Archive for March, 2007

Gnarleywine – Revisited

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Well it’s that right time of the year to taste the tastey tastes of the strong wintery brews. So, I decided it is time to break open another bottle of the Gnarleywine and see how it is developing.


The Gnarleywine was brewed at the beginning of October in 2006, so it is roughly five months old now. I have probably sampled about 10 bottles so far, each time a different experience. I poured this beer into a big snifter and served it at “room temperature”, roughly 65F. I served it so “warm” to really try and pull out all the flavors I could, similar idea to letting a good cheese come up to temperature or letting a red wine breath.

The beer pours a blood-orange-ruby-copper color, a little cloudy – or better yet, not crystal clear. There is no visible head and no obvious hint of carbonation. Just a little side note, the lack of carbonation has been the thing holding this beer back from making its debute. That is definetly a big issue with bottle-conditioning “big beers”. Back to the beer, the beer looks both inviting and dull – a lovely lingering mousey head that left lace on the glass would sell this beer ten fold.

The aroma is all sweetness and all hops. Actually a neat combination considering hops provide zero sweetness to the beer. The sweetness reminds me of caramel, candied apple, and melting raw sugar. The apparent hop aroma consists of ripe oranges and spicy cookies, like ginger snaps, or the smell of a cloved orange thrown into a wassel.

The mouthfeel is degraded because of the lack of carbonation. But beyond that, the beer is thick and syrupy with a palate burn from both the alcohol and the high hopping levels. About the consistency of maple syrup cut 50% with water. Actually quite nice for a barleywine, but carbonation would benefit and so would some aging to help lessen the alcohol burn.

The flavor reminds me of Sierra Nevada’s Big Foot on a bad day. It’s rich, it’s toffee, it’s sweet, it’s bitter, it’s citus, it’s boozy, it’s . . . a barleywine. There is a little bit of an unbalanced “twang” that hits in the after swallow – something to do with the alcohol or the high hopping rate perhaps, not a negative just persistant.

I could easily enjoy one of these as a night cap or as a special treat with a nice heavy cheese plate or small rich dessert. Unfortunetly, I am going to continue to tuck this back, either until the carbonation comes up or until I decide it isn’t going to come up (can anyone say Double Dubble?). So, theoretically a “big beer” is going to become a yearly venture. 2006 was definetly an American Barleywine, 2007 an English Barleywine, after that . . . Old Ales, Wee Heavies, Russian Imperial Stouts, Imperial Whatever-The-Heck-The-Biggest-Rage-Is-Brew – personally I still like to enjoy my beer though.