A Bottle Share of Barley Wine

A brewer, a distiller and a certified cicerone walk into our house.

My other half and I had three friends over last weekend to share the bottle of Mountain Goat 2016 Barrel Breed Barley Wine that came to me in the form of wonderful and very generous beer mail. Our friends, fellow booze industry people like us, had a few barley wine stashed away themselves and so a bottle share soon put itself together.

A bottle share is something I have been meaning to do for a while – get some friends together, everyone brings beers to share, I probably don’t need to spell it out, I’m sure you figured this out from the name.

All together we had 15 barley wines and lined up together on the table they looked a little intimidating but pretty exciting too, perhaps the same way a big wave looks to a surfer.*

After a couple of welcome beers, after all you generally don’t just jump into a barley wine without a little warm up, we thought we’d better settle on what order we would try the beers. As a rough guide we went from lowest to highest ABV (alcohol by volume) as pictured left to right below.

barley wine

Highlights of the Night

Mountain Goat Barrel Breed 2016 Barley Wine – surprisingly lighter in body than I had expected but that is probably due to the onslaught my palate had already been subjected to. Lots happening here in this excellent example of a barley wine.

11.3% ABV // Barley Wine aged in Lark Distillery barrels // Limited bottles available // One keg now available at Bob’s Bar, Perth and the other will be tapped at Mane Liquor on Saturday 16 July at a special event also featuring Gusface Grillah.

Mountain Goat Barley Wine

Boatrocker Banshee – rich, boozy, head meltingly delicious.

Boatrocker Banshee

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2011, 2013 & 2016 – tasting the differences in years was super interesting, particularly when it came to the body of the beer, how much weight and richness was added with a few years of aging.

Sierra Nevada Big Foot

Not-so-Highlights of the Night

Lack of notes – not one of us wrote down anything about the beers and hence this post being sadly lacking in tasting notes. Next time I’d attach a big tag to each bottle and even if I just got a few key words here and there that would have been great.

The next day – oh my, that was a mighty hangover.

advice for your own bottle share …

Take notes, drink a TONNE of water and plan to do very little the next day!

*not sure why I went with that analogy, I’ve never surfed a day in my life.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2013 + 2014

As reward after a busy weekend of house cleaning and unpacking boxes I decided to open a 2013 and 2014 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.

The epic saga of “moving house ” continues with our pile of Bunnings receipts and list of things that need to be done both growing at steady rates.

Weekend #2 involved much cleaning and unpacking and I also learnt about spakfilla in early hours of Sunday evening. This resulted in a sleep deprived me wandering around the house looking for holes and cracks in the walls to practice my new found skill.

As reward after a busy weekend I decided we would open a 2013 and 2014 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.

The Bigfoot is a barley wine style beer, a style with British origins that experienced a resurgence with the craft beer revolution in the United States. This resurgence, according to The Oxford Companion to Beer, kicked off with Anchor Brewingy Co’s Old Foghorn release in 1975.

“Within several years barley wine had become something of a seasonal show off amongst American small brewers,”

The Oxford Companion to Beer

Barley wines are a bit like a passionate footy fan – uncompromising, boozy and loud. Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot is no exeception. It was released in 1983, four years after the company was founded and has a cult-like culture around it because it is a damn good beer only released once a year and it ages wonderfully, well if you can keep your grubby little mits off them of course.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2013

Despite my relatively poor impulse control I managed to hold on to a couple of 2013 bottles and here’s my notes from each –

July 2013 – rich, fruity, caramel and toasty

September 2014 – rich cooked caramel aromas, stone fruit, raisins, burnt toast and a warm boozy finish

Clearly I was a little less wordy last year, not sure why, perhaps I was just too busy drinking it to write down tasting notes more than five words long.

Another year seemed to give the 2013 Bigfoot more depth, everything got a little darker, thicker and more caramelised.

Delving into the 2014 Bigfoot by comparision was almost bright with its rich red fruit and soft tropical fruit flavours. But don’t be fooled, the heft of the beer was ever present with the malt providing that great caramel, toasty base but when layered with more fruit you end up with a beer that rivals any port for its richness and complexity.

