119 Metker Trail, Stanford, KY 40484, United States
14th-20th September, 2016
Barleywine, despite all the beauty of its heady flavors, is a mysterious and somewhat controversial beer style that doesn’t yet have a strong standing or following among the beer-goers.
Its origins are somewhat nebulous too, with beer historian Martyn Cornell (who I defer to on history matters) essentially stating that there’s no reasonable difference between a barleywine and “old ale,” and questioning whether the former should be used as a more appropriate term.
Regardless, the well-established fact is that your regular barleywine (or a barleywine-styled ale, as some states demand it to labeled to avoid the “wine-beer” consumer confusion) is a naturally strong drink.
Usually, depending on whether it is of an American or a British origin, this style of beer has either a deep golden color or a fruit-esque, deep brown hue.
Anyways, for this Beer Tasting event, which our pub will be hosting for 7 days straight this September, we were able to assemble 35 barleywines for a blind tasting.
It is a fair bet to say, that all beers were so good, that we hardly imagined how to rank those.
#1: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale
City: Chico, CA
The verdict: It completely proved itself one of the best, upholding its status as one of the first barleywines brewed in America. The taste is somewhat bitter, similar to DIPA and with some grapefruit notes.
#2: Creek Brewery Fisticuffs
City: Kemp, TX
The verdict: This English-styled barleywine ale is definitely fruit-forward!
#3: Alesmith Old Numbskull
City: San Diego, CA
The verdict: Its ho-forward taste, the citrus and tropical fruits hints just make it right for us!
#5: Starr Hill Barrel-Aged Bandstand Barleywine
City: Crozet, VA
The verdict: This beer has been visiting a whiskey barrel for aging, which contributes to its taste being dry enough, with oak accents.
#6: Central Waters Barleywine
City: Amherst, WI
The verdict: Some nice dark maltiness,on par with incredible aromatics (due to barrel-aging), made this beer one of our favorites so far!
#7: Hopworks Urban Brewery Noggin Floggin
City: Portland, OR
The verdict: This barleywine beer is complex enough, hitting the twin notes of fruit and American hops equally forward, which makes for an effective combination. Initial flavors feature rich fruits—fresh cherry, licorice and dried raisin—and resinous hops, but this is one we found to open up over time.
#8: New Belgium Blackberry Barleywine
City: Fort Collins, CO
The verdict: If this was the wine tasting contest, we’d say this one is too jammy… Funny enough, when we’re talking a barleywine tasting and suddenly that’s a much more desirable quality! A flavor-rich shot of blackberry also announces its presence immediately, which swayed us towards liking this beer a lot!
#9: Firestone Walker Helldorado
City: Paso Robles, CA
The verdict: As far as we’re concerned, this is definitely a weird beer, a “blonde barleywine” (of which we had several) aged in whiskey barrels, which produces a beer that is even more different than one might expect. The sharp taste derived via barrel-aging seems even more aggressive, while the dark/dried fruit comb doesn’t help much…
#10: Lagunitas Olde GnarlyWine
City: Petaluma, CA
The verdict: This kind of a barleywine beer is essentially hop-forward, American barleywine—hoppier than most, with a nice citrus taste that balances toasty malt and caramelized sugar nicely. It’s a touch sweeter than some of the others that also feature notable hops, which gives the citrusy hops an enjoyable, juicy impression…
#11: 10. Clown Shoes Billionaire
City: Ipswich, MA
The verdict: This is a complex, subtle brandy barrel-aged English barleywine. In fact, this was one of the most subtle barrel-aged beers. It has a funny fruity note to it, with cocoa-like richness in the finish and flavors that continue to develop and unfold as it warms. As opposed to some other beers on the table, it’s a bit less flashy, but quite rewarding.
To summarize all the process, we’d like to invite you for a ride!
Come on in this September to enjoy a perfect barleywine tasting time at our pub!