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CBoTB: Barleywine

Wintertime in Baltimore.  Snow on the ground.  Icy winds.  Bitter cold.  And the perfect time to drink a Barleywine.    

If you’re not familiar with Barleywine, it’s simply another style of beer and falls into the Ale category.  Like most beer, Barleywine is made with barley malt, hops, yeast and water. However, Barleywine has an alcohol content that is closer to what wines have, reaching up to 15%, with most between 10-12%.  Barleywines history traces back to the 18th century when English brewers started making much higher alcohol ales and aged them in wooden casks, a process that is speculated to have led to the Barleywine name. 

There are two broad styles of Barleywines, both showcasing the malts in the beer.  The English style has minimal hop flavors and is malt-forward with color ranging from red to almost black.  American Barleywine allows the hops to be present in the beer, but will still have a strong malt backbone and will be amber to brown in color.  With all this in mind, it’s important to note that this is broad look at Barleywine.  In today’s deeply creative craft beer world, there are no rules and the best brewers are developing fascinating, delicious versions of every beer, including Barleywine!

Barleywine typically has less carbonation than other ales, carries cognac qualities, and has a sweetness to it.  It’s best served in a snifter or tulip glass and is best enjoyed in small sips, much the way you would drink scotch whiskey, bourbon or cognac.  And like those distilled spirits, Barleywine’s higher ABV lets it age well.

So now it’s time to try one!  Here are a two American craft beers in the Barleywine style, each an excellent example of their interpretation of this marvelous beer:

  • Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale from Anchor Brewing, a 10% ABV craft beer brewed in the English tradition. This is an outstanding American version of the English style Barleywine.
  • Chessie from Union Craft Brewing. This 9.8% American style Barleywine is one of Union’s gems, typically not getting a lot of attention because of Barleywine’s unique style in craft beer.  It is a wonderful beer and should be drank slowly and savored.

It’s another Winter weekend for all of us.  Warm-up with a Barleywine!



100.7 The Bay’s Craft Beer Guy


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