I’ve been very happy to the response of Know Your Styles, I hope everyone is enjoying them. This week’s Know Your Style is being brought to you by Sam Huff. Sam is an engineer and loves 90 Minute IPA. I don’t know about you, but that’s a winning combo. This week’s style is the English Barleywine, a wonderfully malty, knock you on your ass beer. I appreciate Sam putting in the long hours of drinking to make this week possible. Now, on to English Barleywine:
What you should be smelling: Depending on the country of origin, you could be smelling a multitude of things. Take for example the English style, typically balanced, hints of biscuits and honey come through along with the faint aroma of hops. The second beer shown in this review was Swedish in origin and smelled more of hops than the malt, but the malt still had a faint presence and was sweet with again the honey notes. Lastly an American style was sampled and this beer had more detectable hops and malts, but also had the alcohol aroma that was more pungent than its brethren from across the pond.
What you should be seeing: Though I had three beers from three different countries, they all had one thing in common, they were all amber-red to amber-brown in color. This beer is clear, crystal clear, typically and shouldn’t be overly carbonated. Aside from the American version, the beer had minimal head that went away nearly as fast as it formed. They did leave some nice lacing though. As you drain more beer from your glass, you will notice that the barleywine actually goes from being amber/dark to being yellowish in color.
What you should be tasting: The aroma of this style is deceiving. While other styles typically taste as they smell, the barleywine hides its true nature until it hits your tongue. The alcohol in this style (7-12% ABV) can hide quite well in the aroma and take you by surprise. The malt and the hops should be well balanced, but sometimes brewers (typically in America) like to overly hop these beers (for style) to give them more of punch. But more often than not you will be tasting biscuit malt, honey malt, pale malt, and maybe some coffee or black malt (coffee or burnt flavor). The hops should almost take a second seat and come in last with some bitters that prevent your tongue from sweetness overload.
How you should you be drinking this: Traditionally you should be drinking this from a brandy snifter. But any wide base/narrow mouth glass would suffice. A wine glass, typically a port glass, would work just as well. Barleywines can be served cold (45-55 deg F) or you could try them warmer around the 65 degree mark. The warmer temperature allows the malt and hops to better develop and help balance out the alcohol heat that this style sometimes has.
What you should be buying: In addition to the ones I sampled, others listed for the style available in the area include Schlafly Reserve Series Oak Aged Barleywine, Flying Dog Horn Dog, J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale, Arcadia Cereal Killer Barley Wine and many others. Be sure to ask your local beer store clerk for your options.
Related Styles: American Barleywine