A couple of weeks ago my friend, The Dubliner's beer columnist and native New Yorker Richard Lubell called over bearing some interesting finds from a recent trip home to the Empire State. Would I help him drink them? Well, let me just check the diary...
I enjoyed immensely a few years back. Richard brought the oak-aged edition over and I was hoping for a repeat, or improvement, on my recent fun times with Great Divide's Rumble oaked IPA. Unfortunately, balance does not appear to be in the Southern Tier vocabulary. The beautiful fresh hops are simply buried deep beneath layers of cloying loud and sappy oak. There's a small trace of fruit and spice: a bit of sandalwood and a dash of mandarins, but nowhere near enough big IPA character to justify the whopping 9.9% ABV investment in alcohol. It's the hops I feel sorry for. They deserved better.
The other bottle was something of a mystery. Port Jeff is a small brewpub on the north coast of Long Island. They have seven regular beers, but Cold North Wind barley wine isn't one of them. Richard didn't know if the bottle he got was new, aged or what: just that the proprietor was keen for him to have it.
It's 8.7% ABV and poured gloopily to a bright garnet colour. Peaches in the aroma and a beautiful mouth-watering juicy mandarin and jaffa foretaste. The bitterness kicks in after but it plays things smooth avoiding all the pitfalls of big hop barley wines: there's no harshness, no boozy heat and no cloying syrupyness either. They could certainly offer the folks at Southern Tier a few pointers on balance.
We followed it with some 2011 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot barley wine, another beer that seemed hot and harsh in comparison. This one's a victory for the little guys.
Thanks for sharing, Richard.
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