Ever since my first bottle of Le Terroir I have had a soft spot for any Lips of Faith releases. Every time I see a new release on the shelves I tend to pick it up in hopes of discovering something great. They are not always winners but I am always excited to try the next one. One of the more recent releases was the BlackBerry barleywine. In doing a little pre research I realized that this was the very first barleywine New Belgium has released. The first one? Really? Doesn’t every brewery now a days make at least one barleywine of some sort?
For its first barleywine release New Belgium didn’t take the standard approach of choosing between a modern American-style hoppy barleywine or the rich classic flavor of an English barleywine. They decided on a fruited variation of a barleywine that is somewhere towards the English style of the road. Fruited barleywines are not something I see often, or ever for that matter Blackberries were the fruit of choice which is also a fairly uncommon fruit to see in beers. I am always excited to try new beers and this one is nothing short of “new.”
As I crack the bottle and pour the first few ounces into my Teku the first thing I notice is the pink hue of the beer. I was expecting something along the line of the more traditional brown to copper color scale and was surprised to see anything outside of that range. My first thought was to question how much fruit was actually added to this beer? I raise the glass and the aroma further fuels my question about the fruit addition. The berry dominated bouquet is not what I was expecting from the brew. In addition to the heavy handed berry notes I get hints of the English barleywine underneath in the form of molasses, bready malts and hints of alcohol.
As I take my first sip my expectations I am still hoping for a rich English barleywine with hints of sweet blackberries. Once again the fruit dominates the experience. A big berry flavor that comes with a slight tartness. I also get a mild bitterness from the hops.1 The base beer is there but you really have to look for it. The bready malts, cracker and molasses and alcohol. I also get a good amount of tannins from the berries on the finish.