IMG_20140801_194920

Old Stock Ale + Gorgonzola

Just for a change of pace, just for something different, here’s (yet another) post about a delicious beer and cheese pairing!

Just for a change of pace, just for something different, here’s (yet another) post about a delicious beer and cheese pairing!

The pairing of barley wine and English Stilton is one of those absolute classic matches. It basically puts two flavour heavyweights against each other but rather than knock each other out they dance together beautifully. Rich meets rich, sharp meets boozy, fruity meets sweet, beer meets cheese.

Here’s a little tweak on this classic –

The Beer …

North Coast Old Stock Ale 2012

“The original old ales were literally old by beer standards of the day, matured for months and often in wooden casks.”

“Long ageing in wood allowed the ale to mellow in bitterness but also to acquire some flavour from the raw wood, a slightly stale taste from oxidisation, and a dash of sourness from wild yeasts, particularly Brettanomyces, and lactic bacteria with which the brew would invariably come into contact”

The Oxford Companion to Beer

The name suggests this is an old ale or stock ale, two styles very closely related to barley wines. All three are traditionally British with the styles being mentioned by name in the 1700’s, “the definitions of these categories, however, have never been very precise, either technically or historically,” from The Oxford Companion to Beer. As a generalisation we are talking sweet malt driven ales with high alcohol content and rich fruity flavours.

Enough about style, this beer is lovely. The aroma is slightly reminiscent of black forest cake with a lot of red fruit and I do mean a lot. It’s like a red fruit party where they all got rather drunk. Bold fig and raisin flavours are along for the ride and the finish stays rich in fruit.

Love.

North Coast Old Stock Ale 2012

The Cheese …

Castel Regio Gorgonzola DOP Piccante

Piccante is a style of Gorgonzola, more traditional and mature than it’s Dolce counterpart

It was nice to discover this at my local IGA, it’s a small store and it hasn’t won me over like other IGA’s but at least there’s Gorgonzola.

This Gorgonzola is rich, salty and a little creamy but the rind adds a dusty mushroom taste for more complexity.

Together …

The old barley wine and blue cheese combination once again holds water. The rich fruit flavours of the beer matching the richness of the cheese and providing a nice contrast to the saltiness.

Together, these two are just lovely. Not subtle in any way, shape or form but indeed very lovely.

North Coast Old Stock Ale and Gorgonzola

Thanks Josh at Cellarbrations Carlisle for recommending the North Coast Old Stock Ale. Great pick!

For more blue cheese and barley wine reading – here’s what I looked through …

 

Some girls get flowers, I get beer

I like beer more than I like flowers so it’s a good thing I have such a wonderful partner who often brings me gifts of the beery variety

Flowers are nice. They are pretty, they smell good but let’s face it, you can’t drink them. You can’t savour a well poured flower in your glass. You can’t share a flower with your friend and say “Try this! It goes really well with the Gorgonzola”. This is why I like beer more than I like flowers. Lucky for me I have a wonderful boyfriend who often chooses to surprise me with presents of beer rather than bunches of flowers.

Brewdog & Oskar Blues Shipwrecker Circus Barley Wine 10.5% ABV
Brewdog & Oskar Blues Shipwrecker Circus Barley Wine
American style Barleywine | 10.5% ABV

My partner got me this after I had my first taste of beers by Oskar Blues Brewery, Colorado (US) and raved on and on about them. I grabbed them on one of my trips to Cellarbrations Carlisle, getting their Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, Deviant Dale’s IPA and G’Knight Imperial Red Ale. You can check out my blog post on those here. Since I enjoyed them so much he figured I’d like their collaboration with Brew Dog.

He was right.

Barleywines: Big ass beers, originally British, lovingly adopted by the US, both American and English Barleywines are acknowledged as a style with the major difference largely coming down to the almighty hop.

