The term barleywine is used throughout the craft beer industry and is a well-respected and represented style brewed by most breweries in the U.S. It is recognized by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and it is a category at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). None of this is news to 99 percent of the people reading this, but how the style and name barleywine came about is not as well known.
The term barleywine was nothing more than a marketing tactic by a brewer in the early 1900s. In an effort to make his product appeal to wine drinkers in his day he renamed his strong ale, barleywine. The thought process was that because his strong ale was similar in alcohol content to wine he would be able to attract wine drinkers by using the familiar term. Somehow after over 100 years the term has stuck and will forever be a part of craft beer.
Modern day barleywines have been divided into two main categories: American and English. The American varieties tend to be aggressively hopped with a higher alcohol content and bigger bolder flavors. The English offerings on the other hand lean more towards subtle rounded flavors that are sweeter and more nuanced.
Today I have an American barleywine from Strange Land Brewery in Austin, Texas. Bishopsgate clocks in at a hefty 10.9 percentABV and was released in June of this year. The beer pours a deep chocolate brown that turns a dark burnt copper when held to the light. A thick khaki colored head forms and sticks around for a while before slowly fading into a halo of tiny bubbles.
The aroma initially is about what you would expect from a barleywine. Rich caramel like sweetness, grainy maltiness and alcohol. I also get a hint of coffee and a bit of a wet mossy earthy note. The nose is not as pronounced as I had expected but it is enjoyable and enticing. My first taste of the beer follows the nose with the caramel and toffee flavors along with what I would describe as liquid malt extract. It reminds me of the smell of opening a brand new container of liquid malt extract on brew day. I also get date/raisins along with candied sugar. The finish brings more of the alcohol but the big hop bitterness really shows up out of nowhere. I did not get much flavor or aroma from the hops but I get a big surprisingly bitter finish.