Looking back over many of my past reviews, I realized that I often gush over the various reasons I love craft beer and the craft beer culture. The reasons have been well documented, but today it is time for me to vent on one of the things that truly bothers me about the always changing craft beer community. The never ending hunt for the newest, rarest and hardest to obtain beers often leads us away from what we truly love about craft beer in the first place. Delicious beer.
Don’t get me wrong, I love opening up a rare bottle of beer as much as the next guy but it kills me when I see today’s craft beer “aficionados” turning up their noses at beer that was being brewed while they were still stabbing their Capri Suns on the playground. Many beers that helped fuel the infant stages of the craft beer movement 15 or 20 years ago have never been tasted by many of the newcomers in the craft beer scene. I find it difficult that anyone can fully appreciate that rare $40 bottle of brewery only beer if you have not had the beers that came before it and inspired the brewers that made it. Luckily for me these beers sit on shelves year round so I can snatch them up whenever I see fit.
Lagunitas1 GnarleyWine is a perfect example of an often passed up beer that has been around for longer than most beer nerds realize. For almost 20 years now Lagunitas has been brewing there take on the American barleywine known as Olde GnarlyWine. The beer is readily available, affordable, delicious and it ages beautifully. It is just one of the many beers that have inspired a generation of brewers that are now making those beers people are waiting in lines for.
Olde Gnarleywine pours a crystal clear deep orange that borders on a reddish color with a tan frothy head. A quick sniff of the glass unveils an immediate sweetness that seems to go past the normal malty sweetness you find in a many big beers. It has a quality similar to candy sugar along with toasted bread, raisins, caramel and wonderful orange citrusy character. The bouquet is inviting and subtle with nothing really overpowering.
The first sip of Olde GnarlyWine brings that big sweetness similar to the nose. Again, it is a combination of sweet malts and candy sugars. All of the descriptors I used for the nose are all represented in the taste. Caramel, raisins and figs, a light bready character and the sweet orange flavors are all there. The sweetness is the only thing that stands out a bit above the rest of the flavors but not to the point where it is cloying or off putting in anyway. At this point I am half way through the bottle and it has warmed up a few degrees intensifying all of the subtle flavors. The finish is one of my favorite components of this beer. The sweet orange flavors linger for a while reminding you to take another sip.