FrontRunner: Robust Brews

<< Back to Robb Report, September 2004
  • Jessica Merrill

Barley wine, an English-style brew, has more in common with lager than Cabernet, although its association with wine does not end with the name.  Because barley wine has a high alcohol content (about 10 percent compared to 3.5 percent to 5 percent for most lagers) and is made with more hops than a typical beer or ale, it ages well and develops nuances over time. Barley wine tends to gain more depth and complexity with age, as the malt and fruit flavors are enhanced and the hops recede.
 
While the American brewing industry has long promoted the virtues of freshness, many microbreweries are following in the footsteps of their English and Belgian counterparts by developing barley wines intended for the beer cellar.

Stateside barley-wine brews include Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Brooklyn Brewery Monster, Rogue Old Crustacean, Anchor Steam Old Foghorn, and Dogfish Head Olde School. For an original English version, consider J.W. Lees Harvest Ale. While all varieties age differently, some barley wines can be cellared for as long as 35 years.

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