Original Post: Old SMaSHy
Style: English Barley Wine
Brew Date: November 27, 2013
Tasting Date: August 21, 2014
I’ve let this beer out for about forty-five minutes. I normally do all of my tasting notes straight from the fridge, if for no other reason to keep things consistent. This beer is special to me, though. I already know that I love it and I know how I like. Definitely not warm (although that is okay) but not chilled as much as most other beers. Anyway, time to open the sweaty bottle.
Ah. It pours very clear, but darker than you might expect knowing that it is all Pale Malt. It’s got a nice big head, but dies down fairly quickly. The color is amber with orange highlights. I love the color of this beer. A whole lot of Maris Otter and a long boil give this beer more pure red color than a load of specialty malts. I may be putting more to it than is actually there, but I already said it: I love this beer.
Taking a sip (okay, I already had a couple while I wrote all that other nonsense), it is all malt and alcohol. There is definitely still some kick to this. The alcohol is not hidden, but it is pleasantly intense, not pure heat. Towards the end, there is big hit of vanilla. It is sweet with just enough bitterness to balance.
There are definitely still hints of hops, but they are subtle. These East Kent Goldings hops age beautifully. I love fresh, juicy American hops, but when they get old, they get unpleasant. In my opinion, of course. There are notes of tobacco and tea, but they are well hidden in the Maris Otter and ethanol.
The aroma is maybe the least impressive part of this beer. Or at least least pleasant. It could still be seen as impressive, I think because the problem is that it smells strongly of alcohol. If you are a fan of whiskey or brandy, you may find this aroma pleasant. It could also be a bit off putting, though. That is the impressive part. All that sweet malt flavor masks the heat just well enough that after a sniff, the alcohol seems mellow.
Maybe not mellow. This is a strong beer. This is a night cap. Or, this is perfectly satisfying for a one drink night. This is probably my favorite beer that I’ve ever made. I love session beer and I drink a lot of session beer, but sometimes I only want one beer. Most of those times, this is that one beer.
I probably haven’t explained the flavor very much, but I really don’t think I can tell you much more. There is malt sweetness. There is alcohol warmth (but not full on heat, if that makes sense). There is a balancing bitterness with hints of earthy hops. There is a lot of vanilla like fermentation character.
And then there are all kinds of subtleties that are beyond my vocabulary to describe but well within my skill set to enjoy. There is a lot going on. This is definitely a case of one plus one equals a thousand. I don’t drink whiskey, but I think that I get a similar experience from this beer. And no, I don’t think it should be aged on oak. I don’t think that could add anything useful here. It would take away from what is already present.
Okay, I’m not done with this beer, but as is typical when I drink this, I want to savor it. I will be drinking this until I’m ready to go to bed. I may even take the last sip or two from bed. I can brush my teeth in the morning, right?