Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Barleywine of a time

Background

Barleywine is a style of strong ale that originated in England back in the 19th century, the first beer to be marketed as a Barleywine was Bass No. 1, around 1900.

A barley wine often reaches an alcohol strength of 8 to 12% by volume and is brewed from specific gravities as high as 1.120. It's called a barley wine because it can be as strong as wine; but since it's made from malted barley rather than fruit, it is in fact a beer. Here in the United States, barley wines are required for this reason to be called "barley wine-style ales."

The sweetness is most often balanced with a substantial amount of hop bitterness, though the traditional English barley wines often have a far less bitterness than their American counterparts.

These beers are meant to be enjoyed from a snifter glass, allowing for the sipping and savouring of its fruity, high-alcohol and well-aged character. It is often brewed for special occasions/events the high amounts of hops and alcohol allow this beer to be aged for quite a long period of time. The complexity of the aroma and flavor mature and become exceeding more complex over the years.

The Host: Michael Hogan, grand master of barley wine collecting
The Event: 13th annual barleywine sampling
Unique Barleywines: 81 including professional, and homebrewed vintages
Number of vintages: 247


Now I am not positive but I am pretty darn close to thinking this might have been the largest single collection of barley wine to be offered up for sampling in the world! I am a beer hound, I do a fairly good amount of collecting of beer, but to see barley wines spread across 3 tables, taking 2 pages on a menu, and finally counting the number of vintages.... all I can say is that I was stunned. I missed the 12th anniversary last year, but I can tell you I will not be missing any more that I get lucky enough to get invited to.

When I asked Mike what I could bring he recommended a snack. Now I was thinking that seemed like a odd request as he's seen my beer collection. In hind sight yes exactly... he has seen what I had to offer and it was nothing in comparison.

So Mike my hats off to you and your wife for sharing and providing such a wonderful evening.

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