Barleywine.The word alone will make a beer nerd salivate and a macro beer drinker cringe. These big aggressive beers have a long history and a have become one of the more sought after styles of American craft beer. The term barleywine dates back as far as the 18th century when it was used by European brewers to attract wine drinkers to their brews.
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.
Eclipse, Eclipse, Eclipse. That's all anyone ever seems to say when FiftyFifty Brewing Company is mentioned. Sure its delicious, well awarded, damn expensive and some versions sell out before the beer is even in bottles. Variants abound trigger that deep seeded sense in our generation to collect them all. A kaleidoscope of colored wax topped bottles, sealing contents too precious for their own good, charm the eyes in a genius display of marketing.
The craft beer scene is a far different animal today than it was in the late 1970s. That might seem like an obvious statement, but think about how much different things were when Ken Grossman started Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. There were no labs to buy yeast from, no catalogs of different hop verities to choose from and no other craft breweries to buy used equipment from. All of the equipment they used to start Sierra Nevada was made from scrap metal and old dairy farm equipment. Fast forward thirty-five years later and Sierra Nevada is one the largest craft breweries in the country and producing over a million barrels of beer each year.
Craft beer lovers in California are well aware of the fantastic products Jesse Fridman and Damian Fagan have been putting out over the last few years. While those names might not sound familiar to most, the San Francisco-based Almanac Beer Company they started in 2010 has garnished quite a reputation for putting out unique beers using locally-sourced ingredients from family owned farms. Their farm to barrel approach has turned out a long line of highly-rated brews all without the use their own brewing equipment.