#364 West Coast – The Artist

Dave Kurth Barley WineName: The Artist
Brewery: West Coast Brewing
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 10%
Source: Dave Kurth

Today is a momentous day! Do you know why?

I mean sure, the history books might remember it as Curiosity’s first full day on Mars. And yes, the newspapers have chosen to prioritize Tongariro’s eruption – but if you cut science out of the picture (and really, who needs it!) then what are you left with?

The 365th day of Beer For a Year!

I should warn you that I’m too excited to sit still, and have consumed nothing but coffee (two) and cupcakes (three) today.  As a result of my hyperactivity, this post may not be 100% cohesive.

I drank The Artist at my dining table last night – the same place I’ve enjoyed the majority of the beers on the blog so far – and realised as I photographed it that this was the last time I would perform this little ritual. I got a bit sad and melancholic for a minute, but then I had a sip of this 10% beer and felt great!

On the nose I got sweet, fruity flavours of dried apricots, barley sugars, toffee and a little savoury hint of something like marmite.

In the mouth it was sweet and mouth-filling, with all those fruity toffee malt flavours blossoming into something epic, before being curtailed at the last second for a bone-fry finish. I never intended to drink the whole thing myself – but somehow that’s exactly what happened.

Dave Kurth sent me The Artist a few months ago, and it was supposed to be released soon. Sadly the brewery went into liquidation in May, and so he and this beer are just stuck in limbo for now. I really hope it does eventually get released – because apart from the fact it’s bloody nice, the most beautiful label has already been created for it:

West Coast Barley Wine "Elephants in the Atmosphere" by Jo Cringle.

“Elephants in the Atmosphere” by Jo Cringle.

Today’s thanks goes to my Dad. When I first told Dad about the blog his exact response was: “You will get very fat young lady!” but it didn’t take long for him to become almost more enthusiastic than me. He’s since bought me loads of fancy beers I could never have afforded myself, ventured into the wonderful world of homebrewing with me, and like Mum become a total craft beer enthusiast (bordering on geek) himself. Dad is even flying all the way up from Wellington today to drink my final beer with me. Thanks Dad!

Finally – in case you somehow missed it on here/Twitter/Facebook – I will be drinking my 365th and final beer at Galbraith’s tonight. I had considered doing some sort of  live blog type thing, but as the beer will be 8.5% I think spelling could prove a challenge. If you’re in Auckland, please join me. And book Wednesday morning off work!

Published in: on August 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm  Comments (13)  

#332 Kowhiti Brewing – Archer’s Ale

Name: Archer’s Ale
Brewery: Kowhiti Brewing (Wellington, NZ)
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 8%ish
Source: Dad

Archer’s Ale is Dad’s first crack at a Barley Wine – which incidentally is the only style of beer his Granddad used to drink, apparently. (This doesn’t surprise me – they’re all  total lushes on that side.)

It pours a beautiful clear amber, and smells fruity (plums and apricots), vinous, and strongly of toffee malt. In the mouth it’s much lighter than I’d expect for the style, malty and alcoholic but without much depth. He only bottled it two and a half weeks ago so it think it just needs more time to develop. On the other hand, my grandparents thought it was just gorgeous as it is (lushes, I tell you, the lot of them!).

Speaking of Kowhiti Brewing, the other day me and Dad finally got around to making Ye Olde Cock Ale. This is something we’ve talked about doing ever since Dad came across this page in this book by C.J Berry, detailing a recipe originally from “The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt. Opened,” 1677:

How could anyone  read a recipe that began “Take 10 gallons of ale and a large cock, the older the better” and not immediately decide to make it? Exactly. So that’s what we did.

For our cock ale we used a clone recipe for a scotch ale called Old Jock Ale, combined it with this historical above (made slightly more modern here), and added a few extra bits and pieces (raisins, dates and treacle) to make it our own. It looked a little something like this:

The base was British 2-row pale malt, plus a little British crystal and some other I can’t remember…

There weren’t a lot of hops, but we used Target, Willamette, and East Kent Golding.

Yeah I know this looks effing gross but it’s just chicken, parboiled and soaked overnight in whiskey and wine to kill any bugs. That’s raisins and chopped dates underneath.

Unfortunately this won’t be ready in time for me to include it as part of my 365, but I promise to come back and update this post with the verdict. For now though, I’m quietly confident that it’s going to be the finest (and sure, also the only) cock ale that this country has ever seen!

