Showing posts with label barleywine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label barleywine. Show all posts

Friday, March 20, 2020

Raiding the Cellar: Grand Illumination

It has been 11 years now since Mrs V and I moved to the US, and in almost all that time I have had a bottle of Williamsburg Alewerks, as was, Grand Illumination American Style Barleywine in the cellar. Brewed in 2009, Geoff and the guys at Alewerks only made the same number of bottles, mine was number 1836.

This particular bottle has been almost a perennial amongst the bottles I would put in the fridge at the beginning of each Thanksgiving, and returned to the cellar each Epiphany. But today it is just another empty in the recycling bin, because a couple of nights ago it was my choice when raiding the cellar.

Not sure the picture really does it justice but the shade of ruby red in the glass was actually not quite what I was expecting, I thought it would be in the same dark vein as the Irish Walker. That little cap of off-white to ivory foam was pretty consistent as I drank the beer.

In terms of aroma, this was anything but one dimensional. There was plenty of unsweetened cocoa, as well as toffee, bread, and some dried fruit, more in the raisin realm than prune. Also floating around was a nice spicy thing that made me think of nutmeg, and it went nicely with the soft dulce de leche notes I was picking up.

Ok, enough of the smells, on to the tastes, and whoa booze is right there from the get go, like a rum soaked cake, full of rum soaked fruit. The alcohol really dominated the beer, though it wasn't harsh and didn't burn, it was just so noticeable. The body was thinner than the Irish Walker had been, more medium than full, and perhaps that contributed to the boozy character. In the finish there was a lingering citric hop bite that I imagine comes from the American hops that were used.

All in all a most acceptable 11 year old drop of barleywine, a style I don't actually have that many of, most of my cellar beers are old ales, imperial stouts, and the occasional Orval, no doubt there will be some of those in future posts.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Raiding the Cellar: Episode 1

Like most beer lovers I guess, I have somehow developed a collection of various special releases, strong beers, and other assorted bottles somewhat nebulously tagged as being for a 'special' occasion. Usually I pull out several with the vague intention of drinking them over the Christmas and Hogmanay period and then come January 1st put most of them right back in the cellar.

With life as it is currently is, I decided I really should actually make a dent in the cellar and given yesterday was St Patrick's Day what better than a good strong Irish beer?

Erm...I don't have any of those at the moment, so the closest thing was a barleywine called Irish Walker from Olde Hickory Brewery in North Carolina. Did I mention the vintage? It was a bottle of the 2012 that I bought way back in 2013, back when waxed bombers of heavy hitters were all the rage.

Other than when I bought it, I have no recollection of why, probably the aforementioned "special" occasion. As I was drinking it I looked up the brewery, happy to learn that they are still making their beers at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Any way, the beer, how was the beer?

In a word, dark. Seriously I was not expecting it to be as dark as it was, a deep, almost opaque, mahogany that glowed garnet red in the light. That thin schmeer of light tan you see in the picture lingered and lingered, leaving a delicate lace down the glass. The aroma was dominated by one of my favourite smells, black treacle, ok molasses if you insist, but it was front and centre. I also caught traces of plain chocolate, a savouriness that always makes me think of soy sauce, and the occasional wispy floralness.

Drink the damned stuff Al, sheesh. Ok, ok, ok, goodness me this is glorious unctuous goo. Straight off the bat this is a sweet, malt rich wonder, lots of molasses again, plenty of toffee, burnt sugar, raisins, and plums in there as well. There is a spicy hop bite in the finish for fun, but this a cacophonous love song to malt, just glorious. Clearly the 8 years this has been sitting around have been very kind to this 10% brut, but by god I want to buy more and let it sit around for another 8 years.

The only question in my mind right now is what to pull from the cellar for episode 2 of this new series, "Raiding the Cellar"?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Saintly Brews

When I was trying to decide which online beer shop to buy my Christmas selection from way back in the entirely too warm depths of November, I had 2 absolute must requirements. Firstly, said shop had to sell Timothy Taylor Landlord and secondly have a selection of beers from the Durham Brewery. Only Beer Ritz satisfied these needs and so they got my cash.

The first, and previously only, experience of  Durham Brewery was back in 2008 when I had a bottle of Benedictus, an 8.4% barley wine which I really enjoyed and wished I had bought more of. This time I bought a 2 bottles of three of their beers, more Benedictus, Temptation and Bombay 106.

