Recently in Barleywine Category

FiftyFifty Old Conundrum On Wood

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We're big fans of Truckee, CA's FiftyFifty Brewing, particularly the barrel aged variants of their Eclipse stouts. Each uses the same base stout recipe, but is then aged in a different expression of bourbon (or rye) barrel. There's a surprising difference in each variant and it's a fascinating (if wallet lightening) exercise to work through them.

Given the success they've had with Eclipse, it's only natural that they have started to expand their barrel program into other styles, like this American Barleywine called Old Conundrum. The base beer is one of their staples, and they've been releasing it aged on different whiskey expressions (Eclipse style) on tap for a while. I believe this is the first year they've bottled it, though it just says "on wood" and does not seem to indicate which barrels were used (presumably a blend). So, will this live up to the example set by Eclipse? Only one way to find out:

FiftyFifty Old Conundrum On Wood

FiftyFifty Old Conundrum On Wood - Pours a murky brown color with a hint of amber (or some color more fancily named, like garnet or something) and a finger of smooth tan head. Smells great, lots of bourbon, oak, and vanilla, some dark fruit, caramel, molasses, maybe some booze. Taste starts with some dark fruit, but moves quickly into bourbon territory, hitting the caramel and molasses notes, vanilla, and a little more boozy bourbon towards the finish. Mouthfell is rich, full bodied, and chewy, tight and low but appropriate carbonation, a pleasant hint of warming booze. Overall, rock solid BA barleywine. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 11/22/14. 2014 vintage.

They also make a blonde barleywine aged in bourbon barrels called Annularity, though I have not secured one of those bottles (and to be sure, I've found that lighter colored beers and bourbon barrels are not always the most enticing prospect for me... not that I'd turn it down, to be sure!) Here's to hoping I get to snag more Eclipse variants this year!

Beer Clubbing

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer minded individuals at a local BYOB for libations and fun. Tonight we returned to a mainstay of our beer club experience, a local sushi place that we have all grown to love. Reasonable turnout, and some rather fantastic beers:

Beer Club for July 2014

For the sake of posterity, some basic thoughts on each below. Usual disclaimers apply, this is clearly not an isolation chamber environment, so please take this with the requisite grain (or boulder) of salt. In order of tasting (not necessarily in the order pictured):

  • Forest & Main Palomino - One of my contributions and a favorite of the night, this is just as good as it was when it was fresh, if not even better. A-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Pilsner - Nice typical pilsner hop nose, incredibly light and quaffable, this is the sort of thing that would be a perfect hot day drinking beer. This was Ken's first all-grain brew, and it turned out really well, even if it's not my favorite style. B
  • Anthony's Homebrewed ESB - Another homebrew (we seem to attract those types at beer club, I don't know why), this one has all the hallmarks of a good ESB, nice muted hop character, some solid biscuity malt, but also an almost brown sugar component that works really well. Another beer that would make for a great session, even if it might be slightly too much ABV... B+
  • Crown Valley Big Bison Ale - A fairly malty, well carbonated take on the dubbel style, though it's a bit more raisiny than expected, with maybe even a hint of diacetyl, which we never really appreciate here at Kaedrin. Not at all terrible, but a bit of a disappointment. B-
  • Anderson Valley Boont Barl Bourbon Barrel Amber Ale - Not as much bourbon barrel character as expected, and as such beers go, this is decidedly low cctane, but it actually drinks reasonably well. Decent balance, the bourbon is there, but it's very light. Not something I'd seek out, but it's a reasonably decent beer. B
  • Terrapin Pineapple Express - The bottle sez this is a smoked pineapple Helles, not something that seems like it would work out. In reality, it's not as bad as I feared, but it was cromulent enough. Very sweet, with only a light smoky character (it's not one of those beers where you'll wonder who put their cigar out in your beer!) I'm glad I tried it in this setting, as I don't know that I'd want to take down a full bottle of this. B-
  • Kaedrin Barleywine - I'm pretty sure I screwed up the carbonation factor of this beer. The flavor and aroma are there in spades, it just hasn't quite carbed up to the point where I thin it works well. And actually, this regular version is probably the best carbonated of them, which is not encouraging. The Bourbon one tastes a lot better, but it's also flatter... B-
  • Oskar Blues Old Chub Nitro - Much better than the standard Old Chub (which I always felt was too dry and too well carbonated to be a great Scotch ale), really smooth and creamy (typical of the nitro), malty, tasty stuff. B+
  • Green Flash Road Warrior Imperial Rye India Pale Ale - Tons of Moscaic hop character out of this, tropical fruits with that spicy rye character, this is a really solid beer worth checking out. B+
  • Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break - I've actually had this a few times before, and it's really nice, especially if you like coffee. As I'm pretty much ambivalent to coffee, I thought this was fine, if not the best evar, though it seemed to go over really well. This was another favorite of the night amongst the beer club peeps, but I'll go B+, but only because my coffee feelings are well documented (could easily be higher for most other folks).
  • Blue Point (Sour) Cherry Imperial Stout - I have to admit that I'm not the biggest sour stout fan out there, but this worked well enough, with that rich malt and sour twang, maybe even a hint of that cherry. A few of us tried blending this beer with the Imperial Biscotti Stout, just to see what would happen, but it didn't turn out particularly great. This beer by itself is better, but still around a B level beer for me.

