bring on the barleywine

It’s December, time for holiday cheer, Oldies 103 to only play Christmas tunes, me avoiding all possible stores, eggnog, cider, hearty stews, and strong beers.  Most notably, I think of December as the beginning of the seasonal reign of barleywine.

If you are not a beer drinker, but you like liquers or other fine desserty strong drinks, you may consider getting your hands on barleywine. On Friday I was highly excited by the premiere of this year’s Blunderbuss at the Cambridge Brewing Company. The beer has wonderfully complex notes, and for a barleywine is not overly sweet.  If there’s one thing I can say, while I like my high alcohol beers and the interesting approaches they have to take to get there, i prefer my beers dry.  It’s not that I dislike malt flavor, quite the contrary, I just don’t want to taste a bunch of sugars. Blunderbuss is an excellent example of how to accomplish this mix of flavors.  The beer is beautiful to look at as well.

On Saturday I took part in a beer advocate pub crawl, which was a bunch of fun.  We started out over at Deep Ellum in Allston where Max had a beautiful list of beers on tap, including the BBC’s Imperial Stout on cask. I started out with the Dogfish Head Olde School, which I haven’t had in a really long time. While I like their beers a whole lot,  I have to really feel in the mood for their beers because the high alcohol always comes with this sticky sweet raisin feel that extends from the Raison d’Etre to all their beers. I made up for that with a Hop Rod Rye from Bear Republic, always an excellent beer in my opinion, and the keg was fresh tapped that morning.

I love the arrival of the barleywines.  They make me happy as they have a lot going on.  The other thing I love about barleywines is that they signal the seasonal approach of my favorite beer style: the Scotch Ale. Local breweries usually roll those out in late December on into January, though I know that Smuttynose has already hit the market with their big 22 oz bottles (and why I haven’t picked one up yet, I don’t know).  Yes, I can get Oskar Blues’ Old Chub year round, but it’s nice to see the scene rounded out by other breweries once a year.

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