Barley Wine Tastings

Posted on 02.02.08 8:55PM under Barley Wine, Tasting, The Session

The Session this month was about Barley Wine. Rather than share one of my many tasting notes with the group, I chose a feel-good story about quality time with my toddler son over Barley Wine. Don’t worry, you neo-prohibitionists, I wasn’t giving the boy beer. He’d never drink it. It was the fancy cheese he likes.

Anyway, I promised that if some of the beers I’d had weren’t covered in the session proper, I’d kick in with a little booster. So, here it is. Dogfish Head Olde School, Avery Hog Heaven, Brooklyn Monster, and Hooker’s Old Marley. Reviewed from notes.

Dogfish Head Olde School Barley WineFirst, Dogfish Head Olde School Barley Wine. To me, this one had the aroma of the inside of a raisin, like I had pulled all the skin off by hand, and that’s the smell. The taste, I found to be overly sweet, which is my experience with just about all the big Dogfish Head brews. It reminded me of Mr. Boston Blackberry Brandy, but more like apple-cherry than blackberry. But at the same time, it had a watery and even refreshing feel to it. Best thing about this one is the absurd alcohol content.

Avery Hog HeavenNext, a beer I can’t believe nobody else wrote about: Avery Hog Heaven. This beer is awesome. As long as you like hops. But it’s Avery, what do you expect but an extremely extreme beer? The smell had steely chocolate black cherries with a hint of alcohol, as per the Barley Wine spec, but it also added in there plenty of American West Coast hops – spicy and piney and citrus. The taste was hops-forward, to say the least. It’s even hops-middle, and hops-finish, too. There’s all the classic Barley Wine malt, alcohol, and fruit in there, but it is all tempered with a massive American C-Hops presence. Really seems to seek to redefine the American Barley Wine, or perhaps to just ignore the definition in the first place. Maybe it’s just a step up from the Bigfoot – more citrus, less earthy. Just awesome.

Brooklyn MonsterThen there’s the Brooklyn Monster. My bottle was made in 2006, although I just got it this year. So there’s that to consider in this review. I think the warm aging shows in the overlt frutiness present in the beer. But here goes. The aroma had aluminum, black cherry, and prune with a touch of alcohol – overall very fragrant. The taste I found to be dominated by alcohol. Hops were present in flavor, but only mildly in bitterness. Overall the alcohol dimmed a bit as I made my way through the beer, though it came back by the end. Some green apple combined with maraschino cherry flavor, with that characteristic steely tangy malt flavor from Brooklyn. Is that hard city water? Final evaluation is that this is sort of not big tasting, and even subtle. I think that’s Garrett Oliver’s strength: crafting subtle, well-balanced brews. And I think that’s what you get with this. Very nice, great with sweet red meat sauce and also with wicked sharp cheddar cheese.

Thomas Hooker Old Marley Barley WineFinally, Hooker’s Old Marley Barley Wine. This one is made close to home, right here in Connecticut. Their Liberator Doppelbock was so great, I had high hopes for this one, too. I was at first intimidated by the blue bottle. Was this a skunk factory? I just didn’t know. Well that was no problem. The aroma was caramel, raisins, and other dark fruits with a bit of alcohol in there, as there should be. The taste was big and hoppy-alcohol. That kind of bitterness that you can’t tell if it’s hops or alcohol burn. But it’s good. Chocolatey raisins coat my mouth and alcohol warms my throat. Hops linger on my tongue. This one is big and smooth, living up to the hype from the Liberator. A little expensive, but really good stuff.

So there you have it, my extra four bonus tastings.

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