Monday, March 17, 2014
A confession to start this post: I'm not the world's biggest barleywine fan. The whole genre can tend toward the overboard, either with an insensitively overbearing prune taste or an overdose of hops that seems out of place.
So, walking into Breckenridge Brewery's release party Saturday for Barleywine Batch #1, there was trepidation that the old-school Denver brewery had, like many others, made an old-school, too-big-to-enjoy beer.
As it turns out, that trepidation was wildly misplaced.
Instead, what Breck has created is maybe the most drinkable barleywine served in Colorado - and one that is still bold enough to please both those looking for something to push their taste-bud envelopes and those wanting something more evenly enjoyable.
What appears on the palate with this beer is not a big raisin taste but something that tends more toward black cherry. A beer relying on malt characteristics is dark and thick, but it's also approachably sweet-tinged - offering lots of different levels of flavor, none of which is overpowering.
The secret to its easiness, said brewmaster Todd Usry, was the decision first to keep it in cold fermentation for an unusually long three months, smoothing out the rough alcoholic edges in the same way the brewery makes its similarly 10% ABV 471 Double IPA easy to enjoy. Then it spent another six to seven months in oak barrels, adding just a hint of woodiness to give the body enough gravitas to make an impact.
Said Katie Nierling, co-host of American Craft Beer Radio: "A lot of barleywines get too malty, too raisin-y. I can't finish them. I can finish this."
I couldn't have said it better. In fact, I had to pry myself away after two snifters of the barleywine, as its alcohol was hidden deceptively well.
If you're a barleywine fan, grab a 22-oz. bomber of this to appreciate its difference. And if you're not, grab one anyway; it might surprise you how tasty one of these monster styles of beer can be when it's brewed so well.