Published in: on July 18, 2012 at 6:39 pm  Comments (2)  

#286 Sierra Nevada – Big Foot

Name: Big Foot
Brewery: Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA, USA)
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 9.6%
Source: Galbraith’s Ales

Question: What do you get when you mix forgetfulness and impatience?
Answer: Frozen beer.

Yes, it’s often the case that  two of my less-than-desirable qualities  team up to produce beer popsicles, impatience putting the beer in the freezer in the first place, forgetfulness ensuring it turns solid.

Usually when this happens I just declare it a loss, throw the beer out and put something else in the freezer (this time setting an alarm on my phone), but with this one I had two reasons not to do that. For one, it wasn’t frozen solid – It was at that slushy stage where you can actually pour it – and two, it was a motherflippin’ Sierra Nevada Barley Wine!

By the time I drank the beer it had melted, but it was still really cold – about the temperature that most bars serve their lager. Now, usually I like my beer at a toasty 10 degrees so that I can actually taste it – but I gotta say, there was something really nice about having this big sweet beer so chilled. I wouldn’t usually describe a Barley Wine as refreshing, but boy, was I refreshed!

Also, this is probably a great beer at every temperature. It had masses of classic Sierra Nevada hop aromas – bitter grapefruit pith and pine, as well as something a little sweet and juicy. In the mouth it was thick, chewy (and of course, slightly icy) with lots of toffee caramel malt cushioning the hops and booze.

On a side note, why are there not more alcoholic popsicles in my life? These all look delicious, and an I’m sure an iced Barley Wine would fit right in…

Published in: on June 1, 2012 at 5:11 pm  Comments (4)  

#227 Beat Brewing – Barley Wine

Name: Barley Wine
Brewery: Beat Breweing (homebrew, Auckland)
Style: Barley Wine:
ABV: ?
Source: Stu Harwood

Several months ago, at a friends’ gig out at Leigh Sawmill, a homebrewer covertly slipped me two bottles of beer in a black bag.

One of them was his version of Digital IPA, and it was really very good indeed. 

The other was this Barley Wine, which he had warned was very strong, and possibly pretty bad.

Stu’s bottle of Barley Wine had been sitting on my shelf for months, as I’d been too afraid to pop the cap on a 750ml bottle of God-knows-what percent beer.

But then on Friday night I came home from dinner and I said to my flatmates, I said to them: “Goddamit I want to get drunk!”

It turned out I already was drunk (I’d been drinking wine all night at Sunday Painters ),and so didn’t make it through much of Stu’s Barley Wine at all. I was however conscious enough to observe the following:

  • It was better than I expected. It had some nice fruity flavours as well as a toffeeish malt presence. Probably some other things too, but looking back at my notes I see I didn’t make any.
  • It was farking strong. In fact I renamed it gnarley wine and laughed for quite a while at how clever I thought that was.
  • It was really too strong. The alcohol burn was quite harsh and there wasn’t enough syrupy malt to smooth it out. Still – if I hadn’t already been drunk it would have definitely done the trick.

Apologies to Stu for abusing your beer somewhat, and apologies to my Mum who is always telling me not to talk about being drunk on the blog. (Although I might add that it was her that got me loaded up at dinner in the first place.)

Published in: on March 26, 2012 at 3:37 pm  Comments (2)  

#198 Twisted Hop – Red Zone Enigma

Name: Red Zone Enigma
Brewery: The Twisted Hop (Chch, NZ)
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 10.5%
Source: Regional Wines (Wgtn)

As always I’m a few days behind on my posting, but this is the beer that I drank last Wednesday – the first anniversary of the Christchurch Earthquake.

While drinking a beer (especially this one) seems far too enjoyable a way to commemorate an earthquake, it seemed like the best time to tell the neat little story that goes with this one.

The Twisted Hop’s Barley wine was conditioning when the February earthquake struck. While the building and the people working in it were relatively unharmed, the brewery was inside the cordoned off’ ‘red zone’ and would be inaccessible for six months.

When the brewers were eventually able to get back into the building and rescue their neglected Barley Wine, they found the extra six months in the tank had done all sorts of wonderful things to it. They named it ‘Red Zone Enigma’ and bottled it for sale.

And guess what? It is FRICKEN delicious!! Not to detract from the serious tone of this post and go overboard with exclamation marks or anything… But Oh! My! God!

