Beer Squared #26: Barleywines

Posted: February 6, 2012 in Beer Squared, Beer: Barleywines, Beer: Wheat Wine Ales

6 and 7

Here we are tasting some very high alcohol brews. Due to that fact, and the very large bottles, we chose to only do two of them instead of our usual four or five.

A barley wine typically reaches an alcohol strength of 8 to 12% by volume and is brewed from specific gravities as high as 1.120. It is called a barley wine because it can be as strong as wine; but since it is made from  rather than fruit, it is, in fact, a beer.  (source)

We went with a couple brewers we’re familiar with: Shipyard and New Holland.

Shipyard Barleywine Style Ale (8.5% ABV)

Shipyard Barleywine

Nik: Due to the high alcohol content, this beer has a very small head full of tight bubbles. It has a very nice malty aroma with hints of fruitiness. Shipyard’s brew has a very deep, brown coloring and a very strong roasted malt flavor. This is another good beer from Shipyard, who I like about  half of what they do. I either really like it, or really dislike it.

Bob: After an unpleasant experience with another of Shipyard’s products I wasn’t expecting much here. Let me say up front that I was pleasantly surprised. This brew had no head to speak of, but that is not unusual for such a high ABV (8.5%) product. Poured extremely dark brown to nearly black in the glass, with a strong aroma of barley and a tangy taste of roasted barley. This is a nice brew for slow sipping, but definitely a different experience from gulping down a hoppy IPA or a lighter session lager. Overall, a pleasant experience.

New Holland Pilgrim’s Dole Wheat Wine Ale (11.4% ABV)

Pilgrim's Dole Wheat Wine Ale

Nik: New Holland’s Wheat Whine Ale was quite a bit different from Shipyard’s barleywine.  Granted, these two beers aren’t quite the same category, but close. The Pilgrim’s Dole has a very strange aroma that was quite unite and unfortunately I couldn’t put my finger on it. It has a very rusty color and light head, again. It is perfectly clear. It’s taste is very large. It had a mouthfeel that reminded me of the Schlalfy Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, and the Backwoods Bastard. The very high alcohol content made it very warm and very inviting. This is most definitely best enjoyed during the winter months.

Bob: We couldn’t classify this as a barleywine, obviously, because of the high wheat content. Whatever you want to call it, however, is just fine with me, because it is one spectacular drink. Minimal head and a rich reddish color plus a very high ABV of 11.4% definitely put Pilgrim’s Dole in the wine category. The taste is very big, rich and warming, with a long afterglow. Reminiscent in many ways of Schlafly Reserve Imperial Stout, one of our all-time favorites that we hope to review soon on this site. Now you’ll have to excuse me for a moment–I’m going to go sample another bottle of Pilgrim’s Dole that I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Writing this review counts as a special occasion, doesn’t it? I think yes. Yum!

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