Monday, November 30, 2009

Barley Wine

As some of you may or may not know, I am a bit of a beer fiend/geek. I have a fairly extensive cellar of bottles aging, some of which are fairly rare.

This last Saturday 7 of us guys who are into beer in the same way got together, pooled together some of our collective beers and had a giant tasting within a particular style - barley wines. The average beer drinker won't know what a barley wine is so, since I am looking for ways to procrastinate on my final papers, and since I just feel like educating you all, here is a little bit on some of what we drank and a little about barley wines.

First, one of the bottles that I brought - just because it's just so darn cool looking and I was pretty proud of it.

The bottle on the right is Olde Bluehair from Big Sky Brewing in Montana. I picked it up on my trip through the States when I moved here to Toronto.

It is a barley wine which sits at 8.75% alcohol and is aged in oak bourbon barrels for at least 3 months. It is also bottle conditioned which means active yeast is added to the bottles which helps the beer evolve over time within the bottle. A quick summary of my review says, "Nice woodiness and vanilla from the barrels, very faint hints of bourbon, still a faint hop bite in the finish, raisins, plums, apricot, candied sugar, caramel, light alcohol burn in the finish as well."

It is special because it is only one of 1800 bottles ever made and each bottle is hand numbered by the brewery; this was bottle #1575.

This was one of the bottles we tried. We also had a couple verticals of particular beers there. A vertical is the same beer but each one is from a different year. Barley wines are typically higher in alcohol (8% - 14%), much like wine, and can be aged much like wine. So we had a 5yr vertical there of a British barley wine, from 1998-2002; the 1998 version was also the oldest beer I've had to date though many barley wines have been aged successfully for upwards of 20-40 years under the right conditions (cool and dark). As they age, many of the flavors (especially the hop bitterness) mellows, the flavors meld together to form a more cohesive unit, and the alcohol bite sometimes found in these high alcohol beers, subsides.

My cellar is still quite young and the oldest beer I have is a 2005 Belgian Dark Ale aged in Bordeaux wine barrels. So, while you now think I am an uber-dork, if you ever come to visit us here in Toronto (hint hint) I'll pull something out of the cellar to celebrate and you won't be worried about getting my leftover, too-old beer!


Jen said...

Jordan would love you. He's a beer lover as well ... just not with quite as a diverse selection as you.

Eric said...

Just send him this way for a "man-cation".