So there you have it. August may be a weird month in terms of beer club, but I'm sure we'll work something out. In any case, stay tuned for some moar local awesomeness this week on Kaedrin.

Philly Beer Week Recap

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As per usual, I did not have my act together for this year's Philly Beer Week, and thus only went to a few events. For whatever reason, this week always seems to sneak up on me and I'm always caught unprepared. I'm the worst. That being said, I did manage to snag a few pretty interesting beers, so here's a quick recap. First stop was the venerable Philly institution Monk's Cafe:

Monks Cafe

The event was all about collaborations, most of which involved Monk's very own Tom Peters... First up was the next entry in the whole PNC collaboration series (last year's collaboration yielded Firestone Walker PNC, a most spectacular beer). This release comes to us from Maine's Allagash brewing, and this beer actually began its journey over four years ago ("Brewed in April 2010 & racked into oak barrels on May 25, 2010"). In a nice touch, the little beer menu actually included details of each barrel (including a couple that were marked as "DO NOT USE", heh). Click for a larger version:

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator Barrel Details

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator - Dark pour, fluffy tan head... darker than I was expecting, but when you look at the barrel details, that makes sense. Smells oaky, almost chocolaty and very sour, I can almost feel the sourness in my jaw (and I haven't even tasted it yet). Taste is bracingly sour, tart puckering fruit with some dark, chocolaty notes, almost a chocolate covered cherry feel. Mouthfeel is surprisingly full, not like a chewy stout but very big for a sour, which is an interesting feel. Extremely acidic, biting, but still nice... Overall, this is a really interesting, complex, unique, and very sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

So after that, I sampled a few other brews, including another small glass of Firestone's PNC stout (still exceptional, no change from my initial review):

Dock Street Trappiste Style Pale Ale - Inspired by Orval, this is obviously not a clone or anything, but it's nice. It's got a very dry feel, lots of peppery yeast notes, and some earthy funk in the finish. It's a fine beer, but not quite lighting the world on fire. I heard that this beer was actually made for last year's PBW, so perhaps it was better fresh? Not that it's terrible now or anything... B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Dilewyns Philly Tripel - This is the official Philly Beer Week Collaboration orchestrated by Tom Peters, where one local brewer travels to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This year it was Justin Low from Dock Street who went and collaborated with Anne Catherine Dilewyns from the relatively young Dilewyns brewery (they make Vicaris labeled beers) in Belgium. The result is a relatively straightforward tripel, with some small twists. Pale colored, sticky sweet, lots of honey flavor and fruity esters, less in the way of Belgian yeast spice. This is perhaps not my preferred take on the style, but it's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

De Molen Rook and Leer

De Molen Rook & Leer - The weirdest, most unique beer of the night, I've never had anything like this before. So get this, we've got an Imperial Smoked Porter base that was aged in whiskey barrels with brettanomyces and Rodenbach yeast. Oh, and it clocks in at 11.5% ABV. Um, yeah, ok. The more amazing thing: It actually works. Neither the smoke nor the sourness dominates, leading to an extremely complex beer. Usually high ABV sours don't work so well for me, but this one is just very well balanced. It's certainly odd, and I think the fact that this was originally brewed in 2011 has helped the flavors mesh together (and perhaps even mellow out some). It's a weird beer to rate, but I'll give it a A-, but maybe I was a bit far gone at this point.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

By this time, I was doing pretty well, so I slowed down a bit, got a table with some friends and ate some dinner. I did have a glass of Pliny the Elder, which was great as always, though I'm starting to see where the contrarians are coming. Naturally, I had some mussels, and as usual, they were fantastic. We also got a plate of Frog's Legs, which were basically a lot like chicken wings (I've had Frog's Legs before, but never like this).

