Know Your Craft: Barleywine, another cold weather companion

My last column highlighted the “chicken-soup effect” a Russian Imperial Stout can have on a bleak winter day.

Another favorite — and potentially mood enhancing — cold weather go-to is the barleywine. Not actually a wine, it takes its name from being a strong beer with wine-like gravity (i.e. alcohol content).

This beer is another great sipper, and its big hop character combined with a deep, amber-red-brown maltiness can brighten up almost any dark day.

Generally between 8 to 12 percent ABV for a nice impression of warmth, it also has big malt sweetness balanced by moderate to heavy hoppiness.

Similar to, yet stronger than, an Old Ale, the barleywine is another English style represented by many great versions on each side of the Atlantic.

According to Dave Carpenter of Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine, an English barleywine “exhibits a chewy, complex malt body that evokes plums and toffee and leaves residual sweetness in the final product.”

The American version also presents a warming effect from the high alcohol as well as dark fruitiness, but tends to be hoppier (brewed with northwest U.S. hops, which give it distinctive citrus and pine traits), more bitter and stronger.

This style improves with time, so cellaring a good barleywine from six months to 10 years or more will allow it to evolve into a beer that is remarkably similar to a nice port.

For a classic English barleywine, seek out Fuller’s “Golden Pride” from London, or Anchor’s “Old Foghorn” from San Francisco (brewed in the British tradition).

One of the original American barleywines, Sierra Nevada’s “Bigfoot” is a bittersweet craft beer classic that should definitely be on your craft beer bucket list.

For something a little bit different in the category, check out a Spanish interpretation of the barleywine with La Sagra’s “Bohio,” a bottle-conditioned English-style barleywine at 10.4% ABV, with notes of chocolate, caramel and apple.

The British have influenced America so much so that our cultures still mirror each other’s in many ways.

But, while I enjoy an occasional cup of green tea, tea time never quite stuck here in the states.

Fortunately, the tradition of English barleywine did, making an indelible mark on American craft beer culture that is undoubtedly here to stay.

This week’s recommendation: La Sagra “Bohio,” a English-style barleywine with malt fruitiness, moderate hop bitterness, and big alcohol presence. 10.4% ABV. Numancia de la Sagra, Spain.

Colin Hubbell is co-owner of The Green Onion Pub and the Hop & Goblet in South Utica. His column appears weekly.


One thought on “Know Your Craft: Barleywine, another cold weather companion”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s