of fruity malt but the slack is picked up with hops, again the barrel character is light in the nose, but it's there, imparting some of that booze, oak, and vanilla. Taste again plays up those hops, a little dankness here before the booze, oak, and vanilla kicks in... Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, perhaps a bit less smooth, but still with the warming alcohol. Overall, this is very nice, but far from a top tier BA barleywine, and honestly, I think I might prefer BA Troegenator... I could still give it a weak B+ though, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 6/19/16. Bottled: 03/17/16.

Now they just need to put Impending Descent into barrels (and maybe amp up that ABV to original Scratch offering levels before that) and I'll be a happy camper. Regardless, I'm excited to see what comes out of the Splinter series in the coming months and years.

Midnight Sun Termination Dust

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These days, anytime I get a chance to snag a bottle of barrel aged Midnight Sun beer, I jump at the opportunity. This Belgian Style Barleywine aged in High West bourbon barrels was no exception. Looking into it a little more, it seems like this has a pretty interesting heritage. A little over ten years ago, Midnight Sun celebrated their 1000th batch of beer with, you guessed it, a Belgian Style Barleywine aged in bourbon barrels called simply "M" (I knew Roman numerals were good for something). These days, this concept isn't particularly noteworthy. Everyone does this sort of thing. Hell, even I've homebrewed a bourbon oaked barleywine (that I'm positive is drastically inferior to anything produced by Midnight Sun, I'm the worst). But back in 2005? It was apparently a revelation. Bottles of M are among the most prized beers in existence, going for thousands of dollars at auction. Why? Partly it's the rarity, but it is also supposed to be uniquely well suited to aging. Ratings are still sky high, even a decade after bottling.

Of course, I have not had M, nor does it seem likely that I ever will. However, as you might imagine, the requests to Midnight Sun to rebrew it are numerous. A couple years ago, current brewer Lee Ellis answered some questions about M and let a few interesting nuggets slip. To bring this digression into relevance, here's a few quotes:

Hmmm, I'll just say that if we did re-release it, we wouldn't call it M. It is impossible to re-create it exactly. While Gabe Fletcher was an amazing Brewer, he sure sucked at documentation.

...As for more M, I'll say that Termination Dust is probably the closest re-creation we have done to date. Fairly similar malt bill, and very similar yeast blend. But again, it's kind one of those "that time, that place" beer. I love making big, dark, barrel aged belgians, stouts, and barley wines. Our Alaskan clientele demands it. As we say, session beers start at 8% up here.

Well that's nice to hear! Naturally, this beer doesn't seem to be making the waves that M did, but perhaps in a few years, these bottles will emerge as a wale, bro. Or M was just that ephemeral, one of a kind brew that will never be replicated.

Hope springs eternal though, so let's take a closer look. Termination Dust is basically the first light snow that signals the end of summer, something that generally carries more weight in a land of extremes like Alaska than it does for us doofuses down here. Brewed with a blend of Belgian yeasts and aged in High West barrels, this clearly isn't an exact duplicate of M. For one, it's a little stronger, and for another, High West didn't exist back in 2005 (and presumably, higher quality barrels were much more widely available back then). Still, this is Midnight Sun we're talking about here, so let's dig in:

Midnight Sun Termination Dust

Midnight Sun Termination Dust - Pours a very dark brown color with half a finger of tan head that is relatively short lived. Smells of caramelized brown sugar, bourbon, oak, some fruity esters, faint hints of spice. Taste hits those brown sugar notes hard, toffee, caramel, maybe even some Belgian yeast spice, and that boozy bourbon, vanilla, and oak. Very sweet, and even moreso once it warms up, though the spicy phenols also come out more. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, moderate and smooth carbonation that fits well, a little boozy heat. Overall, certainly another winner from Midnight Sun, though I don't think it's better than Arctic Devil. Yet. I think this could age fabulously, so let's check back in a few years, shall we? Still, this ain't no slouch, so we'll go A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/15/16. Bottled: 9/16/15.

I shall have to track down another bottle of this stuff to age. In the meantime, I'm sure we'll be seeing more from these Alaskan ballers soon enough.

