Recently in Barleywine Category

Athens to Athens, Grist to Grist

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So Jackie O's Pub & Brewery is located in Athens, Ohio, and for this beer, they collaborated with Creature Comforts Brewing in... Athens, Georgia. This is surely not a coincidence and in fact, evidence of a deeper conspiracy. There is an Athens in New York and we all know the OG Athens in Greece. It's spreading. Fortunately this conspiracy seems to be aimed at making beer, so we might as well take advantage.

This is a smoked barleywine style ale aged in bourbon barrels for about a year, which sounds all well and good... except for that "smoked" bit, which warrants suspicion. Sometimes this means you'll be wondering who put their cigar out in your beer, but fortunately in this case, our collaborators either went with a light touch on the smoke, or the bourbon barrel treatment mellowed things out enough that it's adding complexity without overwhelming the base. For grist thou art, and unto grist shalt thou return. Well that doesn't make sense, but the beer is pretty good:

Jackie Os Athens to Athens, Grist to Grist

Jackie O's Athens to Athens, Grist to Grist - Pours a murky cola color with finger of light tan head. Smell has a bit of caramel, bourbon, oak, and vanilla, and a background of residual fruity sweetness. Taste is sweet, lots of caramel, more bourbon, oak, and vanilla than the nose would imply. If I do the tasting equivalent of squinting I can detect a hint of that smoked malt coming through, but it's not one of those situations that will leave you wondering who put their cigar out in your beer, it's just a sorta background note of tobacco that adds complexity. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, and well carbonated. Overall, this is pretty damn good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 7/15/18.

Very nice, but situations like these always make me wonder: what would a more "normal" version of this be like. I tend to think the same beer without smoked malt would be better, but maybe I'm just yelling at clouds here.

Smog City Bourbon Barrel-Aged O.E.

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The O.E. in this beer's name actually does stand for Olde English, complete with the anachronistic pseudo-Early Modern English spelling... that we know from the classic 40 ounce malt liquor of choice that we may or may not have duct taped to both hands in college (an act of breathtaking stupidity we called "80 ounces to freedom" but which was later dubbed by our cultural superiors as "Edward Fortyhands", probably a more fitting name), Olde English 800. Alas (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), this is not barrel aged malt liquor, but rather an excellent english-style barleywine aged in bourbon barrels for over a year (some sources say 15 months, the label is more vague). Unfortunately (or fortunately), it doesn't come in 40 ounce bottles. Pour one out for #BiL:

Smog City Bourbon Barrel-Aged O.E.

Smog City Bourbon Barrel-Aged O.E. - Pours a deep, dark amber brown color with a half finger of off-white head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells amazing, rich caramel, toffee, brown sugar, hints of fruit, and that bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Taste hits the same notes as the nose, caramel and fruit, plenty of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, rich and full bodied, though maybe not quite as much as the nose would have you believe. Overall, this is pretty damn fantastic. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.1% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed). Drank out of a snifter on 7/13/18. Bottled 5/14/18 #BIL

It's not going to unseat ADWTD or Aaron as favorite barleywines, but few would, and this is much easier to get your hands on.

Good Measure Tawny

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A couple of years ago, Alex from dontdrinkbeer.com noticed that while there was a Facebook group for seemingly every style of beer, there wasn't one for Barleywine. So he created Barleywine is Life (#BiL) and the group quickly became a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Seriously, it's a crazy little group of people and there's a surprising amount of drama. I know, it's the internets, what do you expect, but this is still a step above the usual dank memes and inappropriate comments (in, like, a good way).

Anywho, the date 8/17 has become something of a holiday to the group (817, like BIL, get it?) so I figured I'd break out the one VT barleywine I procured during during the most recent Operation Cheddar... Tawny is an English Style Barleywine (that's good) aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels (very good) with vermont table grapes (Um... I don't know what to think about that). Let's dig in:

Good Measure Tawny

Good Measure Tawny - Pours a copper amber color (dare I say, tawny?) with a finger of off white head. Smells sweet with a distinct vinous character, those grapes coming through, and maybe some of that syrupy goodness too. Taste starts sweet, malt and fruit, that distinct vinous character again, some caramel, toffee, oak, and vanilla, finishing with some dry grape notes (a tannic sort of dryness, like a dry red wine). Mouthfeel is rich, well carbonated, and full bodied, a bit of boozy heat, drying tannins in the finish. Overall, it's good, but I'd rather the grapes were left out of it. B

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 8/17/18.

