I feel like I’m just supposed to automatically like this beer. Super intense hops, crazy malt, and an ABV to sterilize most minor cuts and scrapes. But I just can’t get into it. Which troubles me, since everyone on Beer Advocate gushes about this one. Sometimes I wonder if reviews on BA suffer from the snowball effect…the first posters set the tone for all the rest, and you end up with a pretty consistent (and potentially inaccurate) number of “A” or “B” ratings throughout.  

Purchased in a 750 ml bottle bearing a 2008 born-on date, so maybe too green to truly appreciate. I know many people cellar these, which is what I probably should have done. Pours with just about zero head, which is to be expected with an 11.5% ABV. Very rich mahogany coloring.

I almost can’t begin to describe what comes through in the nose. First its the hops. 120 IBUs worth of hops. Enought to put tears in your eyes. Very piney. Then it’s a burning solvent scent. The alcohol is very present. If you dig a little deeper, you start to get a combination of sweet scents, maybe toffee. When you swirl the beer around in the glass, it looks like viscous, melted caramel sloshing around.

As expected, the taste is extremely bitter, which I can deal with. But it’s also a bit like cough syrup. Maraschino cherries. Ironically, on a couple occasions it irritated my throat and forced me to cough. The taste (and the aroma, for that matter) reminds me of an Imperial Stout I made last winter. Nobody really cared for it, including me. It was like drinking straight malt extract.  

Overall, I think what turns me off is that this beer is just too intense in every respect. It took me nearly six innings of the Twins game to finish one glass. And not because I was trying to savor it. I’d like to say it’s not balanced, like pushing all the bass and treble levels to high on your equalizer. But I think it actually is. It’s just that every element of this beer is there in its maximum capacity. Too much going on, even for a guy that likes complex beers.

I’m trying to take a step back and separate my personal reaction from how this beer stands up stylistically. So, I’m not going to destroy it, but I’m not going to recommend it.

Rating: B- (with the caveat that this is probably a very good barleywine)

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