At this point, we took our leave of Monk's and headed over to the Good Dog Bar & Restaurant, which is a great little place about a block over from Monk's. Well worth a visit if you're ever in Philly, and they also have great food (I'm pretty sure they've been featured on one of them Food Network shows at some point). They were having a Firestone Walker event and included this rarity, which I assumed would never make its way out East:

Firestone Walker Helldorado

Firestone Walker Helldorado - So you know how Firestone does that Anniversary blend where they invite a bunch of local winemakers to their brewery and set them loose on a bunch of barrel aged beers? Many of the component brews are available in bottled form, but most seem to be relative rarities, and Helldorado is one of those. I was shocked to see it at this event and immediately got myself a glass of the stuff. Alas, this is perhaps not my favorite style. It's described as Blonde Barleywine brewed with Honey, and boy can you really tell. It's extremely sticky sweet, with that honey coming through strong. It's supposed to be brewed with El Dorado hops, but I get almost no hop character out of this, so I'm guessing it was a light touch (or just used to balance out that intense sweetness). It's definitely a big, boozy bomb of a beer, and it's got a full body. However, something about the way light colored beers react in bourbon barrels is just not as exciting to me as when you get a darker base beer (the picture above makes Helldorado look darker than it was, though it wasn't super pale either). I mean, it's good, I'm really happy I got to try it, and everyone else who had it seemed to love it, so maybe this is just me, but I'll leave it at a B+ and go from there.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Lil' Opal - Now this, on the other hand, was way better than I was expecting. It's a toned down ("lil'") saison that's been aged in barrels with Brett and blended with various vintages, and it's fantastic. Granted, this is right up my alley, but I really loved this beer, a great funky saison, fruity, earthy, spicy, almost quaffable (even at this point in the night). It was a refreshing beer to have right after Helldorado, and it totally stood up to those intense flavors as well. Obviously, I was a little far gone at this point, so I'll conservatively rate it an A-, but I need to find me some more of this someday.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Agrestic Ale - Firestone has always been known for barrel fermenting and barrel aging, but they always stuck to non-wild styles, and they apparently greatly feared infections and the like. But when they opened up a completely separate facility, that allowed them to play with all sorts of sour bugs, and we're starting to get the fruits of that labor now (Lil' Opal also came out of that program). This was a really nice, light bodied sour, it reminded me a little of brighter Crooked Stave Origins. Again, I was a little far gone at this point in the night, but I really enjoyed this. I'll give it a B+, but I'd really like to try it again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Phew, it's a very good thing I was taking the train home, and while the above does seem like a lot of beer, it was spread out over quite a long time. Again, I need to better prepare for Philly Beer Week next year, so we'll see what happens. That's all for now. Stay tuned for Beer Club tomorrow! (No post on Thursday though, as I didn't really drink much else this past weekend, for obvious reasons!)

Deschutes Mirror Mirror

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This beer originated when a transporter malfunction sent bottles of Mirror Pond Pale Ale into an alternate universe where it was revealed to be more like a double batch of that staple beer that was partially aged in Oregonian Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Malbec Barrels. Also, the Federation is an evil empire, Kirk is a dictator, and Spock is a pirate (with a goatee!) Wait, I seem to have mixed this up. I was supposed to make a Snow White reference and not let my true nerd flag fly. Oh well, what are you going to do? Ok, stop that. This is why we can't have nice things.

Um, yeah, so this is the third time this beer has been released, and the previous edition in 2009 had some infection issues. Fortunately, this new batch appears to be sound, and I've had a hankering for a good barleywine of late, so let's trek into this sucker:

Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve

Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2014 Reserve - Pours a deep, dark amber brown color with a finger of light tan head that disapates slowly but surely. Smell is pure barleywine, lots of dark vinous fruit aromas, rich caramel, and maybe a hint of oak. Taste hits with lots of that rich caramel, maybe some of that oak in the middle, less fruit than the nose, but it's there and it comes through more in the finish, which also has a bitter note to it to even things out. That fruit takes on a more vinous, tannic feel as it warms, but it also develops a bit of a boozy bite as well. Mouthfeel is rich, creamy, low but appropriate carbonation, not quite full bodied, but the richness and booze keep it in the realm of a sipping beer. Overall, this is a well executed barleywine worthy of a look. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.2% ABV bottled (22 oz black waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 5/9/14. 2014 Reserve Vintage. Best After: 2/24/15.

Dammit, I forgot about those stupid "Best After" dates. I was going to say that while this is really good, it's not a transcendent experience or anything, but I could see this aging really well. Alas, I doubt I'll snag another bottle of the stuff, but I guess you never know.