Christmas Beer Recap

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My favorite time of the year is the Halloween through Christmas corridor, and part of that is the seasonal beer we get. It's not fashionable to be into Christmas beers, winter warmers and the like, but I love them and always make room for some of them during the holidays. I know I just got done mentioning that I don't feel the need to write about every beer I drink, but now that the holidays are over, I need some way to occupy my time that doesn't involve poopsocking it through Fallout 4, so here's a sampling of two beers I drank for last minute Christmas wrapping fuel, and two that were gifts.

Ballantine Burton Ale

Ballantine Burton Ale - So Pabst revived the Ballantine name with a decent IPA, and for Christmas, they put together this little barleywine number. According to a bunch of strangers on the internets, this is the single best beer Pabst has ever made. Let's see, shall we? Pours a clear amber orange color with a finger of head and some lacing. Smells sweet, lots of dank, piney hops and a little dark fruit. Taste is also quite sweet, more of the dark fruit here, but the hops balance things out without feeling too bitter in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tight carbonation, hints of booze, a sipper for sure. Overall, it's a solid little barleywine, tasty, and I haven't had something like this in a long time... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2015.

Samichlaus Classic 2010

Samichlaus Classic 2010 - It's become something of a Kaedrin tradition to do last minute Christmas wrapping whilst watching cheesy Christmas movies and imbibing a Samichlaus of some kind (or maybe, um, two of them). This year was no exception, and in the spirit of dipping into the cellar to drink some of my aged stock, I grabbed a 5 year old bottle. Pours a deep dark amber orange color with a half finger of head that quickly disappears. Smells intensely of clean, dark fruits, very sweet, a little booze. Tastes very sweet, sticky, sugary sweet, with muted dark fruit, and did I mention it was sweet? Not cloying though, age has treated this well. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, well carbonated. Overall, it's very good with some age on it, among the better I've had. I'm going with a high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2010.

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo - My brother isn't a big beer guy, but usually manages to get some decent stuff. For instance, this year's selections included a Sierra Nevada Celebration, a La Fin Du Monde, and a few other beers I genuinely love yet rarely revisit. Then there's this one, which sounds like the most interesting of the lot on paper... English Strong Ale aged in oak barrels for over a year? Well sign me up! Alas, this runs into that Belgian pale ale character that I always find distressing and the oak aging doesn't feel harmonious at all. Something odd going on here. Pours a murky amber color with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smell has a lot of fruity character to it, some toffee and maybe some butterscotch, possibly diacetyl. Taste has more of that dark fruit, raisins, toffee, butterscotch, and a hint of tart astringency. Not, like, infected, but I think it's the result of that barrel aging. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but medium to full bodied. Overall, this seems well crafted, but it's just not really my thing. C

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Ridgeway Lump of Coal - A gift from a coworker, I knew I was in for trouble because I've never had a Ridgeway that I've ever liked, despite the fact that they put out, like, ten Christmas beers. Pours a clear dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of off white head. Does not smell like a stout at all, getting that toffee and butterscotch and diacetyl here. Taste is along the same lines, diacetyl and maybe even some skunking, this is terrible! Notes of death and decay. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, appropriate for the style I guess, but the problem lies not here. Overall, this is terrible! It doesn't even warrant taking the time to upload the image I took. I don't hand these out often, but this one earned it: F

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

A decidedly mixed bag this year. I shall have to endeavor to do better next year. In the meantime, New Years Eve drinking was more palatable, so I'll cover that one tomorrow.

Tired Hands Conspectus

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Now that the Fermentaria is open, it's getting difficult to keep up with the sheer variety of awesome emanating from the fine brewers at Tired Hands. I still hit up one location or another pretty often, but the small batch style simply yields a lot of new brews. Also, I'm getting more and more lazy about writing down any sort of notes on the beer I'm having, which means it's getting difficult to even remember what I've had. Still, I manage to squirrel away some notes every now and again, so I might as well append them to the more detailed tasting notes on two highly prized bottles.