On the one hand it’s very complex – on the other it’s just plain yum. It tastes to me like chewy toffee, cherries, grapefruit, treacle and raisins… God I’m getting so hungry just writing about it. In the mouth it starts off all sweet and rich and delicious, but then about halfway through the hops kick in, cutting through with a fruity bitterness and leading to  a long, dry, finish.

It’s the best barley wine I’ve ever tried.

Twisted Hop will never produce another Red Zone Enigma again, at least not under the same circumstances, so if you see this around you should just suck it up (its quite expensive – it had to be to make bottling it at the time viable) and buy it. Buy two bottles in fact, and cellar one of them for as long as you can wait.

And finally, the cherry on top: on the day that I drank this beer, one year on from the February 22 earthquake, The Twisted Hop started to brew again at their new premises in Sockburn. How’s that for a feel-good ending?

Published in: on February 26, 2012 at 12:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

#161 2 Brothers – Guvnor Strong Ale

2 Brothers Guvnor Strong AleName: Guvnor Strong Ale
Brewery: 2 Brothers Brewery (Australia)
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 10.3%
Source: McCoppins liquor store, (Fitzroy, Melbourne)

OK! I’m four days behind on the blog so it’s time to bang out some posts real quick!

If I could describe this beer in one word, that word would be “sweet”.

But since I have to elaborate, I’d say the flavour vibe (that’s my new name for when I’m not totally sure what I’m talking about) was of toffee, raisins, marmalade and something a little savoury. I’m going to say sweat, which might not be right, but this is just a flavour vibe after all.

The mouthfeel, I can say with some certainty, was thick and full.

And so ends this shoddy review.


Published in: on January 19, 2012 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

#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.

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

#48 Tuatara – XI

Tuatara XIName: XI
Brewery: Tuatara
Style: Black Barley Wine
ABV: 10.5%
Source: Regional Wines

Oh dear! I just got some sad pet-related news from my mum so I don’t much feel like writing a post, but I do feel like drinking a large strong beer. That’s why I have this bottle of… *squints to read label*… Tuatara XI in front of me.

According to the label this is “technically a licorice black barley wine”, which must mean it’s brewed with licorice. It’s probably on the label, but have you ever tried to read black on black text? Kinda makes me feel ill. As for the barley wine bit – I was initially put off that style because I thought it sounded like a weird hippie drink, but it turns out it just means it’s really strong.

I’ve just poured it, and it’s ominously thick and dark, with a foamy tan head.

It smells – God, my nose is really blocked so it’s hard to tell – dark, chocolatey, sweet and rich. Like licorice, I think, and roasty malt.

I’ve just had about half of it and damn, it’s good. It tastes the same as it smells – like a wicked licoricey dessert, and the big whack of booze has left me feeling warm and slightly dazed. The mouthfeel is velvety smooth and full, with enough carbonation to stop it from being too syrupy. All in all – it’s exactly what I needed.

Once again, this is a limited release beer so there won’t be too much around. If you see one on the shelves, I say buy it! Especially if you need a bit of cheering up.

Published in: on September 25, 2011 at 11:30 pm  Comments (1)  

#42 Pink Elephant – Trumpet

Pink Elephant TrumpetName: Trumpet
Brewery: Pink Elephant (Blenheim, New Zealand)
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 10.4%
Source: Forrest Hill Liquorland

As those who know me can probably guess, I chose this one because of its name. My boyfriend plays the trumpet for a living (yep, you can do that!) and so it’s an instrument that I listen to a lot. In fact even as I type he’s downstairs giving a lesson to an 8-year-old boy, who is playing a rather grating rendition of “Summertime”.

The only way to deal with this kind of cacophony is to get drunk, and that’s exactly what I am after drinking this  10.4% beer before dinner.

This is my first ever beer from Pink Elephant, my first ever Barley Wine, and I think it’s the strongest beer that I’ve had on my blog so far. Given all those firsts this should really be a pretty comprehensive post, but I’m just too drunk to do it properly.

The aroma was sweet and not easily undefinable – lollies, bannoffie pie, something a bit Belgium. The taste was really sweet at first, then strong, alcoholic, fruity and slightly sour. Something about it reminded me of the Moinette Biologique – probably because it had a slight candyfloss/gewurtz vibe to it.

OK, I actually just took a two hour break because I was feeling too pissed to keep writing. My conclusion is that while it was kinda yum, it was just a bit too boozy for a wee lass like me.

On the plus side, the 8-year-old boy has gone from our garage and my favourite Auckland band, Bannerman are rehearsing instead. Check them out!

Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 9:47 pm  Comments (2)