April Beer Clubbing

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we went to a local Pizza place, got our fill of deep fried pizza pockets and other such delights, and naturally partook in lots of beer:

April Beer Club Selections
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, completely unreliable notes on each beer are below. Standard disclaimers apply, and other such waffling. Great, now I have a sudden craving for waffles. Thanks a lot. Anywho, in order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Green Flash Le Freak - Labeled a Belgian IPA, I didn't get much in the way of hops out of this, but it remained a pretty solid Belgian Strong Pale nonetheless. Nice spicy Belgian yeast character. B
  • Ovila Abbey Saison - Bog standard saison material, nothing special at all, though certainly not bad or anything like that. Still, there wasn't much to make it really stand out in a setting like this. Mild Belgian yeast character, maybe a hint of lemon peel if you are really looking for it. B-
  • Stone Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA - Rock solid IPA that feels like it's actually made with grapefruit (as opposed to only hops that lend a grapefruity character). I don't actually know if that's the case for sure, but that's what it feels like. Beautiful nose, what seems like Stone's trademark hop profile, and a heaping helping of citrusy but astringent grapefruit. An interesting beer. B
  • Evil Twin / Crooked Stave Ryan And The Gosling - One of my contributions for the night, this is dominated by funky Brett. This is quite welcome in the nose, and the front end of the taste is fantastic, but the finish is very odd. That funk turns super earthy, almost savory in the finish, which brings this down a bit. Still an interesting beer to try though. B
  • Allagash Midnight Brett - Hey, look at that, a beer I just reviewed yesterday. And it held up rather well in this setting as well.
  • Ken's Homebrewed Honey IPA - Brewed with a bunch of New Zealand hops, this was quite nice.
  • Sly Fox Nihilist - An interesting take on the imperial stout style, huge carbonation, dryer than I'd normally expect, but a nice roast character, with hints of booze (but not overpowering). It's definitely a decent brew. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel - Straight up imperial stout, this one compared very favorably to the Nihilist, definitely thicker and more creamy, less roast, but really quite nice. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked) - Interestingly, I feel like the char that came through on early bottles has mellowed out, and the bourbon seems to be lessening the roast as well, making this an interesting blend of flavors. It's turned out quite well, though not at all like your typical bourbon barrel aged stout. Still, not bad for a first attempt, and quite nice on its own. B+
  • DuClaw Dirty Little Freak - Holy hell. Huge chocolate nose, like powdered cocoa. Less chocolate in the taste, as it takes a back seat to a big coconut character. Surprisingly not super sweet, and it works well enough I guess (certainly a unique beer), though I was a little disappointed. B-
  • DuClaw Cocoa Fuego - Brewed with dark chocolate and chipotle peppers, its the latter that seems to dominate this beer, even contributing a sorta smokey flavor that's pretty tough to overcome. There's some peppery heat that takes up residence in your jaw, but it's not punishing or anything like that. Not the worst hot pepper beer I've had, but not a beer that I connected with either. C+
  • DuClaw Hell on Wood - Ah, now this is more like it. This is DuClaw's excellent Devil's Milk barleywine aged on bourbon barrels, and it turned out reasonably well. Clearly not a top tier BBA barleywine, but it works really well on its own. B+
So all in all, quite a nice night. As per usual, already looking forward to next month... In the meantime, stay tuned for another .rar wale review tomorrow.

The Bruery Mash

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I've made no secret of the fact that I don't drink coffee and thus am not a huge fan of it in beer. Indeed, longtime readers (all three of you) are probably rolling their eyes right now, as I probably mention my apathy towards coffee too often. While I do feel like I've come around a bit on coffee beers and have had several that I really enjoyed, I usually still find myself wondering what it would be like without the coffee. Fortunately, that option is actually available most of the time, and in this case, the Bruery came up with an interesting experiment.

I imagine the process of infusing coffee flavors into beer to be a complicated one with many variables that are difficult to control. What coffee are you using, how does it match with the base beer, when in the process are you adding the coffee, are you using the beans, the grinds, or actual brewed coffee (or some combination thereof)? Each one of those questions has a lot riding on it, so when the Bruery went to make a coffee-infused barleywine, they did some pilot batches and played around with a bunch of factors, but ultimately decided to release two beers: one unsoiled without any coffee at all (called Mash), and one with a very, very powerful coffee component (called Mash & Grind), the idea being that Reserve Society members will get bottles of each beer, open them at the same time, and blend them together to find their ideal level of coffee.

