For whatever reason barleywine is a style I'v barely explored. I haven't reviewed one yet on this site, and I think the only one I've ever tasted was Sierra Nevada's. So I picked up five barleywines -- or as they're all American, "barleywine style ales" - to help me survive the cold. Three now, two later.
13 December 2008
Anchor Old Foghorn: From the US perspective, this is the original, so I figured I'd start with it. The bottle is dated 7SG, i.e, 2007, September 7th (G is the 7th letter). Nice clear, mahogany colored brew. Quite viscous in texture and delightfully low on carbonation. Kind of a pruney/raisiny maltiness to it, but also some citrusy hops. Caramel and/or toffee as well. By today's standards, this is fairly low in alcohol (under 9%), but it's still a sipper all the way, due largely to it's thick texture and rich taste. I thought it was fabulous.
Flying Dog Horn Dog: This is a bit higher in ABV at 10.2%, and pours hazier out of the bottle, but it has a similar aroma (Cascade hops again) and similar viscosity to Anchor. Again, it's from 2007. It claims 45 IBUs, which really isn't a lot given the malt level. Nonetheless, I found this to be hoppier than others, with sort of a citrus rind hit to it. Some dark cherries come through as well. Also a very good beer, but maybe not quite as great as Anchor.
Clipper City Below Decks: Another Maryland brewery (Flying Dog having moved from Colorado). The bottle is dated 2006. Retailers must love barleywines, as you don't have to worry much about old bottles. I think all three of these are considered English-style barleywines, but Below Decks actually uses English hops (Fuggles, Goldings). Thus, a different non-Cascade aroma. The beer also has some yeast floaties in it (my fault because of an aggressive pour?). It's sweeter than the others and a bit less thick. Also, at 10%, the alcohol comes through a little more than for the others. Licorice, molasses and fruit flavors abound. This seems to have a lesser reputation than Anchor and Flying Dog, but I don't really see why. They're all pretty close.