Tag Archives: Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales

Barley Wine is the New Black

Craft beer seems to be following an interesting path lately in that new or re-discovered styles of beer become ‘trendy’. Once one of these ‘new’ beers hits the shelves all of a sudden every microbrewer is making a version to call their own –some recent examples include pumpkin ales, coffee stouts, fruit beers, white or wheat beers etc.

The first time I tried barley wine it was definitely a new experience and still somewhat novel but shortly after the flood gates opened and everyone and their dog was brewing up their version of a barley wine.  So I thought I would devote an entire post to this beer fad before it becomes passé.


First let’s talk about the barley portion of the barley wine. Barley [bahr-lee] is a cereal grain when malted forms the primary ingredient in beer.  According to Mosher in Tasting Beer, barley may just be the perfect brewing grain.  It contains a large reserve of starch that can be converted to sugar, a husk that functions as a filter bed and enzymes that do all the ‘work’ with only the addition of hot water.   The enzymes in the barley grain facilitate the malting, brewing and fermentation processes.  Barley for brewing comes in two forms, two-row and six-row, so named because of their appearance when viewed from above.  From a brewer’s point of view the main difference is the level of protein.  Malt beers tend to be brewed using the plumper, lower protein two-row variety while mainstream American beers use the less rotund six-row variety, which has extra enzymes to break down corn or rice starches.

Barley Wine is a style of strong ale originating in England.  According to CAMRA this style dates to the 18th century where it was the duty of the upper classes to drink ale rather than Claret during the war with France.  Barley wines were often stored for long periods of time -eighteen months to two years.  A barley wine typically reaches alcohol strength of 8 to 12% by volume and is brewed from specific gravities as high as 1.120.  This style is called barley wine because it can be as strong as wine but it is made from a grain rather than fruit.

Everything about a barley wine is big; big malt flavour, high alcohol content, a ton of hops and it takes time for these elements to blend into a full, complex and mellow drink. In terms of taste, one can expect massive sweet malt, ripe fruit, generous hops, pepper, grass, floral notes, chocolate and/or coffee.  In many ways barley wine is the cognac of the beer world; it can be successfully paired but it is truly meant to be savoured alone. Anchor Brewing Company introduced the style to the United States is 1976 with Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale.  Many micro-brewers now produce their interpretations of the style.

Some examples include: Driftwood’s Old Cellar Dweller, Rogue’s Old Crustacean, Brooklyn Monster Ale, Dogfish Head’s Olde School Barleywine, Deschutes Mirror, Mirror, Southern Tier’s Backburner, Full Sail’s Old Boardhead and many others.


Driftwood Old Cellar Dwellar: I would give this beer a 4 out of a possible 5

Rogue Old Crustacean: I would give this beer a 3.5 out of a possible 5

Descutes 2009 Reserve Mirror, Mirror: I would give this beer a 4.5 out of a possible 5


*Thanks to www.camra.org.uk, Randy Mosher 2009 Tasting Beer,http://beer.about.com, Barley Images courtesy of http://www.mosseolets-venner.no/mossol.htm


Tis’ the time for Seasonals

Christmas for the beer aficionado comes in the form of many wonderful seasonal and limited release beers lovingly prepared by our favourite breweries and ready to be sipped by the fireplace – yes even on weekdays.  Tonight’s selection is Dogfish Head’s Chateau Jiahu a painstakingly accurate recreation of a 9000 year old libation discovered from micro-analyses of pottery residue unearthed at Jiahu in the Yellow River.  While it never takes much to sway me to buy a Dogfish this combination of archaeology and beer science cuts straight to my anthropologically trained heart.  Chateau Jiahu is ale brewed with honey and hawthorn fruit and fermented with grape juice; for a detailed description of both ingredients and process please check out the Dogfish Head website.

Now to throw in my own ‘micro-analysis’.  This beer pours a strong bright yellow with a small amount of head.  The nose of this beer is nearly indescribable with an amazingly sweet scent coupled with an almost wine like fruit aroma.  At 10% ABV this ale packs a bit of a wollop and I do not think I would be finishing the entire pint on my own.  But all the better since this speacial unique beer deserves to be shared.  The complexity of this beer makes different stages of the glass takes on different tastes.  At first I felt that the beer was too sweet but as I drank and the weight of the alcohol kicks in and the fruits really change your palate.  Another lovely after dinner beer.  I really cannot say enough about the creativity driving the Dogfish brewers and their amazing attention to detail.  I am gonna have to get a better job to support my Dogfish Head habit…
Out of a possible five I give this beer a 4.5

Forays into IPA’s: Hopping my way through unchartered ales

IPA Night eh!

