#63 Anchor Brewing – Old Foghorn

Anchor Old Foghorn Ale

Name: Old Foghorn
Brewery: Anchor Brewing Co. (San Fransisco, California, USA)
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 8. 8%
Source: Regional Wines (Wellington)

I was planning to come on here at some stage and rant about barley wine. About the fact that it’s not wine and it’s not even really a style as far as I can tell because apparently it just means “the brewers strongest offering” – and surely strong is not a style.

But then this beer shut me right up. You know what? I don’t even care if barley wine is a pseudo-style*. I don’t care if they call it “the beeriest beer in town.” If this Old Foghorn is anything to go by, barley wine is a style worth getting to know.

This one is made by Anchor in San Fransisco, who (I think) make the most aesthetically pleasing range of beers out. See?

Anchor Brewing beers

I knew I was in for a treat as soon as I began to pour it. It glugged into my glass like canadian maple syrup – thick and with a lovely golden-amber hue.

It smelled even better than it looked – like caramel, banana lollies, rum’n’raisins… basically anything sweet and sticky and delicious you can think of.

It delivered on the palate, too, with the sweet malty flavours balanced slightly by a mild bitterness that came through in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel was full and oily like a dessert wine – in fact everything about it was like a dessert wine – and it left me with the same sticky lips and warm alcohol heat in my throat.

This is the kind of beer that I would like everyone who says they “don’t like beer” to try. In fact, I think the only people who wouldn’t like this are those weird folk who say they don’t like desserts. (And they’re clearly bonkers anyway.)

*UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that Barley Wine is not, in fact, the mysterious pseudo-style that I though it was (lazy googling – guilty), and it’s definition can be found here.

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Published in: on October 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm  Comments (14)  
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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s not a psudo style at all… read page 12 here: http://www.brewersassociation.org/attachments/0000/5183/BA_2011_Beer_Style_Guidlines.pdf

    • Quite right! That’ll learn me for not doing my homework…

  2. It’s not so clearcut as a set of BJCP ‘rules’ – a small dissent: http://zythophile.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/so-what-is-the-difference-between-barley-wine-and-old-ale/

    Read the first 4-5 paragraphs, then skip past the historical minutae to he concluding paragraph.

    • Easy to tear down any classification system, regardless of the topic at hand (autos, tumors, movies, etc.). Quite another to nominate an alternative classification system, which the author of that well-researched piece hasn’t done. Nearly impossible to find a better one than BJCP’s, which I’ve only read part of but found it very helpful.

      • I dont think there is any need for Martyn to nominate an alternative , although if you want one his book Amber Gold and Black would be a good start.

        BJCP has its place but the little History sections are heavily heavily flawed.

  3. Yeah, I actually have some sympaphy for what you wrote really. Like Old Ale its a catch all style that includes a whole raft of different strong ales that arn’t stout / porters.

    • Yes, Kieran puts it far more politely than I did, posting a link to a arcane beer history blog!

  4. the more people who read Martin’s work the better as far as I’m concerned.

  5. Well, I’m still fairly confused TBH. I think I’ll just drink lots more Barley Wine and see what kind of conclusions I come to 🙂

    • American Style Barleywines are much more easily classified as most of the time they have been brewed to the style guidelines (previously posted) be it BJCP or the more commonly used Brewers Association.

      I think that the UK ones are a much more complacated as described in the article poted by Raffe.

      “Beer Styles” are a definate Americanism as they are used to classify and to be judged against in competition. Where as tradionally, “styles” per se didn’t actually exist: more there were just different types of beer that one could buy.

      So basically – in this day and age… if it’s on the label in black and white telling you that this is the “style” of beer… then you can quite accurately assume that it is OK to say that the beer is of or close to that stated style. Even if technically – it might be out of style.

      • Yep, if BJCP gets one thing right its American styles. and so it should!

        American Barleywine = fattened up Double IPA.

      • “if it’s on the label in black and white telling you that this is the “style” of beer… then you can quite accurately assume that it is OK to say that the beer is of or close to that stated style”

        So Joe, do you accept that Tui is an East Indian Pale Ale??

      • Tui? Obviously in East India – their Pale Ales were a hell of a lot different than the rest of the country!

        But no… I dont accept that. Note that I did start that paragraph with the word “basically”. As in – a generalisation.

        What you have raised is a different topic altogether.

  6. Barley wine, got it’s name during the British conflicts with the French. At the time, the aristocrats thought that their preferred choice of drink – wine, often French, would display a lack of patriotism, so called for brewers of British beer to produce something equivilant in strenth to a claret. This way, they could still drink a powerful drink from a wine glass with their evening meals, and not go against the country while doing it.


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