Sierra Nevada Jack & Ken’s Ale

September 7th, 2010 beckel

Then it was time for number three from Sierra Nevada. I just grabbed this bottle from Alvey at The Four Firkins yesterday and after hearing his praise on top of my overall excitement for the beer I can’t wait to get into it. This time around it is a Barleywine and a tribute to Jack McAuliffe who is credited for creating the first US microbrewery; New Albion in 1977 which operated until 1982. For which he more recently received a Recognition award from the Brewers Association (the trade organization that represents American craft brewers) in 2007. If this brew manages to be anywhere near as good as their well known Big Foot Barleywine I will be a happy man.

Pours a very dark, almost pitch black hue that is completely opaque. Over four fingers of tight creamy off white, almost tan head are produced and don’t dissipate for quite some time. As it slowly dissipates a good deal of lacing stays around the entire glass leaving a few millimeters of perpetual carbonation on the surface of this ale. Aroma is massive and fantastic. Notes of chocolate, molassas, toffee and modest bitterness contrast with solid malty sweetness and roasted grain esters. Flavor consists of deliciously rich coffee, butterscotch, caramel and a fantastic play of bitter roasted malt notes and bitter and citrus hop esters. As it warms plum and other dark pitted fruits become more prevalent and bring in some expected flavors of the style. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is smooth and slightly creamy. At 10.2% ABV this is certainly a slow drinker but it is in no way overwhelming or hot. For those accustomed to Sierra Nevada’s classic Big Foot, this beer is quite a bit richer with a great deal of sweet malt esters such as caramel & butterscotch, much stronger coffee notes and a distinctive plum character as it warms. The hops also play quite differently with the citrus notes being more notable and the bitterness still similarly intense though contrasting differently with the variety of sweet malt esters present. If you enjoy well crafted Barleywines done in an American style and aren’t afraid of some contrasting bitterness this might just be right up your alley. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Jack & Ken's Ale

Mikkeller Big Worst

April 12th, 2010 beckel

Here I have a beer that I am very excited about. Mikkeller’s newest, baddest and biggest Barleywine yet: Big Worst. After reading about its release I thought it sounded insane coming in at very serious 17.6% ABV. So when I saw it on the shelves of The Four Firkins I had to take a bottle home. Mikkeller’s beers tend to be expensive, like all small batch imported brews but I’m happy to say every one I have consumed has been more than worth it. I hope this one is no exception running just over $10 for a 12.7 oz bottle. Lets find out. Pours a deep red hue that is moderately translucent. Just over two fingers of tight off white head is formed and lasts for a few minutes leaving a small amount of lacing and about a millimeter of tight bubbles around the surface of the beer. Nose is rather hot with alcohol, but that is to be expected with such an ABV. Notes of a variety of fruits, cherry in particular come through but have a hard time competing with the alcohol. Flavor is very unique. Sweet molasses and cherry esters are contrasted by seriously strong alcohol. After a few sip the you start getting used to the intense alcohol making it a bit easier to detect the variety of sweet esters present. I particularly notice honey, pear, apricot and plum. Body is very light for a Barleywine and the mouthfeel is very smooth. Bitterness is almost nonexistent making this one sweet brew. Definitely tasty, but certainly not my favorite Mikkeller yet. One of the most unique Barleywines I have consumed, consisting of many flavors not typically found in the style. It is never easy to balance flavor with massive alcohol content but I would say Mikkeller has done something quite interesting. If you are a fan of sweet ales, fruit esters and highly alcoholic brews this just might be the brew for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Mikkeller Big Worst

Boulder Killer Penguin

January 25th, 2010 beckel

Today I have a rather limited ale from the brewers of Boulder Beer Company out of, you guessed it…never mind. First brewed in 2002 this ale has been available for quite some time but has only been released as part of their Looking Glass Series of bottled ales since 2008. According to the bottle only one 50 barrel batch is brewed each year making this their rarest beer. Brewed in the colder months of the year and obviously intended to be consumed at the same time clocking in at a solid 10% ABV. Bottled in a fancy 22oz wax dipped bottle with a wooden seal proclaiming its year of 2009 I can’t wait to dive in (though it still needs to warm up a bit so I’ll be patient). I believe I sampled this ale once before at a tasting and found it not to be overly complex for a Barleywine, regardless the purpose of sampling a variety of beers is the experience and I am content with being an optimist. Pours a rather dark amber hue that becomes a very translucent bright red hue when brought to light. Head is a massive four fingers and consists of tight cream colored bubbles that settle after a few minutes leaving a solid millimeter and change of carbonation on the surface of the beer as well as a small amount of lacing around the glass. Aroma is quite nice, dark pitted fruit esters, Candi sugar, a nice dose of bitterness and a surprisingly limited amount of alcohol due to the contrasting malty sweetness. Tastes largely of dark pitted fruits, raisins, dates and plums in particular, a lot of Candi Sugar and a notable does of alcohol. Gentle esters of caramel and light bitterness are present, but not dominate at all. Body is light for the style and the mouthfeel is rather thin, but it sure is easy to drink for such a big beer. The 10% ABV of this beer will certainly be noticed by those not accustomed to such strong ales but the serious sweetness of this ale does a good job hiding it, particularly the more you drink. Not a very complex Barleywine but certainly not bad. If you enjoy easy drinking strong ales this might just be the beer for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Boulder Killer Penguin Barleywine

