Monday, March 24, 2008

The Season Is The Session

Now that winter is in the backfiles with all the other crimes of the moon, i'll let you in on a little personal exercise that i developed way back in November. Each season i plan to pick a style and sample at least 20 different examples in an effort to learn and understand the differences and similarites in a class of beers style by style. To see what winter was all about, click to

So i started with Barleywines. For me it was an obvious choice, i'd had many and liked most, but i was definitely ready for a bit of a deeper understanding. It would have been easy to start with stouts or porters and i'm sure it won't be too many winters until i get there.

But Barleywines just have this hold over me. They stand alone. The aroma draws your mind to a fargone time, one of wood and iron, one of hard work but delicate craftsmanship. A good barleywine is like and weekend i've always wanted to have: some cabin somewhere, heat from a fire, snowed in and slowly working through the rations, luckily there's a record player and a box of albums to take my mind off things.

That's a time to sip a barleywine.

Now if i was in a different situation, had a bit more access and funds maybe i’d dig even deeper and have stuck to English Barleywines. Or maybe i'd have isolated one Stateside region. Someday, i will set about that task for sure. I could only imagine 20 aged English style barleywines all in a winter's work. Maybe i should start a wish list.

In all, I went with what i could get my paws on and didn’t do too shabby of a job.I wasn't going to let a dinky bit of cold air stand in my way, so i started off in Chicago with the Illinois Craft Brewer's Guild at their 5th Annual Wood & Barrel Aged Beer Festival and later caught a great list of vintage bottles at Teresa's Next Door.

So, the list…no order, no ranking. JW Lee owns you clowns. Started at the fest in November of ’07 and finished at Craft Beer Fest in Philly on March 1st ’08.

1. Three Floyds Behemoth (aged on wood w/ cherries)
2. JW Lee’s ‘99
3. JW Lee’s ‘00
4. JW Lee’s ‘05
5. JW Lee’s ’06 (Port)
6. JW Lee’s ’06 (Calavados)
7. JW Lee’s ’06 (Lagavulin)
8. Rogue Old Crusty 2004
9. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot ‘06
10. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot ‘07
11. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot ‘08
12. Green Flash Barleywine
13. Arcadia Cereal Killer
14. Great Divide Old Ruffian
15. Stoudt’s Old Abominable
16. Anchor Old Foghorn
17. Victory Old Horizontal
18. Stone Old Guardian
19. Rock Art Ridge Runner
20. Rock Art Vermonster

I've got a big project going for spring that i just started in celebration of old world brewing seasons, more on that when i check in sometime in spring / summer. So stay tuned.

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