Here at the Cebruery, we have a soft spot for Barleywines. This style–which may actually date all the way back to the time of the ancient Greeks, who fermented a grain beverage called κρίθινος οἶνος, or “barley wine”–came to mass popularity in the 19th century in England, particularly with the aristocracy. Many barleywines at this time were similar to the highly hopped and well matured “old ales” that were used as one of the ingredients of the blended Porter that was so popular with the working class, though in this case it was being served without the cost-saving dilution and blending with weaker (and less expensive) mild ales. Introduced to the American public in the 1970s by Anchor Brewing Company, barleywines are often described as “Barleywine-style Ales” to avoid running afoul of regulatory concerns. Today, Barleywines can range in alcohol strength anywhere from 8 to 12% abv and up, and the American style tends to utilize significant (some might say silly) amounts of hops to impart bitterness and dank, resinous hop aromatics and flavors, whereas traditional English Barleywines are more malt forward, hopped just enough to keep the beer from being cloying.
In case the name doesn’t give it away, our American Woman Barleywine definitely falls in to the former camp. The dark copper hue is the result of an enormous grain bill–over 120 pounds of grain per barrel–with a significant portion being dark caramel and Victory malt. That dark caramel sweetness is more than balanced by the over 5 pounds of hops we use per barrel, however, including a staggering 3.5 kilograms in the last ten minutes of the boil and for dry hopping. This late hop bursting edition imparts an enormous amount of fat, juicy citrus, sharp, spicy pine, and leafy, herbal resinous overtones to the nose and flavor profile of this beer.
And even though the hops in this beer will fade with age, this beer itself won’t – American Woman Barleywine is designed to age for years, and will develop notes of stone fruit, sherry, and addition layers of malt complexity as this beer undergoes secondary fermentation in your bottle. So pick up a few bottles to lay down in your cellar for a year or so and compare them to future vintages – you won’t be disappointed!