First up is Parageusia5, a Cabernet Franc barrel-fermented Ale, aged for approximately 12 months. This is a prized line of sours, and this one takes a distinctly more Flandersy take than previous Parageusias, and while it doesn't quite live up to the hallowed realms of the first few iterations, it's pretty darned fantastic. This quote accompanies the beer:

"Trigeminal prisim on a sunny hillside. Will you engage indefinitely?" - Christian Zellersfield

I can kinda, sorta parse that, and my answer is yes. I will engage indefinitely. Or I would, but I only had this one bottle:

Tired Hands Para5

Tired Hands Parageusia5 - Pours a very dark, clear amber color, very pretty when held up to light, with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, oak, and acetic sourness, kinda Flandersy. Taste starts rich and sweet, cherries and oak followed by a bit of acetic sourness, vinegar, vinous fruit, finishing on that sour note. Mouthfeel is full and rich up front, but less so towards the finish, moderate sourness and acidity, reasonably well carbonated. Overall, doesn't quite compare to the initial Parageusia offerings, but is pretty impressive in its own right. Also: match with dark chocolate. Delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: Squiggle, Squiggle ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap, no ABV listed, just various squiggles and tentacled creatures on the label). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/6/15.

Next we have one of them swanky beer and music collaborations, in this case it's jazz musician Mike Lorenz, who released an album of Black Sabbath and Nirvana covers along with this beer (Jean provided the art for the album, git that vinyl while it's still around), Scentless And Senseless. Lorenz is a fixture at Tired Hands, playing a show once a week and sometimes humoring the beer nerd masses during bottle releases. This beer is an oak fermented Saison dry hopped with Equinox and Mosaic, right up my alley:

Tired Hands Scentless and Senseless

Tired Hands Scentless And Senseless - Pours a very pale, cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell definitely has that foudre thing going on, a little oak and vanilla, big citrus aromas too, partly from the funk, partly from hops. Taste hits again with that foudre character pretty hard, dry oak, vanilla, some citrusy fruit in the middle, just a bit of tartness, followed by some earthy funk in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light body, hints of sourness, some very dry character happening, right up front too. Overall, a step up from the previously released foudre bottle (Astral Plane), and pretty delicious in its own right. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/12/15.

Dudholio - 4.5% ABV maize saison with motueka and Brett - Great little saison, light Brett feel, moderate fruity hops, and well carbed, really enjoying this! A-

Milkshake IPA - 7.4% ABV blackberry and blueberry IPA brewed with lactose sugar and Mosaic and Citra hops - So a while back one of the "Bros." from BeerAdvocate published a review of a cloudy pour of HopHands and called it a mess (the Bros. have a bug up their arse about beer clarity, I guess), saying literally "Milkshake beers are not a trend or acceptable with modern styles... No excuses." In response, Jean and crew have put together a series of "Milkshake" IPAs (that actually use lactose and are also generally cloudy beers); as usual, it's a fun way to respond to criticism. Anywho, this was a great Tired Hands style IPA, juicy fruit, fuller bodied than normal but velvety smooth, great! A

Hissing at Snakes - 7.5% ABV Rye IPA - Simcoe, Amarillo, and Nelson Sauvin, typically great TH IPA with a spicy rye kick, really nice! A-

Neutral Impulse From The Visual Cortex - 6.2% ABV IPA - Nice citrus hops and a surprising honey note, almost creamy mouthfeel... B+

Expansive Vestibule - 6.1% ABV sturdy Porter - Nice nose, dark chocolate and vanilla, with a more roasty taste and a relatively light body... B+

Einsteinium - 5% ABV hoppy sour - Not a huge fan of hoppy sours in general, though this is working just fine... B

Rutilant - 5.9% ABV Nelson Sauvin & Simcoe IPA - Beautiful little IPA, typical Tired Hands stuff but with significantly more carbonation, really nice... (IIRC this is one of the first beers I had at the Fermentaria, which seems to have a different carbonation profile) A-

Temporary Shape of My Own Person - 5.2% ABV Grissette - Like a slightly tart version of a typical th saison, crisp and light, refreshing summer drinking... B+

Vaporizer - 6.8% ABV IPA - Ah, now this is a typical TH IPA , bright, juicy citrus hops, something a little more on the green, grassy, floral hop side as well. Nice! B+ or A-