Nogne O Batch #100 Barleywine

June 19th, 2009 beckel

Today before me I have what is sure to be a tasty brew from the folks of Nogne O from Norway. Two avid home brewers . For their 100th batch they decided to brew a Barleywine style ale and due to popular demand decided to make it commercially available. Pours a dark hue that appears black but turns into a reddish date hue when brought to light though it is incredibly opaque. This is one carbonated beer, upon opening it it was evident that this beer would need to be poured carefully. Even when poured at an angle this beer will easily create as much head as you allow it and some of the creamy light toffee colored head will last until you finish consuming the brew. Aroma is rather alcoholic though that is no surprise as it weighs in at 10% ABV. Further I notice dark pitted fruits but not much else due to the strong alcoholic presence. Flavor is very nice, full of dark fruits such as date and even something like grape and cherry as well as a nice creamy malty sweetness throughout and just a hint of bitterness in the finish. Alcohol is obvious but not overpowering like it is in the aroma. Mouthfeel is a quite creamy and enjoyable though the body is light for a Barleywine. The balance between dark pitted fruits and a distinct malty creaminess is very well done and provides for one delicious Barleywine. If you enjoy Barleywines at all I would highly recommend trying this brew if you can find it. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Nogne O Batch #100 Barleywine Style Ale

Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver

May 8th, 2009 beckel

Here I have what is sure to be an interesting Barleywine from the brewery Dieu Du Ciel from  St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada. I saw this beer on the shelves of The Four Firkins when I was there for the beers you can’t get here tasting and though it was rather pricey for a single 11.5 oz bottle the foreign Barleywine called to me, perhaps it had something to do with the barren tree on the label or the person curdling inside the tree like a womb (and being pleased our surroundings finally don’t look like that). From the description it appears that this beer is only brewed once a year and then aged for 4 to 5 months before distribution. This beer pours a very dark reddish brown that looks almost black until you bring it to light and is incredibly opaque. Head is creme in color but only a couple millimeters fading within a minute or less. Aroma contains quite a bit of alcohol as well as dark pitted fruits and a bit of malt sweetness, though it is less obvious because of the intense alcohol aroma present. Presently this beer is just a bit below room temperature as it has been sitting out for over an hour. Taste isn’t as alcoholic as the aroma though it is still a bit more apparent than I would prefer. Further you can detect dates, plums, cherry and a good deal of malty sweetness though still not nearly enough to hide the alcohol. After three or four sips my palate is starting to get used to the alcohol and the nice balance between gentle pitted fruits and sweet caramely malted barley is becoming more and more apparent.  This really is one tasty brew I just wish the alcohol wasn’t so intense initially even at 9.8% ABV. Some vanilla and sweet cream flavors are present in this beer as well but are much more subtle. Mouthfeel is very smooth and the body is medium for the style. Over all this really is a very tasty brew I just wish the alcohol was a little less apparent, additionally I wonder how it would present itself when poured colder though I’m not sure it would necessarily be “better”. If you are into Barleywines that are obviously brewed with quality ingredients and a good intention you will likely appreciate trying this beer though don’t bother if you can’t get beyond some serious alcohol initially. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D'hiver Barleywine