I am not really much of one for the American versions of India Pale Ale, I find many of them to be like sucking lemons, but British style IPA is something I quite often enjoy, regardless of where they are made. Bombay 106, named for a British light infantry regiment, is a healthy 7% abv and hopped with masses of Goldings according to the advertising blurb. The Goldings are very much the star of the show here, big, hefty dollops of spice and a citrus note like Seville oranges. Backed with a firm malty body which means the hops don't run away with it all. The finish is long and dry with just a hint of sherbet in there for fun.

Benedictus was largely as I remembered it, and remember it is how it will have to remain as it has been discontinued by the brewery. A beautiful copper colour, with a thin white head, the nose is a full frontal attack of toffee, canned fruit and citrus peel, and a boozy note chucked in. The sweet caramel taste dominates the drinking, though there is enough of a hop bite to stop it from furring the arteries.

The highlight though on the drinking front was Temptation, their Imperial Stout which smashes through the doors with a big hitting 10% abv. This stuff looks like crude oil, black, inky, more than opaque it sits in the glass like a liquid black hole. The huge body it a riot of sweet malt flavours, caramel, toffee, chocolate all playing against a noticeable coffee note and the spiciness of the hops. Sitting watching the TV and sipping this was the perfect way to end the day, having had one of my mother's home cooked meals. Perfection.

I think it is fair to say that whenever I head to the UK, I will be on the look out for more of the Durham Brewery's range, in particular their new historic beer, White Stout.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Glass of the Peapod?

With less than 16 hours to go until the International Homebrew Project polls shut, it looks as though those of us who take part in the project will be brewing:
  • a milk stout
  • single hopped with Fuggles
  • based on a historical recreation
Of course, there is still time for a Liverpool in Istanbul style comeback (that still gives me goosebumps 6 years on - great night, and I turned up for a job interview the next morning reeking of booze and not caring whether or not I got the job - I didn't get the job) on the part of either of the porter contenders in the poll, and possibly the Challenger/Goldings option on the hop front. It would though take a serious turn of the tide for the historical recreation to be overturned, stranger things have happened mind.

One thing I would like to include in the project is an extra blog post. On the first Monday in February, the 7th to be precise, I would like to ask everyone who brewed for this project, to write about their brewday and put a link to their post in a comment to my post on that day. This is so I can get a firm idea of how many people have taken part. There have been about 25 votes for each of the polls, so I would like to see about that many brewing posts.

On a different homebrew note, I will be brewing again tomorrow morning in order to get all three of my carboys busy with beer. Having been slack about brewing my Thanksgiving barleywine, I will be rectifying that and have a preliminary recipe of:
  • 6lbs Light DME
  • however much Special Roast I have left
  • maybe some Caramel 40
  • a touch perhaps of Chocolate malt
  • definitely no peated malt for this one
  • Admiral and Northern Brewer hops for bittering
  • EKG for flavour and aroma
  • Whitbread or Nottingham ale yeast - both are dry yeasts.
Never let it be said that I am anything other than thoroughly scientific!

Have a good weekend people.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Year in the Making

This time last year I started what I hope to be an annual tradition, brewing a barleywine in late November or early December and letting it sit until the following Thanksgiving. In trying to think of a name for the beer in question, I batted about several ideas, including Vintage Velky Ale. In the end I settled on the name Samoset Vintage.

The name Samoset comes from the first Native American to make contact with the Plymouth Colony, who of course had made landfall because their supplies were running low, especially their beer (more's the pity their modern co-religionists don't share such a view of beer, and alcohol in general). According to , Samoset strolled into the Plymouth Colony, welcomed the colonists in his broken English and asked if they had any beer. When presented with a draft of finest English ale, he is reputed to have commented "this is not to style!".*

Anyway, so last November I brewed the first Samoset Vintage Ale, a barleywine which once fermentation was done, weighed in at 12% abv. In the boil I used Challenger and East Kent Goldings, I then dry hopped the beer with Cascade for a couple of months. The malt bill was simplicity itself, lots of pale dry malt extract and a pound of Caramel 40 for colour and flavour. The yeast was 1728 Scottish Ale from Wyeast. Given that last week was Thanksgiving, it was time to finally enjoy, I hoped, the beer. A quick disclaimer though, I had a bottle in June to make sure it was carbonated properly and then another when I tried not to get in the way of brewing the Pilsner with Devils Backbone.

