A couple of months ago I excitedly purchased a bottle of The Grandfather Barley Wine by Bootleg Brewery. The Grandfather is only bottled once a year, a mere 800 bottles, and it was happy fortune that I was at Bootleg just days after they bottled the 2012 edition.
With great anticipation of opening the bottle my partner and I bought several types of blue cheese but somehow weeks went by without The Grandfather being opened. The timing never felt quite right; either we were too full from dinner or it was too late in the night. Weeks turned into months and we’d eaten, purchased and eaten our way through plenty of blue cheese that had been intended for The Grandfather.
Eventually we opened it – there was no special occasion, no birthday, no celebration, it was just because we both really felt like sitting down to a nice long beer and some cheese one Tuesday evening … and damn it was goooood.
I must admit I cannot remember the intricate details of the 2011 release of The Grandfather. I remember enjoying it with homemade pizzas whilst we were at a friends place for dinner. I remember good company and plenty of laughs. Aroma and palate details do not stretch much beyond “this is awesome!”
So how about the 2012 release? Speaking with Head Brewer dude Michael Brooks back when I bought the beer, I got a little more information on The Grandfather. He ages the beer in ex-red wine barrels from his friends at Moss Brothers Winery. 2011 was aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels whilst 2012 used Merlot which Michael hoped would impart greater red fruit characteristics. It was also delightful to hear that he had selected the barrels personally; there’s something a little romantic about that.
Diving into the 2012 Grandfather there were a lot of big, bold red fruits attacking my palate which, though a little unexpected, were beautifully rich and almost velvety. Rich plum flavours led up to stronger bitter sweet fruit and warming booze, hints of pepper and a soft bitterness. Aromas were bold and varied – melon, plum, burnt toffee, toast … a complex beer that was nice with some punchy blue cheese to challenge it.