It was certainly nice to break up the giant wave of IPAs I've been drowning in of late (it's the struggle, you know?) with something like this, and while I wasn't a huge fan of the grape addition, it was at least an interesting experiment. I'd be curious to try more Good Measure stuff next time I'm in VT. I'm going to have to plan a trip for cooler months of the year so I don't overload on IPAs and Saisons the way I tend to do during the summer months.

Kane Object Permanence

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Object Permanence is the idea that objects continue to exist even when you are no longer observing them. Unfortunately, beer does cease to exists if you insist on drinking it. Doubly unfortunate when the beer is as good as this one.

Kane was one of the brewers that made this Pennsylvanian take notice of New Jersey, which sez a lot, and I've been particularly impressed with their barrel program. A Night to End All Dawns and its associated variants are spectacular, but alas, I keep losing the lottery and have to make due with the generosity of friends at shares to get a taste of the stuff. I've had a few tastes of other Barrel Aged goodies from them, which have been uniformly great. Fortunately, I did manage to procure this bit of life, an English Barleywine with a complicated malt bill aged in bourbon barrels for over a year. The beer is gone, but the idea continues to exist even though I can no longer drink it. Or something like that. What is this, a psychology blog? No, it's a beer blog, so read my dumb tasting notes:

Kane Object Permanence

Kane Object Permanence - Pours a murky brown color with a cap of off-white head. Smells fantastic, rich toffee, caramel, a hint of dark fruit, and a great bourbon, oak, and vanilla character. Taste follows the nose, rich toffee, caramel, dark fruit, and a boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla character. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, almost creamy, moderate carbonation provides just enough levity, some boozy heat but nothing unwieldy. Overall, this is fantastic, one of the better examples of life that I've had. A

Beer Nerd Details: 11.8% ABV bottled (750 ml waxed). Drank out of a snifter on 4/20/18. Vintage: 2016 (batch 1?)

I've recently come into a couple of more Kane bottles. One is last year's vintage of Object Permanence (huzzah), and the other is a BBA anniversary beer from them. Stay tuned. I may not wait two months to write that one up (assuming I drink it soon). Fingers crossed for this year's ANTEAD lottery too.

Hoppin Frog Barrel Aged InTENsity

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And now for something completely different. I know I'm supposed to be writing about this beer, but I've been doing this for almost 8 years at this point and thus getting a little repetitive. Please indulge me. Doubly so, because I'm going to talk about the (for some reason) much maligned Dean Koontz. For the uninitiated, he's a very prolific horror/suspense author that is usually dismissed as a second-rate Stephen King.

To me, though, he's an important author in that he's the one that got me to start reading books. I wasn't, like, illiterate or anything, but I mostly only read books when forced to for school, and Koontz got me reading for pleasure. No coercion necessary! Sure, his novels get repetitive, he has some specific bugaboos that he always focuses on (there's a Scooby-esque satanic bad guy that seems supernatural but often isn't and then a good guy with Police/SWAT/FBI/CIA/Army/Marine/etc... training takes him on and usually falls in love with a strong single mother with a precocious child and adorably intelligent dog along the way), and the stories can be repetitive, but they tend to be pretty interesting and a lot of fun. Movies based on his books have been almost uniformly bad, which might also be part of why his reputation suffers.

Unfortunately, his prolific output also means there's a lot of stuff out there that isn't quite as good as his best (to put it kindly), and from what I've read recently, he hasn't really come close to the success he had in the 80s and 90s. Even given his tendency to repeat himself, when you've got about 100 books in print, it's a little more difficult to find one that suits you, and people these days usually aren't willing to give an author a second chance (a fair strategy for dealing with media overload, to be sure). For the record, I'd recommend checking out Lightning, Phantoms, Midnight, Strangers, or maybe:

Intensity by Dean Koontz

Pretty much the last great book of his that I remember reading was called Intensity. Granted, he didn't use goofy capitalization to emphasize a brewery's tenth anniversary (see? This post is coming together. Kinda.), but I have to admit that when I saw this bottle of beer, I immediately thought of Koontz's novel. It was one of the flood of serial killer tales that besieged us in the mid 1990s, and to my mind, one of the better ones. A gruesome but well paced and compulsive read.

