This week’s Canada’s Craft Beer post comes from our Atlantic Canada craft beer guy, Todd Beal. This week Todd checks out two beers with the unusual name of barleywine, from Tatamagouche Brewing Co. and Garrison Brewing.
This month I venture to the boozy side of the beer family. Despite the name, barley wine, also barleywine, is a beer, but a very strong beer ringing in between eight and 12 percent alcohol by volume. The story goes that the name came from brewers wishing to compete with grape wine.
There are two types of barley wine, American and English. Both are malt forward but the American shows some hop bitterness. Unlike other strong beers the malt bill is simple — more like a pale ale — and is fermented for months rather than a week or two. This beer is quite suitable for aging, and in fact is usually aged prior to sale; breweries will usually put the vintage year on the bottle because of it. If cellaring these beers, their flavours will mellow over time giving a different experience or taste profile.
The two barleywines I'm profiling were released during the past winter, which is the norm for this type of ale. Both breweries are in Nova Scotia with one being new and one old.
Tatamagouche Brewing Co. — Giantess Barley Wine
Tatamagouche Brewing is on the north shore of Nova Scotia and is hometown proud with its logo, a two-headed calf, coming from local lore. The Giantess Barley Wine is part of the Giant Beer Series and is named after Anna Swan, Tatamagouche’s famous Giantess.
The ale pours a clear dark amber with an off-white, long-lasting head. The aroma's sweet malty, a bit toasty with some fruity character. It's very easy drinking given the high ABV, giving flavours of fruit, sweet malt and a very slight bitter and boozy finish .
11% ABV | 90 IBUs | Available NS
Garrison Brewing — Ol' Fog Burner Barley Wine
Garrison Brewing is celebrating its 19th year in business this year and is one of the most successful brewers in the province. Their 2015 release of Ol' Fog Burner won a silver medal at ACBA and a bronze medal at the CBA. This year's release was part of a Cellar Series highlighting its strong robust beers.
The ale pours a copper colour with a nice creamy off-white head that lasts. On the nose is molasses, toffee, malt, dark fruit and boozy. The taste is molasses, malty and sweet with a slight bitter finish and of course a warming.
10.5% ABV | Available NS
The proper glass to drink barleywine is a pint glass or a snifter. Serve on the warm side at 14 to 16 degrees Celsius.
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Todd Beal follows the craft beer scene closely in the Canadian Maritimes and reports on it weekly on his blog, Maritime Beer Report. He’s frequently asked to comment on television, newspapers and magazines as a craft beer expert. He can be heard Friday afternoons on News 95.7 commenting on beer. Visit his blog and follow him on Twitter @MaritimeBeerRpt.