So to the beer itself. As the pictures quite nicely show, it pours a rich dark copper, topping off with a large, off-white, rocky head that hangs around for the duration - and with a quick swirl of the glass refreshes itself.  The nose is by turns lemony, lightly piney, boozy and earthy, then as it warms it becomes quite spicy, almost curryesque. In terms of taste, the first mouthful is a hefty hit of caramel sweetness, but not cloyingly so. The bitterness of all the hops comes through in the finish to cut through the sweetness leaving a nice balance. As the bitterness fades there is a warming afterglow of booze.

The beer is quite full bodied and has a nice level of carbonation that is not overly fizzy, but not "flat" either, given the good head on the beer it is not really all that surprising that the beer left plenty of lacing down the glass.

The only downside to Samoset Vintage 2009 is that it is deceptively easy to drink. The alcohol is very well integrated and if I hadn't known the alcohol content then I would have been happy to drink my entire stash of the beer, and then wonder why my legs refused to function.

Actually, there is another downside to the beer. I only have 7 bottles left, and I was hoping to age at least a 6 pack for next year's Thanksgiving - and do a comparison with this year's, yet to be finalised, recipe. Perhaps I only need a couple of bottles though?

You could say then that I am very happy with the end result of my first barleywine, and you'd be right!

* I made that bit up.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gold and Guinness

I like Bitter. I like Ordinary Bitter, I like Best Bitter, I like Extra Special/Strong Bitter, so of course I wanted to brew my own - ah the joys of being a homebrewer, being able (at least in theory) to make some of the beer styles you love and in essence grew up on. I have said it many times on here before, I was never much of a lager drinker before I went to Prague, for reasons I may have to delve into in order to ascertain whether I was in closet with regards eventually discovering craft beer.

Anyway, to my theme, brewing a best bitter. That was the plan at least, but the OG was slightly low and so it became an ordinary bitter, something low in alcohol and refreshing was the plan. Last weekend Mrs Velkyal and I went to visit her cousin and Sicilian husband in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I took a couple of bottles of my bitter with me for them to try, and they liked them, so I thought I should do a proper analysis of the beer I had called Ring of Gold - fermented with Ringwood Ale Yeast and hopped only with East Kent Goldings.

I am not sure the colour really comes through from that picture, but it was light copper, with almost straw like edges, the picture does though capture the head perfectly, white, thinnish and with plenty of stickability. As I had used EKG for my hopping, the nose was very lightly floral but Mrs Velkyal when asked for her opinion suggested, albeit through a slightly stuffy nose, a light citrusiness. Tastewise, again, being an ordinary bitter, it had touches of toffee and a certain grassiness that I put down to the hops, so not wildly sweet nor a hopbomination. Overall, a perfectly drinkable bitter that wouldn't disappoint if served on a warm summer's day as it was refreshingly clean, though a bit on the thin side.

One beer which did however catch my attention this week was Guinness Extra Stout, a six pack of which I picked up for a 3 way taste test to come soon, but I had a couple of bottles last night anyway. Extra Stout is the one without the nitrogen widget, and what a difference it makes, a light brown head, plenty of roasted goodness on the nose and the taste is just as a stout should be. Thank goodness this still exists, even though brewed in Canada.

This weekend will see lots of bottling and brewing work. Into bottles will go the Samoset Orange Barleywine, to condition for Thanksgiving, and the American Pale Ale which I brewed as part of the International Homebrew Project. Being brewed this weekend is another batch of Gael 80/- and then a dunkelweizen, for which I am yet to settle on a name. So a good weekend is in prospect, and a good weekend I wish you all! 


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Back to Brewing

Well, almost back to brewing. About a month back I brewed up my first barleywine, something of a monster of a beer, weighing in at 1.098 if I remember rightly, and it has been happily sat in the primary fermenter since then.

Today is time to rack it into the secondary and begin dry hopping the beer. In the boil I used Fuggles and East Kent Goldings hops, so I wanted to kick things around a little bit with the dry hopping, so I went to the new homebrew place in Charlottesville and got myself some more Fuggles as well as some Cascade.