It's been a solid twenty years since I've read it, but I still remember a lot of details, which isn't something you expect from popular airport thrillers like this. Some of these details are trivial, like the killer's choice of music for his cross country murder spree: Angelo Badalamenti (most famous as a film and TV composer for David Lynch, amongst others - and an odd choice to be employed like this). There's this recurring bit with an albino deer that was mysterious but still evocative. There's one decision from our protagonist that might be difficult to swallow, but once you get past that the book doesn't really let up. It's genuinely tense, and if I remember correctly, Koontz even sometimes reverts to present tense at times to emphasize the tension (a move that could be jarring and cheap, but which I remember working well). For once, Koontz's obvious love of dogs is subverted by his use of them in a villainous fashion. The killer's refusal to conform to textbook serial killer tropes (which was becoming a trope of itself at the time, to be sure) was effective, and there were some neat twists in that arena.

At this point, you've probably seen a dozen similar tales, so this might be old hat, but it was pretty great for teenaged me. There was a TV mini-series that was pretty much par for the course (not particularly worth seeking out, but not an abomination either), and it's worth noting that the first half of High Tension is remarkably similar to the first half of Intensity, though the stories diverge considerably from there (even so, this might be the only real worthwhile Koontz adaptation, even though it's not really acknowledged as such).

That a beer would remind me of a serial killer story is probably something best left unexplored, but since this is, in fact, a beer blog, let's take a closer look at this beer brewed in honor of Hoppin' Frog's tenth anniversary. It's a hoppy, American-style barleywine that was aged in bourbon barrels for six months, then dry hopped for some extra kick. Of course, this was released in 2016, so that fresh hop character has probably dissipated... or maybe not. Let's drink it and find out:

Hoppin Frog Barrel Aged InTENsity

Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged InTENsity - Pours a clear, dark amber color with a half finger of off-white head. Smells of faded citrus hops, a little toffee, some boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla edging in too. Taste starts off which rich caramel, crystal malt, and boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla, the hops emerging more towards the finish, which also has a boozy little bite. Some mild oxidation here gives complexity without turning the whole thing into cardboard. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, moderate carbonation, some boozy heat too. Overall, it's bit on the hoppy side, as American Barleywines tend to be, but it's quite nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/1/17.

I'm not sure if Hoppin' Frog still makes Naked Evil, but I remember that as being better than this one. Of course, that was like 5 years ago, and my memory of that is somehow not as distinct as my memory of Koontz's book.

Siren Maiden 2015

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England's Siren brewing started luring unsuspecting and wary travelers to their doom a few years ago, and the first beer they brewed was a big American-style barleywine - their "maiden" voyage, if you will. They promptly stashed the result away in various wine and spirits barrels and got a crew together to come up with a harmonious blend at the end of the next year. They never fully empty the barrels, though, leaving at least 10% left and refilling the remainder with fresh Maiden for the following year's batch. A sorta hybrid solera type system going on here, and I find myself reminded of a few big American efforts along similar lines. The solera-esque nature recalls the Bruery's Anniversary beers, the same-beer-in-different-expressions approach is like FiftyFifty's Grand Cru, and the whole Anniversary blend thing reminds me of Firestone Walker's Anniversary beers... Pretty good company, if you ask me.

This particular edition is the third in the series. About 50% is fresh American-style barleywine, the rest was the previous year's batch aged in a variety of barrels: 33% Auchentoshan (non-peated Scotch that has a reputation as a lighter whisky that makes a good component in blends), 21% Red Wine, 15% Jack Daniels, 9% Pedro Ximenez, 9% Madeira, 4.33% Tequila, 4.33% Glentauchers and 4.33% Banyuls. I've been somewhat lax at covering the whole British beer scene on this blog (hey, I've got a crapton of American breweries to keep up with here, give me a break), but this is the sort of thing that makes me want to succumb to that Siren song:

Siren Maiden

Siren Maiden 2015 - Pours a dark amber-hued brown color with a finger of off-white head. Smells of dark fruit, toffee, oak, with a little whisky and wine character coming through. Taste starts off rich and sweet, with some oak, fruit, and toffee kicking in, but dries up a little towards the finish, which has the remnants of a bitter hop bite. As it warms, more of that dank, aged hop character emerges. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied up front, but thins out a little in the finish, a little booze heat, but nothing untoward, medium to high carbonation, but on point. Overall, a damn fine, complex barleywine. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 7/7/17. Vintage: 2015.

