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CBN Barley Wine-Style Ale Blind Tasting

CBN Blind Tasting Panel
• Jay R. Brooks, Tasting Panel Director, CBN
• Bob Coleman, reporter, CBN
• Tom Dalldorf, editor/publisher, CBN
• Vic Kralj, owner, The Bistro, Hayward, Calif.
• Paul Marshall, BJCP beer judge
• Pete Slosberg, author, founder of Pete’s Wicked Ales
• Special thanks to Mike Long, BTP Tasting coordinator/head steward

This is our third barley wine–style ale tasting in the last four years, and thanks to the style’s growing popularity, there are many reasons to make it an annual tasting. First, the number of brewers now making this style appears to have grown by leaps and bounds. Second, the range within the style has also grown as confident brewers make their own interpretation of the style. Third, a small but loyal niche of beer connoisseurs have embraced the style, along with many other big beers, as their favorite. Not only does this make it more fun for us, but also for the consumer, because there are so many different barley wines available today. Join us as we do the hard work to help you choose the best one for whatever reason you need a great beer. All samples were tasted blind and are listed in alphabetical order by score.

Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale 2005
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., California

Rich hop aromas, reddish-brown color and a thick, tan head. Creamy, with terrific hop flavors and a great mouthfeel. Defines the big hoppy style of American barley wine with citrus fruit, spiced nutmeg, big malt character and a huge, lingering finish. (Several panelists correctly identified this beer blind!)

Big Woody
Glacier BrewHouse, Alaska

Spicy malt aromas with a spirity bourbon-barrel nose. Dark amber color. Terrifically rich woody flavors with excellent balance and a long, rich finish.

Hog Heaven Barleywine-Style Ale
Avery Brewing Co., Colorado

Citrusy hop aromas with herbal notes. Dark amber color. Creamy, with huge hop flavor and great balance. Intense and wonderful!

Olde GnarlyWine Style Ale
Lagunitas Brewing Co., California

Sweet malt aromas with herbal hop character. Deep brown color. Very rich, with an almost herbal mouthfeel and sweet, flavorful character. Extremely well-balanced, with a rich, long finish. A heavyweight of a beer.

Old Numbskull Barley Wine Ale
AleSmith Brewing Co., California

Complex nose of caramel, butter toffee, spices and sweet malt. Deep amber color and a thick, rich head. Creamy, characterful beer with rich, roasty malt and hints of raisins. Nicely balanced, with a big hop presence.

Old Ruffian
Great Divide Brewing Co., Colorado

Sweet, malty nose with citrusy hop character. Copper color with a thick, rich, tan head. Creamy, rich, well-balanced flavors with triumphant warming qualities mid-taste and a clean finish.

Schooner’s Barley Wine 2002
Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, California

Sweet caramel and nutty malt nose with citrus notes. Bright golden-orange color. Full, rich flavors with sweet toffee notes and great citrusy hop balance. A wow!

Smuttynose Barleywine Style Ale
Smuttynose Brewing Co., New Hampshire

Light, bready and herbal nose. Dark amber color. Creamy and tasty, with good balance. Tart, herbal flavors and a long, lingering finish.

Alaskan Barleywine
Alaskan Brewing Co., Alaska

Sweet, rich, malty nose with herbal aromas. Reddish-brown color. A rich, malty mouthfeel and great hop/malt balance, with big flavors all around. An archetypal barley wine.

Babylon Barley Wine
Sacramento Brewing Co., California

Herbal, sweet nose and dark amber color. Creamy, rich mouthfeel with candy-sweet malt flavors and good balance.

Bourbon Barrel Barley-Wine Ale
Beermann’s Beerwerks, California

Sweet vanilla nose with herbal and hop aromas. Deep brown color. Creamy and peppery, with vanilla flavor and a nice mixture of bitter hop character and sweet rich malt.

