Happy Wine Wednesday!
Barleywine, however, is not a wine at all!
So should I say…
“Happy Barleywine Wednesday?”
So what is it then?
Because barleywine isn’t made from grapes, but grain, it is actually a beer. It’s a type of ale that was supposedly developed in England a couple of hundred years ago to replace the beloved claret wine that the English could not import from the French during war. This style of beer amped up the alcohol percentage closer to that of wine, giving it its name.
I love the description of the Southern Tier Barleywine on this menu at the Happy Gnome:
Ha ha. Yeah, you probably wouldn’t want to drink more than one. Maybe, two? This beer is all about quality over quantity, people.
Like most ales, English and American versions of barleywine are usually pretty distinct. Rob and I enjoyed the two styles side-by-side at The Gnome recently:
There is an unmistakeable difference in flavor! Because I’m not great with descriptors when it comes to beer, I thought the English Meantime Barleywine tasted more, well… English. But that’s probably because I’ve been drinking more American craft brews for some time now. It’s been a while since I’ve had any English ales. It brought me “back” to those times when I had.
But I’ll have to disagree with The Gnome’s description of the English barleywine. Yes, English barleywines are the more classic, balanced style. However, I don’t think American craft breweries are trying to emulate them. Generally speaking, I find that American barleywines, like American ales, tend to be more hopped up. Maybe things are changing?
No matter what, the alcohol is there – usually 8% – 15%. You won’t miss that. Today, we find many more Imperial and Double style beers that are also high in alcohol. Does this make them barleywines? No, not necessarily. Barleywine is more a style of beer, from which other high-alcohol beers may have evolved.
Still, generally speaking, many barleywines can be cellared and aged like wine! You’ll find a lot more complexity in a barleywine than you will in your typical ale.
Speaking of cellaring and beer evolution, one of my favorite barleywines puts its vintage year on the bottle, just like you’d find on that of a wine bottle.
Okay, you have probably guessed by now that my favorite barleywine is aged in Bourbon barrels. But I’m kind of obsessed with the bourbon-barrel style right now. Who makes this beer, do you ask?
I don’t drink barleywine very often…
But when I do…
It’s the Central Waters Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Barleywine
Now, I’m just wondering if I can hold on to one to see if it really does get better with age:
Have you had a barleywine?
If so, what did you think?
Do you have a favorite?