I'm Sad - 8.5% ABV imperial honey coffee Porter - Interesting interplay between the honey and coffee, both are there, but the combo sorta works for me, despite not particularly liking either honey or coffee! B

Can't Keep Up 23 - 5% ABV blended sour saison - Whoa cucumbers, blend of HandFarm, Parageusia, and Saisonhands conditioned on lemon, cucumber and agave nectar, tasty! Have liked other Can't Keep Up beers better, but this is nice. B+

Slowly Rotating Mass With Bright Lights - 5.2% ABV crushable pineapple IPA - Solid IPA, delicious and juicy, very light and quaffable, A-

Rigel - 6.8% Rye India Black Ale - This is all I wrote about this beer, and yeah, I don't really remember anything about it, though I'm guessing that means it didn't melt my face (nor did it make me do a spit take in disgust).

Fripp - 4.5% ABV American Bitter - Very nice bitter base with sweeter, more citrusy hop character, quaffable in the extreme! B+

Honey, I Love You - 5.8% ABV Honey Saison - Beautiful little saison here, nice citrus and spice character, a little oak and tartness in the finish... Foudre beer starting to come into its own. Delicious! A-

Avoiding Purgatory #1 - 6.6% ABV India Black Ale - Hrm, surprisingly muted hops and roasted malt here, one of those IBAs that makes me wish I was drinking an IPA or Stout instead of this quasi hybrid. Lack of roast probably has to do with the use of debittered black malt, but the hops (lemon drop and centennial) aren't doing the trick... Not really bad, to be sure, but TH has done much better in this realm! B

Yup - 5.1% ABV hoppy blonde ale - Amazing citrus nose, lemons and tropical fruit, tasty stuff! B+

Nope - 4.2% ABV dry stout - Polar opposite of Yup, dark, roasty, earthy goodness. B+

Rob "Strawberry" Berliner - 6% ABV strawberry Berliner Weisse - Very nice, lots of ripe, tart strawberry goodness, very well balanced, delicious. A-

Wound - 7.3% oat IPA - Awesome, back to basics Tired Hands style IPA, citrusy and floral, delicious! A-

Calm - 4.2% crushable IPA - Nice light pale ale, quaffable and refreshing. B+

Tuff Leather - 1.5% table saison - Whoa, beer nerd lite beer, nice carbonation profile, grassy, bready, a little watery, but not in a bad way for what this is... Very impressive for such a low ABV beer. B+

It's Okay - 7.6% ABV IPA - Nice IPA, sweeter than normal, lots of citrus, hints of dank pine, more body than normal, but really good stuff here... B+

Yellow & Green - 5.6% ABV dry hopped Pilsner - Dry hopped with Ella and Helga, 2 hops I've never heard of before! Earthy, grassy, floral, with enough citrus to take it away from traditional pils profile, nice! B+

Perfectly Preserved Brain - 8.2% ABV English Smoked Barleywine - Moar earthy than expected, sweet, slightly burnt bread, interesting, but not amazing.. B

Lambos & Mansions - 4.8% ABV crushable Galaxy IPA - Nice citrus hop character, dry, quaffable stuff, very nice! B+

Fuzzy Yellow - 6.3% ABV local peach IPA - Typically solid th IPA, citrusy, balanced, tasty! B+

Petalite Songbird - 5.2% ABV gooseberry saison - Whoa, was not expecting the tart, fruity funk on this, really nice, looks like Emptiness culture stuff, which explains it. Great stuff... A-

Minnow - 8% ABV DIPA - Nelson Sauvin & Citra Very nice, sweet, delicious, juicy, almost vinous stuff. A-

Kuro - 5.5% lime leaf schwarzbier - Muted black malt, burnt sugar, something bright, very nice! B+

Pathway of Beauty - 6.8% ABV Citra IPA - Holy hell, this is amazing, juicy hops, compulsively quaffable, delicious IPA, a kinda successor to Psychic Facelift (one of my favorite TH IPAs of all time)... A