Cyclops Barley Wine Style Ale
Elysian Brewing Co., Washington

Big, malty maple and oatmeal nose. Copper color and great conditioning. Chewy, rich malt flavors with clean hop balance and an undercurrent of maple syrup and peppers. A unique, original barley wine with a huge lingering hop finish.

Doggie Claws
Hair of the Dog Brewing Co., Oregon

Spicy, yeasty nose with hot peppery aromas. Orange-amber color and a fluffy tan head. Spicy, hot flavors with tart, raisiny notes and a full, rich palate with a long finish.

Double Bastard Ale
Stone Brewing Co., California

Light malt nose and deep brown color. Big over-the-top hop flavors and a tart finish.

John Barleycorn Barleywine Style Ale 2004
Mad River Brewing Co., California

Light herbal hop nose, deep brown color and a tan head. Very clean, rich malt character with good hop bittering and beautiful balance.

John Barleycorn Barleywine Style Ale 2002
Mad River Brewing Co., California

Sweet malt nose with herbal aromas. Copper color. Decent balance, with big hop flavors and a clean finish.

Old Blarney Barleywine Style Ale
Moylan’s Brewing Co., California

Sweet, herbal, flowery nose and dark brown color. Big, creamy, rich malt and excellent hop balance with pleasant warming qualities and a long, rich and seductive, but very bitter, finish.

Old Boardhead Barleywine Ale
Full Sail Brewing Co., Oregon

Citrusy and herbal aromas, copper color and a very thick, rich head. Creamy, chewy malt base with nicely balancing biscuity citrus hop character.

Olde School Barleywine 2003
Dogfish Head Brewing Co., Delaware

Bready aromas with light hop aroma and bright golden color. Rich, spicy hop flavors and complex minty herb character. Great warming qualities with a long, tart finish. A new 2004 version was released last November.

Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale
Anchor Brewery, California

Sweet, floral, fruity nose with hints of apples and pears. Copper color. Good balance, with caramel toffee notes and light, mild flavors. This was the first barley wine to be produced in the United States, paving the way for the style’s niche popularity.

Old Godfather Barleywine Style Ale
Speakeasy Brewing Co., California

Big, hoppy, herbal nose and deep brown color. Spicy hop flavors, with big tart bittering and a long, lingering finish. This beer should develop nicely with time.

Old Guardian Barley Wine 2004 & 2005
Stone Brewing Co., California

Last year’s has clean herbal, citrus aromas and copper color. Excellent malt/hop balance, with pleasant warming qualities and a clean finish. This year’s Old Guardian has a lightly sweeter nose. Still a little green, it has big herbal hop character and a rich, roasty malt finish. Although it’s tasty and drinkable right now, lay it down for a year and it should be near perfect.

Old Inventory Barley Wine
Valley Brewing Co., California

Rich, malty nose with caramel notes and hop aroma. Dark brown color. Good mouthfeel, with hints of figs and dates and assertive hop flavors. A very exotic and complex beer.

Old Nick Barley Wine Style Ale
Young’s Brewery, England

Light, hoppy nose, deep brown color and a tan head. Big malt flavors with good hop notes and a spicy finish.

Old Stock 2004
North Coast Brewing Co., California

Lightly sweet nose with hints of nuts and sherry. Dark amber color. Soft, rich flavors and candy sweetness but with decent hop balance and a long, tart finish.

Old Thunderpussy 2002
Magnolia Brewing Co., California

Big herbal hop nose with smoky and bready aromas. Medium brown color with a thick, tan head. Big hop bite. Well-balanced, with smooth, sweet malt and a rich, long finish. (Magnolia Thunderpussy would have been proud to have her name on this.)

Brasserie Dubuisson, Belgium

A lagerlike nose with rich malt aromas. Light brown color. Warming qualities and soft, rich, creamy flavors. Nice fruity hop character with unusual tastes. Not a true barley wine, but delicious.