I'm pretty sure that my ideal blend wouldn't be a blend at all, just Mash - the bourbon barrel aged 12.5% ABV English style barlewine, all by its lonesome. So I was pretty happy to see this in a LIF haul a while back (and that I got this one and not the "Grind" version) and have been hankering for a taste every since. The Hulk would totally smash this, but I'll just mash with it:

The Bruery Mash

The Bruery Mash - Pours a murky brown color (dirty penny) with half a finger of white head that sticks around a bit at the start. Smell is nearly the platonic ideal of a bourbon barrel barleywine. Rich caramel and toffee, fruity malt, figs, coconut, a little booze, and a well balanced bourbon, oak, and vanilla kicker. And amazingly, the taste lives up to the nose (though maybe Platonic ideal was a bit overkill, eh?). Lots of rich malt character, molasses, caramel, and fruit coming through strong, coconut, raisins, and figs in the middle with the bourbon, oak, and vanilla pitching in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, but smooth, very rich, a little boozy bite towards the finish. Extremely well balanced. Overall, this is superb and absolutely delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 2/28/14. Bottled 05/24/13.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I'm really glad there was no coffee in this. I'm sure that if there was, I still would have enjoyed it, but it would been a "It's good... for a coffee beer" kinda situation. In any case, it wasn't, and I loved it, so there is that. Anyone want to be my Bruery Reserve Society proxy? It's a long shot, but I'm sure I could make it worth your while.

Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine

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Back before Goose Island sold out to the great satan, AB Inbev, they took their already wonderful Bourbon County Brand Stout and started making some variants. Some, like the one incorporating coffee, appear every year. Others were one-offs that will probably never happen again. One such one-off was Bourbon County Rare, which used the same base as plain old BCBS, but aged it in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels (which are indeed quite rare) for 2 years. It seems that Pappy mania has extended from the bourbon world to also infect the beer world, as this beer initially sat on shelves (due to a high price tag) but is now a highly sought after rarity in the secondary market or trading boards.

After BCBS Rare, Goose Island took those barrels and deployed them for a third use, this time with a rather large barleywine. The result, dubbed King Henry, was also quite a hit amongst beer dorks. So much of a hit, that a couple years later, Goose Island has revisited the general concept of a barleywine aged in third use barrels (first use was bourbon, second use the straight up BCBS) and rebranded the package as Bourbon County Brand Barleywine. It's only been a few weeks and it's always wise to give people some time to work through the hype, but the general consensus seems to be that it's pretty great. DDB sez it's not as good as King Henry was, but it's better than King Henry is now. I've not had King Henry (either fresh or aged), but this seems like an intuitive result. So let's take a drip down Bourbon County way, shall we?

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine - Pours a very dark brown color, maybe a hint of dark amber or crimson here, with just a cap of light head that quickly resolves to a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells heavily of bourbon and vanilla, oak, fruity malt and booze, maybe even something like brown sugar. Taste hits up front with a wallop of rich caramel, turning to fruity malts in the middle, along with a heaping helping of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. The finish has a pleasant note of booze to it, along with the return of that fruity malt. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, rich, and chewy. Some booze, but nothing hot or unapproachable. Overall, this is exceptional. My face melted. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.1% ABV bottled (12 oz. capped). Drank out of a snifter on 12/7/13. Bottled on: 17SEP13 0934.

I'm very happy that I have a fair amount of BCBS and variants left, as this stuff is truly spectacular. I even managed to get ahold of this year's Backyard Rye variant (aged in Rye Barrels with a bunch of berries), so be on the lookout for that at some point in the near future.

Yards Olde Bartholomew

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I tried to find out who this "Old Bart" really was, but the only thing I could find was that he was "a free spirit who bent elbows with the best of 'em", which is pretty cool, to be sure, but not quite informative enough. There feels like a story here, and one that is not related to Saint Bartholemew (who has his own fair share of wacky stories). Nevertheless, what we've got here is a by-the-books English barleywine:

Yards Olde Bartholomew

Yards Olde Bartholomew - Pours a very striking, clear orange amber color with a finger of white head that leaves a bit of lacing as I drink (the clarity is surprising since the older blurbs about this beer indicate that it's unfiltered, but this is so clear that this fact must have changed when the switched their bottling line to 750s). The aroma feels very English, lots of Euro hops, earthy, herbal, very spicy hops, with some malt sweetness peeking out too. Taste is very sweet, with those earthy, herbal, spicy hops providing the bulk of flavor, and some malt character peeking through with a clear bit of booze lasting through the finish too. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, smooth, heavy, a bit boozy. Overall, this is a solid beer, but it's a bit simplistic for a a big, full 750. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10.3% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 11/15/13.

Yards continues to be one of the local breweries I take for granted, but they do put out a fair amount of interesting stuff, so stay tuned. Maybe I'll luck into a Barrel Aged version of this, which I feel could be a big improvement...

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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

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