dsc01757Nobody likes drinking orange juice after brushing their teeth. The same general principle can be applied to beer…call it the Craft Beer Tiered Approach. Drinking massive beers with overpowering flavors and aromas followed up by relatively lighter offerings usually isn’t how most people do things. But sometimes, you just need to put the cart before the horse.

I’ve had a number of New Glarus offerings sitting in my cellar for a while, but for one reason or another haven’t gotten to them yet. Not sure why, since I’ve always heard pretty good things about these guys out of Wisconsin. I picked this one up from Chicone’s in Hudson, probably during the same run where I procured a handful of Dogfish Head, Stone and Tyranena stuff that’s either non-existent or hard-to-find around here. The day some of those breweries are distributed in the Twin Cities will be a good day indeed. I’ll be able to save on gas money, too. 

So I got home from work recently and wasn’t really in the mood for your standard IPA, or even easing into something a little more sessionable like a brown or ESB. No, I felt a little self-destructive. Like getting things started off on a big note. I turned to New Glarus Iced Barleywine, part of their Unplugged series where they let their brewers run amok and push the stylistic boundaries (similar to Tyranena’s Brewers Gone Wild line). Going back to the Tiered Approach concept, some might argue kicking off your evening with an extremely potent barleywine is the equivalent of palate-suicide, since every beer you have afterwards will taste distorted. But I said to hell with convention. I was going to pickle my senses with what was sure to be a unique beer experience.

New Glarus takes an interesting approach with this one, partially freezing the barleywine over a 12-week fermentation period to help concentrate and distill the flavor and alcohol. The result is a hugely intense beer, what I’d consider one of the sharpest tasting brews I’ve had in quite a long time.

Poured with a surprisingly big head considering the beer is 13.5% ABV. Deep ruby coloring and a massive nose of dark fruits and alcohol. Hops also in the mix, trending toward the American Barleywine side of the stylistic spectrum as opposed to more subdued English versions.

Taste up front is bready with significant overtones of the alcohol, which unfortunately is probably the dominating characteristic. I think in a couple years the alcohol will subside and reveal all that’s likely going on in the beer’s complexity. The bittering hops hit you pretty hard as well, especially in the finish. But aside from the alcohol and hop bite, there are some nice hints of prunes and anise floating around. Mouthfeel is OK, a little thin from the alcohol but I’m sure it will improve with time.   

Compared to other barleywines, not as balanced and smooth as Stone Old Guardian (basically my all-time favorite beer), but yet not nearly as horribly sweet and cloying as Rogue Old Crustacean. But I’d definitely try this one again, and plan to age the three other bottles I still have in my cellar for a few years to come.

Rating: B

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