Here is a review of two barley wine style ales for a Sunday afternoon. These are seasonal beers, so they may be difficult to find.
Coming Home 2012: Holiday Ale from Grand Teton Brewing Company, Victor, Idaho. 10% ABV.
This is a big barley wine style ale. It pours a clear mahogany brown with a thin, light beige head, which rapidly fades. The aroma is slightly sweet and malty. The flavor, however, is not what the aroma would suggest. The hops immediately step forward in the taste, making it bitter and citrusy. The hops then give way to a substantial maltiness that gives some sweetness and nice body. The aftertaste is bitter/hoppy.
This is a complex ale. The malty sweetness increases as the beer warms. The lingering aftertaste is hoppy bitterness, which remains even as it warms. I would describe the flavor profile as typical of a barley wine. It’s a huge beer. One glass goes a long way. It is not my favorite barley wine , but it’s a good one. I received this beer as a gift for Christmas (thanks, Dad!) and am not sure if it’s still available to purchase. It comes in a 750 ML bottle.
Hillbilly: Taps Brewery, Brea, California. 12.6% ABV.
The review of this beer will be short and to the point. It’s a barley wine style ale available for a very limited time. I have had this several times in the last few weeks at Taps in Brea, but never kept notes for a review. I decided to include it with the above listed barley wine from Grand Teton Brewing.
Hillbilly is the regular Taps Barley Wine, which is brewed seasonally and available in January and February, but then aged in bourbon barrels. Most of what I have to say about Hillbilly can also be said about Taps Barley Wine. It is deep amber and cloudy, with a small light beige head. The head fades, but not rapidly. Taps Barley Wine is, quite honestly, the best barley wine I have ever tasted. It has lots of body, with loads of malty taste. It’s also hoppy, but well balanced. It’s not overly sweet, nor is it overly hopped, as most barley wines (which tend to be one or the other).
Now for the difference. Hillbilly is bourbon barrel aged. The alcohol content is higher (from the bourbon barrel – 12.6% vs 10% for the regular Barley Wine), but the biggest difference is the taste. Hillbilly has the full vanilla/bourbon flavor, front and center. This is, quite simply, a wonderful beer. By far, the best barley wine I have ever tasted (yes, I said that twice, but hillbilly is even better than the regular Barley Wine). I can’t recommend it enough, but if you want some, you better get down to Taps pretty soon, because it will not be available much longer (another couple of weeks at the most). It’s $5.00 for a glass during happy hour (2 – 7 PM), which is very reasonable for a beer of this quality. I will continue to go every week until Taps runs out. Cheers!