Mention Anchorage Brewing Co. to any craft beer fan who has been around the block enough times, and they will mention A Deal With The Devil barleywine.
Although it was first brewed in 2012 and sold as Anchorage Brewing Barleywine, the debut of the most well-known incarnation of the ale was in 2013, a 17.3 percent ABV version of the barleywine-style ale that was aged for eleven months in Cognac barrels before being packaged in 750ml bottles. Since then there have been multiple releases, including six different barrel variations packaged in wax-dipped 375ml bottles and sold in a custom wooden box set, a triple-oaked version priced at $100 per bottle and most recently, a version packaged in wax-dipped cans.
In mid-2018, Anchorage released another variant of its signature ale that was—as the name implies—a joint effort with Menno Olivier from the DeMolen Brewery in the Netherlands. Dubbed A Deal With DeMolen, the 15 percent ABV barleywine was fermented with apple juice before being aged in apple brandy barrels for 21 months.
The new barleywine was released on July 7, 2018 packaged in 500ml bottles. Each bottle was priced at $25 and there was a six bottle per person purchase limit.
From the bottle, A Deal With DeMolen pours a deep amber-brown with half finger of tan head that quickly dissipates, leaving a thick ring around the edge. Aroma from the glass is strong caramel syrup, tart apples, creamy oak, malts, bread and dates. There is some light carbonation present in the glass as well.
Considering the aroma, I am not surprised when the first sip brings a strong green apple tartness flavor on the palate that easily overwhelms pretty much any other note, while the finish is full of both malt and caramel sweetness that is just south of being cloying. A small amount of bitterness shows up every once in a while on the finish, and there is very little active carbonation, although that is not at all unusual for the style. In addition, the mouthfeel is a bit thinner than I was expecting—albeit still easily within what I could consider the normal realm for a barrel-aged barleywine—and the alcohol is easy to detect.
As it warms, the tart green apple flavor increases in both strength and distinctness—which is not a good thing—while the caramel sweetness on the finish starts to show signs of taking over the profile. The resulting combination becomes almost too much to drink, although I do manage to muddle through.