What was the beer like? Well, imagine you got a fruitcake, turned up the spices and plums and in your enthusiasm you were overly generous with the rum. Then you got a little distracted and burnt the bottom of your cake so the base caramelised a little. Then you liquified it.

Chimay Gold 4.8% ABV
Chimay Gold
4.8% ABV

When my partner was beer shopping at Cellarbrations Carlisle the topic of trappist beers came up resulting in this Belgian baby landing in my hot little hands.

Trappist: “where brewing is performed by, or under the supervision of, Trappist monks” [Oxford Companion to Beer] of which there are only seven breweries in existence – 6 in Belgium and 1 in the Netherlands. Not strictly a style as such as it’s their authenticity rather than similar flavours/ingredients that categorise them. In short – monk make awesome brewers.

It’s been a while between Chimay’s for me so it was nice to come back to one of the first breweries I got to know when I got hooked on beer many years ago.

Aromas reminded me of the base of a lemon cheesecake but there’s much more happening, I got hints of melon, lemon and banana. Soft yet with a full mouth feel with big spices coming through as the beer warmed up a little, loved the clove and lemony flavours.

8 Wired Superconductor Double IPA Double IPA | 8.8% ABV
8 Wired Superconductor Double IPA
Double IPA | 8.8% ABV

We love our hops in this house so when my partner gave me this present it was only a matter of hours before it was opened.

8 Wired: from New Zealand, brewer Søren Eriksen, well known for their HopWired IPA

His timing was great, my two most recent visits to The Pourhouse in Dunsborough have involved drinking the little brother of this beer, suitably named Semiconductor – a session IPA at a very reasonable 4.4% abv (you can read more here if you’re so inclined). Now it was time to see how it’s big brother stacked up.

It was really freakin’ good.

The aromas on the Superconductor are big and punchy, so much so that I found the flavours weren’t as strong as I was expecting. But don’t get the wrong impression, this is a very flavoursome beer. Toffee, citrus and tropical fruits with the emphasis on pineapple. The mouth feel verges on oily with a long dry and citrusy finish.

 

Moon Dog versus Gorgonzola

Victorian brewery Moon Dog produce some damn good and genuinely interesting beers. Definitely beers that grab my palate just as strongly as they grab my brain, rattle it around and scream “so … many … flavours!”

Moon Dog Barrelly Wine

We all seem to love a collaboration brew, at least I know I do. I have a tendency to lose my mind a little when they appear. I like the idea of two brewers coming together to produce something new and special, something worthy of a little excitement. The “why” behind the beer is always interesting, whether it’s an opportunity for two brewers separated by ocean to work together, I’m looking at you Thorny Goat IPA, or for an occasion like Pig Pen for the Australian International Beer Awards, there’s often a story behind the beer. You never read or hear someone say “dunno, just cause” or “to sell more piss” when asked why they collaborated. Granted it would be a stupid thing to say even if that was the reason but you get my drift. Of course the combination of two breweries doesn’t make for an automatically incredible beer but personally I can’t recall a collaboration beer I’ve disliked. Lucky streak? Perhaps.

Clearly with my rambling about collaboration brews and the photo of the Moon Dog bottle at the start you’ve probably, and correctly, guess that I’m about to launch into post about a Moon Dog collaboration. We have lift off …

Moon Dog teamed up with Anders Kissmeyer, a Danish brewer who was in Australia last year as a judge for the Australian International Beer Awards and to do a few brews with the locals. The result is this tasty little number – Barrelly Wine.

Crafty Pint has a great little write up that you can read here but basically you’re looking at a barley wine style beer that’s been left to it’s own devices in Shiraz and Pinot Noir barrels.

It’s Moon Dog so a fun name and quirky label are a given – I present Love Tap Double Lager and Perverse Sexual Amalgam as supporting evidence,

Moon Dog Beers

Inside the packaging is a beer that doesn’t disappoint. It’s jammy and full of spice, figs and warming booze – a genuinely interesting beer that engages your brain. It also made me sorely wish I had bought more than just one bottle.

We opened this whilst nibbling on some cheese after dinner and only the Gorgonzola managed to hold up and even pair nicely to Barrelly Wine – a fine combination of deep dark sweetness and in-your-face blue.

