Monday, December 20, 2010

Beer Me with Barley Wine!

This is as seasonal as it gets! Outside it's cold, raining, maybe even snowing! Even here in Southern California we are on our sixth day of rain and there seems to be no end in sight!
What better time to warm up with THE beer of winter: The Barley Wine.

Bass Brewing was first to label an ale as "Barley Wine" in 1900. So named simply because while it is a beer, it can be as strong as wine. Barley Wines are always big, and full-bodied, with complexly layered flavors of spice, malt, and hops. I always enjoy enjoying the deliciously spicy and malty-sweet aromas before taking each sip! Stonger than most beers in alcohol (generally 9% to 12%) Barley Wines should be enjoyed with caution... here's a quick story why.

A pub in my neighborhood used to have a "pint-night" every Tuesday. You would buy your first pint in a 16oz logo glass for $5 and then enjoy refills for just $2! What a deal and at the end of the night you take home the glass.

One night a friend was meeting me for the "Pint-Night" debut of Sierra Nevada's Barley Wine Style Bigfoot Ale. I was running a bit late, but my friend, a strong-beer novice, started with a pint without me. Well he must have loved them because by the time I got there he was finishing his fourth! He had no idea what hit him. He was fun to watch while Bigfoot and I began our own adventure that night. Note to this pub: Serve your extra strong ales in 8 or 11oz glasses, and while I appreciate the value, two buck refills are a bit reckless!

Bigfoot is a redish-brown ale full of big malt and bittersweet hoppiness with an earthy aroma and great depth. 9.6% alcohol by volume.

Many of you know I am a huge fan of Portland, Oregon! Years ago a previous employer asked me to relocate there for a few months (which became two years) while expanding into the Pacific Northwest. My first day in that city's Pearl District we went in search of some great local brews. Driving around we simply rolled down the window and followed our noses to BridgePort Brewing Company, and their Old Knucklehead Barley Wine. Aged in oak bourbon barrels and brewed with pale, chocolate, and caramel malts, this Barley Wine can also age quite gracefully. I brought some of this home from Portland one holiday season and we put it in the extra fridge at my sister's house. Three years later I noticed that no one had touched it and WOW that was a beer to remember! I have tried to age some since but it turns out that the beer doesn't last if I know where it is.


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