I credit our science editor, Tom Mansell, for putting me firmly in a barleywine-craving mood with his What We Drank this week.
The powerful, intense style is gloriously complex and balanced when done right, and the perfect answer to a long day or week as it reduces the world and all its problems to the need for a nice cigar and bed.
Druid Fluid from Middle Ages Brewing Company pours a light one-finger head and orange-amber hue into a snifter glass, where it maintains light lacing.
nose is vague orange flavors and a hint of cream puffs but mostly the understated
malt character of a relatively aged beer.
There's no bottling date on this bottle (ordinarily a red flag), but barleywines are traditionally crafted for cellaring and Middle Ages specifically suggests aging this beer, so I proceeded.
On the palate there’s the sweet alcohol typical of the style, some orange peel and a razor’s edge of harsh hops, but that’s as far as it gets before a thin and resiny hop finish.
At traditional barleywine temperature (50-60 degrees F) it tastes tired; cooler than that it gets a boost from spotlighted carbonation but little additional flavor. Though air time opened up just a bit more fruit esters, this was ultimately more of a chore to drink than a contemplative indulgence.
The true barleywine ages with grace, losing bright fresh notes but acquiring complexity, and without a bottling date to give me any sense of the age of this beer I have to be concerned. This is what’s on the shelves in my town, and it’s not indicative of the power and beauty of the style. Brewers: date your bottles!Producer: Middle Ages Brewing Company
Sample Size: 22 oz. bottle
Stemware: Snifter glass