I may have to dig a little deeper into Siren's catalog, as this was quite pleasant. Would love to try other vintages to see how much the differing blends and barrels contribute.

Sapsquatch

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Southern Tier seems to have fallen from the vanguard of the beer nerd scene (you can only drink so much Pumking, you know), but offerings like this could certainly make some waves with jaded dorks on the prowl. It's an English style barleywine aged in a trio of barrels. A third of the blend was aged in bourbon barrels, another third in bourbon barrels that once held maple syrup, and the final third aged on charred oak staves used in Southern Tier's distilling program to create whiskey.

There's a large community dedicated to investigating the existence of the legendary sasquatch, but did you know that they refer to their investigations as "squatching". I'd call it kinda dumb, but then, I wait in lines for beer. Fortunately not this beer, though. Aged for 12 months and clocking in at a healthy 14.9% ABV, it's a beer worthy of Bigfoot. Or at least something to bring on your latest squatching excursion.

Southern Tier Sapsquatch

Southern Tier Barrel Works Series: Sapsquatch - Pours an almost clear, very dark amber brown color with a cap of short lived light tan head. Smells fantastic, booze soaked raisins, rich caramel, toffee, brown sugar, molasses, bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Taste hits similar notes, but is not quite as complex as the nose. Sweet, but not cloying at all. Mouthfeel is rich, medium-to-full bodied, perfect carbonation, some lingering but pleasant booze. Balance isn't a word you'd use for a beer like this, but maybe proportional works. Overall, this is really damn good. A high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 6/23/16. Bottled: April 2017.

I've never been particularly in love with Southern Tier, so this was a welcome treat. It seems pretty widely available too, which is nice (I would totally grab another of these for a rainy day). There's supposed to be another Barrel Works beer called Monstrous that looks like a straightforward bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, my kinda beer. It's nice to see these folks stepping up their game (and with a minimum of gimmicky adjuncts).

Our Finest Regards

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It's been a little over a year and a half since the famed gypsy brewers of Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project decided to close up shop. Despite speculation, there was no official reason given for the closure other than their note that it was never meant to be a long term thing. As gypsy brewers, their very nature meant that their enterprise was lightweight and not tied down by things like debt, equipment, or real estate. I suspect they had their fill and decided to walk the Earth (you know, like Caine from Kung Fu) basically just because they could. And why not?

They were great brewers though, so it was still a sad thing. I thought I'd long since drank my last Pretty Things beer when I spied this bottle of barleywine at a random liquor store in Maryland. A decidedly English take on the style, this is meant as a tribute to barley (their hot take on American Barleywine: "...normally a sad beer indeed, lots of hops and alcohol but the star of the show is left scratching his chin in the eaves of the theatre." Burn.) So I think its time to pay our finest regards to this sadly defunct brewery:

Pretty Things Our Finest Regards

Pretty Things Our Finest Regards - Pours a cloudy dark brown color with a half-finger of off white head. Smells of rich crystal malt, a little nuttiness adding complexity along with hints of hops playing in the background. Taste has a nice caramel and toffee character with a distinct malty nuttiness finishing with a bit of dry booze. Mouthfeel is rich and medium-to-full bodied, perfectly carbonated, some pleasant booze. Overall, this is a great non-BA barleywine, one of the better that I've had. A-

Beer Nerd Details: ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/26/17. Bottled: Nov 2015.

Despite their closure, Pretty Things did put out a pale ale in the UK last year, so it's possible we'll see their return at some point. The nimble business model that allowed them to close neatly should also allow them to start up again if they so desire, but I suspect the best we'll see are limited one-off type events like that pale ale... if that. Still, a beer dork can hope.

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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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