DRAFT PICKS: Barleywine is a kick!

One of the beers discussed in this week’s review is a wonderful barleywine ale.

Many beer lovers don’t realize what they are getting into when they grab — either by design or by mistake — a barleywine ale. 

Not that there is anything wrong with it. Quite the contrary, barleywine ales are wonderful sipping drinks and generally very, Very, VERY full bodied and full flavored.

It’s just that they are more often than not have considerably more “muscle” than even other strong ales.

Barleywine ales are intense and complex.

There are two types of barleywine ales - English and American. In very general terms, the American version will probably be more hoppy than the English style.

It may sound like I’m overly repeating myself, but barleywines are pretty hefty brews.

Even with the American hoppiness, they still have a largely malt character and are very rich. 

There are a few versions on the market that are subtle in taste and body, but most are very caramely with a strong malty, almost bready base.

If well chilled, barleywines tend to be a bit cloudy when poured. 

If served at cellar temperature, (and many barleywines can be cellared and aged for years), they will be surprisingly clear.

There is a strong malt aroma to most barleywines, and the flavor tends to ‘level out’ through the session. 

As noted, there is often a sense of booziness, but too much of a alcohol presence would indicate, in my opinion, a poorly considered brewing plan.

Barleywines are more often than not beefy.

There will be a touch of ‘heat’ but barleywines are going to be smooth - or they should be.

Creamy ...almost velvety.

Barleywine ales ARE NOT the brews you want to be tipping after mowing the lawn, or even out on the pontoon boat.

They are absolutely wonderful drinks for sitting around a good fire and discussing love and life.

The offering below, Bourbon County Barleywine Ale, by Goose Island Beer Co. is a fine example of the genre.

Some others you might try, (that are available in this area), include Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale, and Smuttynose Barleywine.

Barleywine ales are an experience. A very enjoyable experience ...if you do them right.



Prepare yourselves. This is a brew not necessarily for the faint of heart.

Not that it is too ...complicated. This Goose Island offering is a barleywine ale and has a bit of a punch at 12.10 percent ABV.

Having said that ...WOW! Bourbon County Barleywine (BCB) is jam packed full of flavor and just a joy to sip.

BCB pours an absolutely luxurious deep ruby red but then translates in the glass to one of the darkest ales tasted of recent. There is just a touch of light coffee-esque head.

This is a fine looking brew. Artistic.

At first whiff, you know there is going to be no little degree of booziness following. But after the initial ‘singe’ this becomes a rich ale filled with dark fruit aroma, tons of coffee and caramel scents (to be expected!), but all seriously overlaid with a sweet bourbon quality inherited from the barrel aging.

The first wash brings with it a rush of bourbon supported by a HUGE dose of chocolate and expressive tones of the dark fruits with a hint of vanilla kicking around in the background.

This brew is ...stunning. Still, as a sipping ale it should not be taken lightly.

It’s a bit sweet and syrupy and will definitely sucker punch the uneducated.

Gosh! This was simply wonderful.


Sunspot is a lazy-day Hefeweizen simply tailored for the last days of summer.

It pours a somewhat cloudy lightish brown with definite tones of gold sparkling through the mists. There is a decent head of foam with just a touch of lingering lacing.

At first nose, a delicious fruitiness develops with well-defined hints of banana as well as a citrusy background. The wheat heritage is right out front. At the back of the mouth there is a little kick of spiciness - maybe a hint of cloves.

Taste follows the nose with a very comfortable fruity feel throughout. Luckily, the clove scent is not overly evident in the tasting, and the subtle fruit tones are allowed to develop in the mouth very well.

There is a real refreshing mouthfeel that melts into a certain creaminess that is always welcome.

This is a very, very good example of hefeweizen beer - much more subtle, calm and refreshing than some that can tend to get a little overly ...enthusiastic.

The good folks at Greenbush have created a wonderful brew that is highly recommended for just about any occasion - especially an occasion in the company of good friends.