Southern Tier Back Burner

April 26th, 2009 beckel

I will start by stating this is the 3rd bottle of this beer I have purchased and consumed since I first saw it on the shelves a few months ago so you can be safely assured it is quite tasty, as Southern Tier’s brews tend to be. This brew speaks to the tradition of big English ales and the hearty labor required as well as indirectly referring to Small Beers made from further runnings of the mash. I wonder if they’ve ever considered crafting one with this brew’s leftovers or perhaps more so, sharing it. This beer pours a very dark mahogany color that is very translucent though it is a bit hard to tell because of its dark shade. Creme head was over two fingers and lasted for many minutes leaving a modest amount of lacing around the glass. Aroma is quite delicious. Sweet dark malts are complimented by subtle plum and other dark pitted fruit aromas and a refreshing hint of alcohol and carbonation. Flavor is a lovely balance of sweet and bitter. Smooth caramely sweetness from the light and dark caramel malts is contrasted with some bitter flavors of the dark caramel malt while at the same time citrus is contrasted with bitterness from the variety of hops used in this brew. Though sweeter malt flavors are at the center of this beer the brewers were not afraid to add plenty of hops and it is very apparent in the many wonderful citrus and bitter flavors throughout. The body of this beer is medium and the mouthfeel is a bit creamy but not too thick. With a 10% ABV there is no question you will notice some alcohol in this beer. Perhaps it could turn some off initially but this beer does not try to hide the fact it is quite alcoholic and instead compliments it wonderfully with its solid malt and hop profiles. Not the beer for those afraid of bitterness, but if you generally like Barleywines you will probably be glad to have tried this beer as it is an interesting American tribute to English Barleywines that are traditionally more malty yet is still sure to show you in their own American way that hops have their place as well. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Southern Tier Back Burner Barleywine

Town Hall Twisted Reality Barleywine & Moylan’s Double Kilt Lifter

March 9th, 2009 beckel

So I’ve been far too busy recently, but what are you going to do, tiz the way of life sometimes. Last Tuesday I had a very enjoyable ride over to our local Brewpub, Town Hall for their Lion Brewing & Moylan’s Brewing tapping. Though I am a fan of the flavorful simplicity offered by Lions Imperial Stout and curious what they have to offer in their Imperial Lager I didn’t end up consuming either as I was distracted with the Barleywine wisely named Twisted Reality from Town Hall that had just been tapped on Monday. The ale pours a nice date like color with some nice red hues and is incredibly opaque allowing almost no light through. Aroma had a decent amount of citrus initially but it was immediately nullified by the caramely sweet malt characteristics and a solid dose of bitterness. Flavor is of delicious pitted fruits that are complimented with rich smooth malts and a good dose of bittering hops to round it off. Enjoyable floral and citrus notes are present but very subtle due to the massive bittering, I detect mostly orange. Head is a creamy tan color but not much was present as it was a bar pour into a modest sized sniffer. Body is quite light for a Barleywine and the mouthfeel is smooth making this solid 9.9% ABV brew very drinkable. I was quite pleased with the brew and would encourage anyone else who likes big beers to try it. The balance of flavors was done very well and I am a big fan of the wonderful hoppy bitterness present. After my first Barleywine I couldn’t help but try some Moylan’s Double Kilt Lifter as I have never had the opportunity to try the double strength stuff and thought the original Kilt Lifter was decent. The aroma was quite sweet with some malt coming through but largely sugar and a cherry like scent as well as other pitted fruits and a hint of sherry. Color is very deep but bright red and slightly translucent. Flavor is sweet and relatively fruity, almost a bit tart. Body is amazingly light and this brew goes down pretty smoothly. Alcohol is a bit more noticeable than some ale’s because of the sweetness but not particularly intense considering its 11% ABV. I did not realize this until now but apparently it was a special for their 1000th batch brewed. Similar to what Town Hall just did with their Imperial IPA, though unfortunately I missed that. The Double Kilt Lifter was a bit too much on the sweet side for me, but you have to get those sugars to ferment from somewhere. Not a bad beer I could just do with a bit more bittering to balance. I ended up finishing the evening with a few more Barleywines and another, this time full pint size glass of Moylan’s Double Kilt lifter when the distributor arrived with a few of their brewery glasses for us to take home. I also ended up with a good amount of Lion Brewing schwag including a small or medium womens shirt….so if anyone has a gal that likes Lion Brewing let me know, though I’m tempted to wear it just for good measure. Hooray for good beer, good conversations, and a safe ride home. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Town Hall Twisted Reality Barleywine

