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!
Glad you enjoyed the Coming Home by Grand Teton, it sounded good to me and even though I hadn’t tasted it thought you would enjoy trying it. Now, as for the Hillbilly at Taps, I agree with you 100%.
Just for the record it’s Bob Waddell who made the comment not Maryglenn who wouldn’t drink any beer if her life depended on it!
Ok, Dad. Now it all makes sense. I hope Mom’s life never depends on her drinking a beer – it sounds like her days on earth would come to a screeching halt. Oh well, think of all the money you’re saving, Dad. If Mom did drink beer, she would demand only the real expensive stuff – no PBR for her. And, since two beers a day is good for health, she would probably live to be as old as Methuselah and demand expensive craft beer or Mac’s brew all the time. So . . . . never mind all the good stuff I have said about quality beer, Mom, it’s really horrible. Don’t ever drink it (more for you and me, Dad; hows that?).
Ok, Mom. If Coming Home sounded good to you, I would suggest Bigfoot by Sierra Nevada. It’s a very good barley wine, and readily available right now. Of course, it can’t compete with Hillbilly, but I still highly recommend it. Gee, I’m a little surprised at you. You won’t drink any beer, but thought the Coming Home sounded good. Normally a novice beer drinker would not like something as big as a barley wine. However, I can definitely understand why you would agree with me that Hillbilly is the best barley wine ever – it’s that good, and even a novice beer drinker should love it. One caveat, however – Sheila tried it and made an awful face. She didn’t like it; now that’s messed up!