Lately I feel like my beer palate has been changing (evolving? de-evolving?) and I have found myself wanting to challenge my taste buds and get out of my comfort zone.  My mantra for a recent trip to the GCBF was not to pony up a token for anything a) I could readily get in a beer store and b) I would normally choose -hence the jalapeno and coconut taste trips.  Anyway an area of beer that I have tended to shy away from is the India Pale Ale.  When I first began to drink beer there was a taste I did not like but could not articulate and only later on found out that this taste was floral and the culprit was the pretty looking clusters known as hops.  Many people expound the wonders of the hop, and beers here on the NWC seem to have cultivated an unofficial cold war by continuously escalating the amount of hops per bottle yet I cannot say I understood what all the fuss was about.  Yet as my most wise mother asked if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you too and the answer is yes since I would be sad and lonely otherwise…duh.  So bring on the hops!

Coming chivalrously to my aid a generous friend offered me the opportunity to ‘jump off’ by arranging an IPA tasting.  During the evening we sampled Brasserie Dieu du Ciel Corne du Diable IPA, Dogfish 60min IPA, Swans Extra IPA, Lagunitas IPA Maximus Ale, Dogfish 90min IPA, Tree Hop Head and Green Flash Brewing Co. West Coast IPA.  Corne du Diable (Horn of the Devil) was dark reddish brown ale that left a nice web of lacing on the side of the glass.  Initially I got a nutty flavour with the hop taste following later.  This was a nice IPA intro with the hops not overpowering the other tastes in the beer.  Next we sampled Dogfish 60min a lighter IPA with a rich amber colour and balanced taste.  This beer was lighter in colour, taste and hops, and there was crispness to the ale that would lend it to food pairings.  The Swans Extra IPA was a tough swallow at first sip, hence the extra I guess, as the hop nose was strong with a definite grapefruit element.  This ale poured golden amber with little head.  I actually found this beer improved as you drank it and became accustomed to the complexities of a stronger hop.  Lagunitas was clear and golden with a real peppery bite.  I got a distinct floral soap taste at the first sip, which was somewhat off-putting but like a trooper I carried on.  So what else could I do but head back to Dogfish this time upping the ante to 90min.  This IPA was the best of the bunch for me; nicely balanced, the flower:soap ratio skewed to an appropriate level, and for the first time in the evening I could locate the malt taste despite the strength of the hops.  Now to Tree IPA with it’s predominate ‘hop head’ and distinct spicy element.  This beer was a clear reddish gold with minimal head.  It was a little overwhelming and I found it tougher to drink than the 90min.  We wrapped up our evening with Green Flash whose IPA was quite different in appearance; heavy on the sediment and cloudy (or maybe I was just at the bottom of the bottle end of the evening and all).  This ale was real hoppy and I had a tough time getting through a glass.  So what did I learn?  I like my hops tempered with other elements, I need my IPA’s to be balanced and smooth, I like flowers for smelling but not drinking, I like soap for washing but not drinking, I still do not like grapefruit (it’s genetic you know) and I do not think the more hops you cram into a bottle the better your IPA will taste.

Out of a possible five I would give India Pale Ales a 3.5; not my favourite beer style but not without its charms.

Dogfish Head Fort

The Dogfish Head Brewery website describes this as Belgian ale “brewed with a ridiculous amount of pureed raspberries (over a ton of them)” but perhaps what needs to be proclaimed a little more front and centre is the impressive 18% ABV.  I was holidaying stateside when I came across this beer in the local grocer and picked one up since Dogfish Head is always one of my go to breweries from whom I can try pretty much anything and not be disappointed.  After a quick review of the label for the alcohol content my partner and I decided how strong could it really be?  Of course we can split it before bed?!?…well consider yourself forewarned this is not the kind of beer you want to consume to top off your three mojito day.  Don’t get me wrong this ale was fantastic, a distinct liquor taste, lovely dark red colour, with just the right amount of sweet/tart to balance it out.  Ideally I would have split this bottle four ways; it would lend itself well to being swirled in a beautiful whisky glass and sipped not swilled.  I think that Dogfish’s recommendation to cellar a few bottles is a great idea as fort would only get better with age.  Another standout beer from a standout brewery and I am hoping to see this beer on our side of the border soon – it already has a bilingual label going on.

Out of a possible five I would give this beer a 4.5


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