Gorgonzola - blue gooey goodness

Whilst writing this post a couple of interesting pieces on collaboration brews popped up –

Do craft beer collaborations always make for a good brew? by James Smith

Collabortion fatigue by Max Brearley

Boogoop + Cheese

Boogoop is the fourth collaboration brew from Denmark “gypsy” brewer, Mikkeller, and Chicago artisanal brewery, Three Floyds. It follows in “goop” predecessors – Hvedegoop, Oatgoop and Ruggoop – and whilst its got a funny sounding name it’s also seriously good. Grab a chunk of your favourite blue cheese to match and enjoy!

Boogoop … funny name, awesome beer

Not only is Anthony Williams the front man for BEERTasters, a Perth outfit spreading the good beer word, but he’s also a good guy and as such dropped by on my last shift at Five Bar to give me a present. I love presents and I love beer so even better when the gift is beer! It was a bottle of the Mikkeller & Three Floyds collaboration brew, Boogoop. For some time it waited to be consumed, taking a prominent place on the bookshelf and being saved for the right occasion.

Boogoop is the fourth collaboration brew from Denmark “gypsy” brewer, Mikkeller, and Chicago artisanal brewery,  Three Floyds. It follows in “goop” predecessors – Hvedegoop, Oatgoop and Ruggoop – and whilst its got a funny sounding name it’s also seriously good.

The beer is a buckwheat wine-style ale which had me grabbing for my books to find out what exactly was buckwheat. First, it’s not a grain, it’s actually part of the herb family that’s Asian in origin; and secondly because buckwheat has grain-like qualities it’s another something for brewers to play with. From what I can gather Boogoop is using a certain amount of buckwheat in the mash (not sure how much but would love to know) and producing a barley wine styled ale. I am happy for anyone who’s more knowledgable on the topic to expand on this for me. At a throat-grabbing 10.4% abv and flavours that smack you around (but cuddle you after) it certainly felt like a barley wine style to me!

The special occasion my boyfriend and I waited for to enjoy the Boogoop ended up being any old weekday night when we really, really felt like a rich beer and some cheese. Of course it was going to have to be a suitably big and rich cheese so my boyfriend picked up a wedge of Blue Cow Blue Cheese.

We popped the bottle open and a gorgeous, hazy burnt caramel colour with a big white foam head filled the wine glass. I initially got a nose full of spices with plenty of IPA characteristics like grapefruit and floral notes and just a heck of a lot of hops. Ok, I thought to myself, smells like a spicy IPA. Wonder what it tastes like? I took a gulp and it’s certainly not a subtle beer and I’m certain it’s not supposed to be. Looking at the 3Floyds website subtle really isn’t their thing. Caramelised tones with warming alcohol and perhaps a hint of tropical fruits (passionfruit?), it’s rich and a little chewy which. When paired with blue cheese it made for a wonderful contrast in two different kinds of rich, the beer being the sort of sweet that is dark and sticks to the back of your mouth and the rich bitter and creamy blue cheese. Delightful! We also had a little camembert lying around and tried this with the beer too, resulting in another great matching of creamy sweet cheese and sticky sweet beer.

Cheese + Beer can be mind-blowingly, taste bud-dancing experience. Head to the shops, find a few different types of cheese and then hit your favourite craft beer bottleshop.

Here are a few links if you wanted some more cheese + beer reading …

And here is the menu for the beer + cheese event I co-hosted with Nick Bath from Blue Cow Cheese Co at Five Bar to support the 2011 Beaufort Street Festival:
Pilsner Urquell + Boerenkaas 15 Month Matured
Samuel Adams Lager + Montgomery’s Cheddar
Endeavour Pale Ale + Isle of Mull
St Peter’s Ruby Red + Blue Cow Swiss Gruyere
Coopers Vintage + Gutshofer Ziegenkase
Weihenstephaner Korbinian + Colombo Taleggio D.O.P
Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout + Mon Sire Cendre Royale