As you may have noticed on my Instagram I have been part of a happening using the hashtag #BarleyWember – in essence drinking barley wine in November.
What is it about those sweet, malted and often barrel aged beers with an ABV through the roof. Some people (craft beer people mostly) say “Barley wine is life!” If you haven’t truely explored these mastodonts you may not have found the pleasure of drinking a beer that can last a full evening.
Where should I begin? When it comes to barley wine there is no easy way in. Personally I find that bourbon barrel aged versions often are easier to drink. This might be because the alcohol from the time in the barrel helps lighten the heavy malt sweetness in these beers. One thing you have to remember is that you have a fair excuse to buy and drink more than one of these beer-giants since you have to try new things at least seven times to be sure if you like it or not.
If you fall in the pot and love barley wine almost as much as life itself you have to explore the style and find out the difference between English and American versions. To help a little the English barley wines are often more malted and sometimes almost cloyingly sweet than the American ones. The American barley wines can sometimes be dry hopped and destined for consumption fresh. Most barley wines are well suited for ageing and when you buy one be sure to buy an extra to store for a year or three to experience they full potential of this nectar of gods. In time you’ll come to understanding of the wise words: Barley wine is life!