Tired Hands Freedom from the Known
Freedom from the Known

Freedom from The Known - 7.2% ABV Cherry saison - Whoa, this is the most cherry I've ever gotten out of a beer, ever. Sometimes cherry flavors in beer are overwhelmed by other elements, but not at all here. Cherries are the star. Kind of like a cherry version of Peche 'n Brett. Amazing, tart, delicious, a little oak mellows things out, dryish, great stuff. A

Mosaic MagoTago - 7% Mango IPA - An interesting twist on the standard Simcoe Mago, beautiful juicy citrus IPA. Hard to believe this was on at the same time as regular Mago, Pathway of Beauty and Freedom from the Known. An embarrassment of riches at the Fermentaria! A

FunnieDuddie - 6.5% ABV Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe IPA - Typically good th IPA, but damn, this suffers from the comparison to the rest of the tap list right now. B+?

Yellow Fog - 3.7% cucumber Berliner wieise - Really nice, cucumber comes through well, still a nice tart beer, tasty! B

Lychee Milkshake IPA - 7.2% IPA made with lactose sugar, lychee purée, vanilla, and citra/Mosaic hops - Sweet and juicy, lots of citrus, almost rich, full bodied mouthfeel... Great! A-

Phew, that covers about 6-8 months of visits to Tired Hands, and honestly, I probably missed a few things. Indeed! I forgot to mention that the latest couple batches of SaisonHands, Tired Hands' flagship saison (and one of two beers that is almost always available) that used to be a rock solid standard-approach saison, but now spends time in the foudre and wow! You can really tell, this beer has changed a ton since the Fermentaria opened, and it's pretty amazing that it's this regularly available. This is the sort of thing that keeps me coming back (also the potential for that one night they had MagoTago, Pathway to Beauty, and Freedom from the Known on tap, seriously astounding).

A couple years ago, I acquired a bottle of Great Divide's Barrel Aged Hibernation in a LIF. It was quite nice, but the barrel component wasn't quite as integrated as I expected. This could be because the bottle was nearly 2 years old or it could be that the Stranahan's barrels they used don't really live up to the more common bourbon barrel approach. The former could be addressed by snagging a fresh bottle of BA Hibernation (which I see are circulating in the area right now), but the latter will be more of a challenge since Stranahan's is relatively small, there aren't that many breweries that use their barrels, and then there's the fact that they have asked brewers not to disclose their name on labels anymore. Also, the nature of a small distillery like Stranahan's can lead to inconsistency, which could also translate to their barrels... I'm not an inconsistency hater and can even find it charming in some instances, but that doesn't make a true miss any less annoying!

All that being said, it's my understanding that Great Divide does still use Stranahan's for their barrel program, and when I saw this barrel aged barleywine (for 12 months, no less), I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm happy to report that this worked out better than the old ale (though it appears some folks have gotten infected bottles - mine was not, so I don't know how prevalent any of those issues was):

Great Divide Barrel Aged Old Ruffian

Great Divide Barrel Aged Old Ruffian - Pours a dark, murky amber brown color with a finger of off white had that sticks around for a bit. Smells of dark fruits, raisins, plums, with some caramel and toffee and hints of whiskey in the background. Taste goes to a similar place, rum soaked raisins and plums, hints of slightly boozy oak and whiskey, and a malt backbone of caramel and toffee, finishing with that touch of whiskey and vanilla. As it warms, it gets a bit deeper and the whiskey comes out a bit more. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tightly carbonated, with a moderate amount of richness from the barrel aging, silky smooth, with enough alcohol heat in the finish to keep it a sipper. Overall, very well executed bourbon barrel barleywine, quite a treat. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/16/15. Bottled on: March 26, 2015.

This was very nice and makes me want to go out and grab another BA Hibernation, though I really shouldn't, as I'm drowning in good beer over here. I know, woe is me, but I've got to drink down my cellar a bit and oh, it looks like I've got a trip to Vermont on the near horizon, so this is going to be rough. For certain values of "rough".


