One of the great things about a haul of beers as opposed to say, a bottle or two of wine, is the fact that with judicious selection you can give your palate a real working over. Wine lovers may disagree, but in the space of two drinks I’ve gone from something the colour of the setting sun to a drop the ominous black of deepest night. And guess what? It’s actually called wine!
Barley wine is of course not wine, but most definitely beer. In this case a collaborative effort between my local favourites Arbor, Sheffield’s Steel City Brewing and Hopcraft from Pontyclun over the bridge in Wales. This would prove to be my first try of barley wine and the first time I’d sampled the wares of two of those breweries.
When a beer pours with virtually no head and almost impenetrable darkness you know this is serious stuff. The nose reveals the expected hint of coffee but the warning of a fair hit of hops is there too. Indeed the hops prove to be the strongest component here, a good kick indeed. The black treacle maltiness follows closely behind but the hops linger in the mouth.
I wouldn’t say this revealed masses of flavours as it was consumed. There is a hint of almost charred bitterness left on the palate after a few sips, and the hefty ABV of 10.4% leaves that lovely warmth you get from the upper strength brews. Despite the claims on the label, I found the hops dominated the malt, whereas perhaps I was hoping for the opposite.
Being my first barley wine it’s hard for me to comment on how this compares to others of it’s ilk. I was reminded Ashley Down Brewery’s Extra Stout, albeit that was a little creamier and less hoppy. I guess there’s nothing for it, I’m going to have to research barley wines more closely…