Town Hall Twisted Reality Barleywine

Moylan's Double Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale

Moylan’s Double Kilt Lifter & Sweet Potato Fries

Big Sky Olde Bluehair

March 4th, 2009 beckel

Today I have a limited release brew #1147 of 1800 from the folk of Big Sky Brewing out of Missoula, Montana, Olde Bluehair a Barrel Aged and Bottle Conditioned Barleywine that is sure to be tasty but will doubtfully become a regularly consumed brew as The Four Firkins only received a single case and it has a solid price tag of $15 for the 750ml bottle. I know very little about Big Sky other than they are the makers of the wonderfully named Moose Drool and I’m pretty sure I’ve tried their IPA but I don’t remember much about the flavor of either. Depending on how this experience goes I may have to refresh my memory. When initially pouring this brew many large airy bubbles formed at the top of the glass but as the pour finished and the ale was allowed to cascade a nice two finger off white head was produced which lasted for a few minutes and produced a nice amount of lacing on the glass. Color is like that of a raisin but when brought to light it brightens very nicely and the red hues are more visible though it is still very hazy and opaque. The aroma nice, rich with pitted fruits such as  sweet dates, plums and raisins coming from the malt and just a hint of alcohol. Holy crap. This is a bloody sweet Barleywine. I initially get a lot of sugary flavors which makes me curious to see how much those extra sugars would further ferment over time. Tastes similar to the aroma but even more sweet and intense in the pitted fruit flavors particularly plum as well as a bit of an off creamy vanilla flavor that I have tasted before but can not quite place, I’m thinking creme brulee. The overwhelming sweet flavors in this brew don’t do a very good job of hiding its solid 8.75% ABV but it also isn’t too intense if your used to strong brews. Body is light for a Barleywine but the mouthfeel is strangely creamy. Though I continue to drink it, so far this beer isn’t particularly appealing to me and is in dire need of some hoppy bitterness for balance. I am quite curious how this ale would age and am optimistic that it would be better but probably will not have the opportunity to do such as I can’t justify buying myself another bottle and fear there would be no bitterness what so ever after a few years in the cellar. As I continue drinking I am starting to pick up the faint bitterness in this ale but it is not nearly enough to contrast the massively sweet malt profile. Not a bad beer but it tastes more like desert to me than a Barleywine. I allowed this brew a good 15+ minutes to warm up before consuming but after allowing to warm  close to room temperature this ale and its flavors are certainly a lot more smooth or perhaps I’m just getting more accustomed to its sweet creaminess. If you enjoy sweet malty beers that incorporate pitted fruit flavors this is probably the beer for you. If you are into hoppy flavors I am sad to say stay away. As I said, not a bad beer but really not the beer for me. My favorite thing about beer is that everyone has a different palate and will get different flavors from a beer and appreciate different aspects of a good craft brew so don’t listen to me and…Give it a shot and ride your bike!

Big Sky Olde Bluehair Barleywine

Tyranena Spank Me Baby!

December 30th, 2008 beckel

Today we have a Barleywine brewed by the lovely folk at Tyranena Brewing from the land of Lake Mills, WI. As part of their ever changing Brewers Gone Wild series I was quite excited to sample this brew, as most of their experimental beers I have had the opportunity to sample have been delightfully flavorful and strong. This beer pours bright red raspberry like color that is incredibly opaque letting no light through. Head is white and about two fingers. Aroma is very malty, sweet, slightly roasted with some fruit and a hint of alcohol.The flavor of this ale is very unique. Rich and malty with a gentle roasted flavor. Figs and raisins come through strong and cover the 9% ABV of this beer remarkably. The body is relatively light for a Barleywine though the mouthfeel is a tad sticky. Definitely a tasty ale to accompany an hearty meal. Not my favorite from the series so far but quite tasty and something I’m very glad I had the opportunity to sample and would gladly drink again, though I just poured my 2nd and last of the four pack. If you are a fan of ales like Dogfish Head’s Raison D’etre you will undoubtedly enjoy this brew. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Tyranena Spank Me Baby!

Full Sail Old Boardhead Barleywine

September 29th, 2008 beckel

Here we have another ale from Full Sail, one that I’m even more excited about. Today I will be enjoying a 07 reserve of their Old Boardhead Barleywine Ale another brew from their Brewmaster’s Reserve this one being released last October, so I suppose I’m jumping the gun a bit and could let it mature for a full year, but then I couldn’t tell you about it now, and who knows maybe I’ll just have to pick up some more if I can depending on how this session goes. Producing a solid couple inches of just off white head, most of which fades rapidly but a few millimeters persist for some time. Color is a wonderful somewhat dark raspberry like hue that brightens very nicely in light but is not transparent at all. The aroma of this beer is rather interesting, very nice sweet malt was the first thing I noticed but then strong alcohol took over my senses, many wine like scents some almost fruity are also present, this is turning out to be a nicely complex brew. Unfortunately the flavor isn’t nearly as complex as its aroma. Tastes of sweet smooth barley prevail which is very nice but bitter alcohol flavors aren’t far behind making you remember you are drinking a 9% ABV Barleywine. This is an interesting Barleywine and part of the reason I have a lot of respect for the style. Though this beer is less balanced than most Barleywines I tend to prefer it still has some lovely flavors and I am very curious to see if further aging may help soften its harsher flavors. If you like a strong Barleywine and don’t expect it to cover up what it is this is a good choice, particularly if you like wine or at least don’t mind bitter flavors. This beer would soften any spicy meal quite well. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Full Sail Boardhead Barleywine