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No, this beer is not named for the awesomely badass shark. Like all of Hanger 24's Barrel Roll series beers, it's named after an aerial maneuver which is, in itself, named after the badass shark. I think. I mean, I guess it could also be named after, you know, the head of a hammer. But I prefer to think it's the shark that drove the name. It's a turn-around maneuver where the plane goes vertical, appears to stall, then rotates as the plane descends in a quarter loop so that it's made a full 180° turn. Or something. I'm clearly not a pilot, and haven't even really played one in video games.

After Pugachev's Cobra introduced me to Hangar 24's barrel aged beer program, I quickly resolved to sample more from the series, and this Barleywine aged in rye whiskey and bourbon barrels certainly did the trick. So let's take this highway to the danger zone:

Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No 4 Hammerhead

Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No. 4 Hammerhead - Pours a deep, dark brown color with half a finger of slow forming head. Smells sticky sweet, toffee and caramel, werthers original, a little bourbon, oak, and vanilla, a sorta rum-soaked fruit thing going on too. Taste is very sweet, some sticky toffee, light caramel, brown sugar, rum soaked fruit, with boozy bourbon hitting in the finish. The mouthfeel starts out in a way that makes you think this is a big, rich, chewy, full bodied beer, but it quickly thins out a little, with the barrel aged richness dissipating into the hot, boozy finish. It is perhaps not as hot as Pugachev's Cobra, but it gets the job done. Overall, this is a pretty great barleywine, not quite top tier, but well worth the stretch. A high B+, maybe A- territory, but will need to try again. If only someone would twist my arm and give me another bottle.

Beer Nerd Details: 13.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 5/2/15. Vintage: March 2015.

Would be really curious how a spell in the cellar would treat this one, and may actually have an opportunity to try that out. In the meantime, will be brushing up on my aerobatics and on the lookout for more Barrel Roll beers.

Midnight Sun Arctic Devil

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Founded in 1995, Anchorage, Alaska's Midnight Sun Brewing Company was the brainchild of Mark Staples, a former computer nut who claims he became "obsessed with beer". Sounds familiar. While perhaps not a pioneering giant like Anchor or Sierra Nevada, 1995 was pretty early on for American craft beer (for instance, that was a year before the infamous class of 1996, which includes Victory, Stone, and Dogfish Head), and they were making this barrel aged barleywine pretty early on. At least as of the year 2000, if this Michael Jackson article is to be believed. He was part of a blind taste test and had this ranked third:

Arctic Devil is an extraordinarily creamy barley wine, aged for six months in a red wine barrel and its unusual flavours were deemed excessively rich and lacking in hop balance by some of the judges. Not a typical barley wine, but I gave it points for individuality.
How things have changed. As barrel aged barleywines go, this is actually a pretty good example. It's not typical, but only in that it's better than most.

He mentions that it was aged in Red Wine barrels, which could have something to do with the perceived atypicality (is that a word? It is now.) These days, the label sez that the beer is aged in Bourbon Oak Barrels, though the brewery also claims they've blended the spawn of diverse barrels, ranging from wine and port to bourbon barrels (seems heavy on the bourbon to me, which perhaps yields something more typical than a red wine barrel). On the other hand, clocking in at 20 IBUs, this definitely is on the extreme low end of the bitterness spectrum for barleywines (even if it didn't feel that way to me). Whatever the case, this is a pretty spectacular barleywine, well worth seeking out:

Arctic Devil

Midnight Sun Arctic Devil Barley Wine - Pours a murky brown color with a cap of tan head. Smells fantastic, candied fruits, toffee, caramel, vanilla, oak, and bourbon. Taste has rich caramel, toffee, a hint of dark fruits, oak and vanilla, bourbon, finishing with a touch of bitterness that is offset by some boozy bourbon (surprising, given the low IBUs - this seems very well balanced). Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, a hint of boozy heat, well carbonated, a little sticky in the finish. Feels along the lines of §ucaba or Bourbon County Barleywine, which is good company to be in. Overall, this is a delicious, superbly balanced, top tier barleywine. A

Beer Nerd Details: 13.4% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/17/15. Vintage: 2015 (I think?)

Midnight Sun continues to impress. I will be seeking out more from them, post haste! I should also be looking into some other top tier barleywines that I've not managed to tick just yet. Patience, friends, all in good time.


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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Barleywine category.

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