Original Post: Old SMaSHy 2014
Style: English Barleywine
Brew Date: August 13, 2014
Tasting Date: November 26, 2014
If you’ve never done it in such a high concentration, you will probably be surprised by how dark this 100% base malt beer is. Out of the light, it looks like a muddy maroon, close to brown. Held to the light, you can see orange highlights, but the middle of the glass is still much darker. When poured, it gave a small but dense head. It mostly died down pretty quickly, which is expected with a beer of this strength, but there are still bright white bubbles clinging around the edge of the glass.
Taking a whiff of the beer, I get dark, sweet fruit. Fruitcake. Plus some booze. Rum cake. Rum fruitcake. There are hints of vanilla and while they aren’t coming through strong, the earthy and spicy East Kent Goldings hops are putting up a valiant fight to stay in the game. They are noticeable, but I’m questioning whether the three ounce dry hop was necessary. Maybe I should have given them longer? Or done them in multiple additions? Anyway, time for a sip.
The hints of vanilla bloom into a full bouquet of beans. Soaking in booze. There is less fruitiness on the palate than in the nose, but the hops are still lurking. They bring some tea character towards the end of the sip as the vanilla starts to fade. Then, as I swallow, the bitterness from the hops comes in. Despite higher hopping rates, I can’t say that the hop character is much stronger than I remember it from last year’s batch, but the bitterness is definitely a lot more firm here. It helps a lot in the clean up after swallowing.
The terminal gravity of this year’s batch was significantly lower than 2013, but it does not seem any drier. With this concentration of malt, it just doesn’t seem to matter. I look forward to trying them back to back (though at 10.5 and 11%, it will take some advance planning), but these beers definitely have the same character. The higher bitterness in the finish on the 2014 version is the only immediately noticeable change. I may go back to the original hopping rate late in the boil and in the dry hop and just keep the extra bittering charge next year because I really don’t think it made much difference.
To be safe, though, I’m going to give the beer a chance to warm up a bit now before finishing these tasting notes off.
It’s been a little over twenty minutes, lets see how my half a glass of barley wine is doing. The glass is still cool, but there is a noticeable change in the aroma. The malt smells more bready and less fruity.
The flavors are still all there, but they have melded more. Instead of an initial hit of vanilla followed by hop bitterness, they both come on from the start along with a complex meddling of other characters. The tea like hop is edging more towards tobacco. The bitterness is much more prevalent. Overall, though, it is all the same the notes just rearranged. I would say it may actually seem slightly more harsh at the start now, but it also cleans up more thoroughly at the end.
I have a couple sips left, but I don’t think I have much else to say right now, so I’m going to end the tasting notes. I am actually very excited to do a vertical tasting and compare this back to back with the 2013 version to see how well my memory is holding up. Check back for that post soon.