Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Full Sail Brewing Co - Old Boardhead Barleywine

Hello hello! How's it goin? Pretty good on the homefront I'd say. I am here reviewing another beer and after glancing down at my blog I quickly realized I had fallen into a Stout-IPA trend and quite frankly that had to go. So I decided to do something about it and I am bringing you the review of a barleywine tonight. I believe I have yet to review a barleywine, so I thought that might be just the perfect choice.

Full Sail Brewing Company for those of you who have not read my review of the Grandsun of Spot IPA, is based in Hood River, Oregon. They brew a couple of my favorite brews including: the Keelhauler and Wassail (their winter seasonal beer), as well as a couple of the regulars: Amber Ale, Pale Ale, and the IPA. They also have a seasonal rotation known as the Brewmasters Reserve, and a LTD Limited Edition (Live the Dream) rotation of lagers. Ok, so how about we get down to the good stuff, the actual beer. And more specifically this time around, the barleywine.

Now you might be scratching your head wondering just what the heck is a barleywine. Is it a beer or a wine? Very good question. The answer is simple: it is in fact a beer. Wines rely on fruit for sugar, while beers rely on grain. Because barleywines can become very strong (9 to 13%), similar to some wines, they are called barleyWINES. In fact, barleywines start like any other style of beer: boil the grains, sparge the grains, extract the wort, boil the wort, add hops, ferment, etc etc. Bear in mind however, that usually the amount of grain and hops are greatly increased. In the review to follow you may notice my reference to the vintage of the barleywine (this one in particular is from 2009), this is important because like wines, barleywines can be stored for long periods of time. The inclusion of such a large amount of hops and malt sugar allows for this. The beer will actually continue to ferment and the flavor will continue to develop very slowly. I have seen and heard of people consuming this style of beer 4 and 5 years after the fact (maybe even longer!). So now that you're an expert on barleywines, let's drink one! (5 points to the person who can count how many times I just said barleywine :P )

Name: Old Boardhead Barleywine
Category/Style: Barleywine
ABV: 9%
IBU: 91
OG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Crystal and Centennial
Yeast Type: Unknown
Additives: None
Bottled: October 2009

The Pour: Dark reddish amber, copper, head is off-white, but doesn't stick around too long.

The Nose: Spicy, sweet, lots of malt, green apple, a bit of black pepper, some vanilla? Maybe some hops, sweet and sharp, fresh cut grass perhaps, some floral notes and honey...I'm ready to taste :]

The Taste: Light initial floral notes and spice, alcohol traveling up into my nose, warms the back of my throat...I'm picking up some hints of bourbon, or some other kind of higher alcohol beverage. Lots of green apple on the tip of the tongue. Very light on the carbonation, mouthfeel is smooth, dissipates lightly as it slides over the palate. There is a definite hop presence here and bitterness at the back of the tongue, midway through and near the end. Very interesting offering...

The Verdict: Surprisingly not bad at all for a barleywine. I've had 2 or 3 other barleywines in my life and in the past, the review was mixed. After tasting this one from Full Sail I can honestly say that my faith and desire to purchase a barleywine as opposed to shying away from them when I see them on the shelf at the store has been restored. The flavors were intriguing. I got lots of green apple and vanilla, some spice and the hop presence was spot on. I checked some other reviews online and they were saying lots of fruit, and some other things I didn't pick up at all. Perhaps they were drinking different vintages? No idea, but I suppose everyone differs as far as palate and taste buds are concerned. I also drank this one slowly. I spread out a 22 oz bottle over the course of three hours, otherwise I probably would have been way buzzed, or really drunk. Definitely one to split, or savour slowly, it is suggested these beers accompany a dessert. Anyhow, If you're looking for something different and might be afraid to try a barleywine because of a bad past experience, give Full Sail Old Boardhead a shot, it just might change your mind...

Next up: this guy here.

Thanks for reading!