Schooner’s Barley Wine 2002 Cask-Conditioned
Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, California

Sweet candied nose and copper color with a thick, tan head. Big malt flavors with nutty sherrylike character and great bittering with a long, lingering finish.

Traquair House Ale
Traquair House Brewery, Scotland

Light, malty nose with hints of nuttiness. Dark amber color and a thick, tan head. Tart, malty flavors with hints of hazelnut and a quick, hoppy finish. Not truly a barley wine, but at 7.2% abv, an excellent strong ale and a very enjoyable beer.

Uinta Brewing Co., Utah

Sweet, hoppy aromas and a hint of figs. Dark brown color and a thick, tan head. Creamy and rich malt flavors with big, tart hop character and good warming qualities.

Drake’s Bourbon Barrel Barleywine Style Ale
Drake’s Brewing Co., California

Caramel malt nose with slight fruit and smoky aromas. Deep brown color. Big vanilla and bourbon character, with sweet malt flavor and rich, woody notes.

102 Fish Tale Anniversary Ale
Fish Brewing Co., Washington

Sweet, malty, herbal nose. Dark amber color and a thick, white head. Creamy, with big hop character bordering on astringency. A long, bitter finish.

John Barleycorn Barleywine Style Ale 2001
Mad River Brewing Co., California

Great nose of sweet herbs and fruity hop aromas. Golden-amber color. Big, full fresh-hop character with intense malts and a clean finish.

John Barleycorn Barleywine Style Ale 1998
Mad River Brewing Co., California

Light, spicy herbal nose with a hint of pine. Golden-amber color. Big, rich malt flavor and a tart, bitter finish. Excellent balance.

Millennium Barley-Wine Style Ale
Old Dominion Brewing Co., Virginia

Light, bready nose with hoppy aromas. Deep amber color. Roasty malt character and rich herbal hop balance with an undertone reminiscent of whisky.

Old Bounder Barley Wine Ale
Boundary Bay Brewing Co., Washington

Hot, peppery nose with hints of fruit, nuts and light malt aromas. Brown-amber color. Tart, astringent hop notes with chewy hot, spicy flavors and a long, lingering finish.

Old Horizontal Barleywine Style Ale
Victory Brewing Co., Pennsylvania

Herbal citrus aromas and copper color. Tart, lemony citrus flavors and a long, bitter finish.

Old Incinerator Barley Wine
Fire House Brewpub & Restaurant, California

Sweet malt aromas with a hint of chocolate. Thick, black color. Creamy, rich flavors. Smoked coffee and chocolate character, but with very tart bittering.

Rogue Old Crustacean
Oregon Ales, Oregon

Richly sweet, malty nose and amber-brown color. Full, big, malty mouthfeel with huge bittering and a sharp, biting finish.

Rubicon Blonde Bombshell Barleywine
Rubicon Brewing Co., California

Nice combination of sweet malt and floral hop aromas. Golden-amber color. Big hop flavor with hints of toffee and caramel, with a slightly lactic taste underneath.

Rudyard’s Rare Barleywine Style Ale
Hale’s Ales, Washington

Rich, malty nose and black color. Roasted malt flavors, similar to an imperial stout, with big hop character and alcohol evident in the taste profile.

Thomas Hardy’s Ale 2004
O’Hanlon’s Brewing Co., England

Light, malty nose with vinous aromas. Deep brown color. Creamy sweetness with mild hop character, a hint of raisins and a lingering finish. When Eldridge Pope was brewing Thomas Hardy, it was usually a good five years before it came into its own, so it’s not unreasonable to assume the new version of this beer will likewise need more time for the flavors to fully mature.

Valley Rye Barley Wine
Valley Brewing Co., California

Light nose of malt and herb aromas. Almost black color and a thick, tan head. Creamy, hot flavors with a slight smokiness and good balance.

Sky Diver Barleywine Style Ale
Brew-It-Up, California

Good fresh-hop aromas and bright amber color. Huge hop flavors and light malt, with a long, zippy finish.


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