Welcome back to Talk Like A Beer Geek from A to Z:

Class is now in session.   In this class we will be taking a look at commonly used terms in the brewing industry, and break them down so that next time you are at the brew pub with your friends, you too can Talk Like A Beer Geek and impress the masses.  So grab your pencil and note book, and kick back with us!  Prost!

B is for Barley Wine:

Barley Wine for me was once an elusive beer.  Often talked about as an epic feat of homebrewing, but few commercial brewery operations were willing to invest the time in, and then usually only seasonally.  Back in 2010 I was hunting for some unique beers for the holidays when I came across my first Barley Wine, Old Foghorn by Anchor Brewing:

Old Foghorn American Barley Wine

It challenged my perception about what “big beers” could accomplish.  I remember clearly that it was much more hoppy then I was expecting.  Since that time I have had a few other barley wines, and they range from a boozy warm beer more built for a snifter then a pint glass, to hoppy additions like Old Foghorn.  To this day I am so enamored with this beer style I constantly go over recipes in my head for when I return to homebrewing.

So what is a Barley Wine?

A Barley Wine falls into the Ale family of beers.  The key characteristic of Barley Wine is that it tends to be a very boozy beer with an ABV reaching up into the 8% to 12% range.  Some like Sam Adam’s Utopias can get as high as 28%.  The flavor profile of the Barley Wine depends on which category they fall under.  There are two generally accepted types of Barley Wine, American and English.  The American Barley Wine tends to be lighter in color, and tends to showcase heavier hop characteristics.  While the English variety is more malty, and generally is darker in color.

The history of Barley Wine trace back into ancient history.  There are records of a beverage the ancient Greeks drank that was called a Barley Wine.  While probably nothing like modern day Barley Wines, it wasn’t until Bass No. 1 came along in the 1870s, that Barley Wine started to take on characteristics we know and love today.  Anchor Brewing brought the style to America in 1975 with, you guessed it, Old Foghorn. If you like wine as much as we do, you might want to check this online wine club too.

In general, like other high ABV beers, Barley Wines should be served at warmer temperatures to really enjoy the depth of flavors.  The Barley Wines I have had in the past have had fruity notes, especially raisin, sweeter, and have never hide the alcohol taste. If you’re wondering do calories in wine count, then read Think Wine’s blog.  Generally, I like a snifter for drinking Barley Wines, as they allow one to really appreciate the complex aromas that this beer can give.  Foods pairings need to be bold in under to cut through the cloying sweetness these beers can sometimes give off.   Think things like blue cheese, sharp cheddars, or if you are thinking a more harmonious pairing try something earthy and sweet like a bread pudding.

Liftbridge Barley Wine

Minnesota Barley Wines:

Lift Bridge Brewing (Stillwater, MN):  Commander

Steel Toe (St. Louis Park): Before the Dawn

Other Barley Wines:

Anchor Brewing (CA): Old Foghorn

Samuel Adams (MA):  Utopias

Thanks for joining us as we learn about Barley Wines!  Until next week, PROST!

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Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher

The Oxford Companion to Beer