By Andy Guy of BeerFM.com
It’s no secret that beer and wine have been competing for ages (a whole discussion for another day). The more approachable of the two has always been vying for a chance at the table as a compliment to culinary experiences, and about three hundred years ago, a move was made to more closely equate the two. Bass initiated the first commercial title “barley wine,” sometimes written barleywine, or more commonly seen labeled as barleywine-style nowadays.
This robust ale is a style originated in England, usually available during the mid-to-late winter months, as the style’s high alcohol content lends itself well to warming the soul during the bitter cold. This style is typically released as a vintage-dated beer that’s aged, sometimes significantly, by the brewery and, more often than not, can withstand many years of future aging!
Most commonly the strongest beer offered by a brewery, a barleywine can be either classified as an American or English barleywine based on its unique characteristics (check out the Tasting Notes for further detail). The American version basically originated by Sierra Nevada with their Bigfoot Barleywine. It was their label request that prompted the government’s Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to declare all beers bearing the name barleywine to read "Barleywine-style" so as not to confuse people, since it contains the term "wine."
American Barleywines can vary greatly. Although typically heavily hopped with citrusy American hops, plenty of other varieties can be used, blurring the line between their own style and a Double IPA. Balanced by a strong, generally sweet pale and caramel malt (or variation), these beers usually range from 8-12% ABV and are a little less refined than their English counterparts.
The smoother, subtler English versions focus more heavily on malt complexity (and sometimes, cask-aging) than their hoppy brethren, but both exude plenty of malt variety from bready, toasted notes to toffee and melted caramel. These versions remain in the same alcohol range but are much, much lower in bitterness, causing their balance to lean toward sticky malt sweetness.
Serve these barleywine-style beers around 50-55°F and savor them from a snifter or tulip glass to enjoy their complexity to the fullest!
Noir Black Belgian Barleywine Style Ale
Thumbprint Series: 2012 Barley Wine
# 100 Barley Wine-Style Ale
Samuel Adams® Griffin’s Bow