The barleywine will be sitting in the secondary, with the dry hops, for at least the next 6 months, after which I will bottle it up and lay it down for another 5 months, so that it is ready for Thanksgiving 2010.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Specialty Beer

The last of the beer style awards for this year is another rather large catch all category, basically the beers that don't fit in any of the other categories.

The top three in this category are as follows:

The Starr Hill Barleywine was a small batch made by Starr Hill back in the autumn and for a while was my favourite beer. Big sweet maltiness with a huge whack of spicy hops made this beer simply a magnificent drink. Of the Starr Hill beers I have had this year, the Barleywine was far and away the best and if I were in their shoes I would be doing this on a yearly basis and releasing it bottle conditioned in the same way Fullers do their Vintage Ale.

As I noted earlier this week, Lovibond's make excellent beers and the Gold Reserve is a notched up version of their Henley Gold wheat beer. Referred to as a "wheat wine" and with the brewer's weight in honey thrown in as well, this is a strong, sweet and yet a grassy noble hoppiness that just balances it out nicely.

Back in June, myself and Evan Rail got together to do a comparative tasting of Fuller's London Porter, Lovibond's Henley Dark and Ron Pattinson's re-creation of a 1914 London-style Porter recipe brewed in conjunction with De Molen. Rich and yet dry, it was a pleasure to try a re-created Edwardian beer.

As ever the decision is tricky, but for the pure pleasure of discovering a beer style I had never even heard of and it being a moreishly drinkable beer, the Fuggled Specialty Beer of the Year is:
  1. Lovibond's Gold Reserve
A second award there for the Lovibond's Brewery and my most keen wish for 2010 is that their beers somehow find their way to the USA, in particular this little corner of Virginia, where I know for sure they would be very much appreciated.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Virginia Barleywine is for Beer and Food Lovers

The Starr Hill Brewery currently has three special beers on tap, an 8% ABV saison, a 10.3% tripel and a 10.7% barleywine. I realise I am about to commit yet another beer geek heresy, but quite often the lighter coloured Belgian style beers do nothing for me - although I have found lately that this opinion isn't as rare as I assumed, and I have been told several times in the tasting room at Starr Hill just not to mention it on Ratebeer or BeerAdvocate. Barleywine by contrast is one of my favourite styles.

The first barleywine to pass my lips was last Christmas when I had a bottle of the delightful Benedictus from the Durham Brewery. The style also features in my homebrew calendar as a beer to be brewed in November and then stored for a year in preparation of the next Thanksgiving. I, like many of our regulars coming in for a growler fill at the tasting room, was looking forward to seeing what the brewers would come with for this most venerable of styles.

The weekend when Mrs Velkyal broke her foot, trying to kick some sense into me, I bought a 1 litre bottle of barelywine home with me from work, which we duly polished off over some angel food cake with some friends. So on Saturday I refilled my bottle and decided to do a Cyclops session with the beer, as well as use a little of it in a cooking project I had been ruminating about for a while. First to the Cyclops:
  • Sight - dark copper, foamy ivory head
  • Smell - nutty, earthy, spicy hops, strongly caramel
  • Taste - very malty, toffee, nuts, alcoholic edge
  • Sweet - 4/5
  • Bitter - 3/5

This is fantastic stuff in my book, big, bold and yet so smooth and silky. Yes it is rather sweet, but the spiciness of the hops counteracts that, so it isn't cloying in my experience. There is a very noticeable alcoholic glow that hits you after about half a glass - the one in the picture is a half pint glass. As I was drinking I wanted a nice single malt to go with the beer (I wonder how it would be given the Paradox treatment?). Gorgeous, gorgeous beer.
On then to my cooking project, sticky toffee pudding with barleywine sauce, basically a study in boozy, sweet, powerful desserts. The basic cake part of the dessert was Jamie Oliver's recipe, which you can see here. The sauce though was my own little creation using:
  • a knob of unsalted butter
  • quarter pint of barleywine
  • 1 small can condensed milk
Melt the butter in a small pan, add the barleywine and bring to the boil. Once the beer has reduced by about a quarter, add the condensed milk and then stir, and stir, and stir.

Eventually you end up with a beautifully silky, rich sauce to pour over the cake, or in the case of the picture below, around the case - I was watching while I ate my dessert last night and I could help but
think Gordon Ramsay would have beeping loved it!

How could I stop at a single serving of this delight? So I didn't and had a second!

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

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