If you have ever read this blog before, you know that I do enjoy my barleywines. Something about the style makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. That something would probably be the higher alcohol content that comes with barleywines, but that is only an educated guess. That said, let’s take a walk down memory lane with this guy, straight from Brooklyn. Enter the Monster Ale:
Quite some time ago, around 2003 or so, I discovered Monster Ale for the first time. In my beer infancy, this beer was something of the holy grail for me, only due to the fact that it had the highest ABV that I had ever seen in a beer. Little did I know that I would discover a style that I would still enjoy to this very day.
The ale pours a nice ruby/amber in your goblet, with barely if any head leftover. But appearances are not why we drink, right? This barleywines scent is not too strong, with just a tiny bit of sweet fruit smells. But the taste, is something a little different. This beer hits you up front with a sweet taste, and smooth malt flavors with a slight alcohol burn at the end. But that is about it. Nothing too much standing out with this English barleywine. I should point out that this is from 2010, for those keeping score out there.
As barleywines go, Monster Ale holds a special place in my beer drinking heart, for being my first barleywine. But, this beer does not really deliver as much as I remember. For this style, there are far too many superior brews that deserve your money. One that comes to mind for an English barleywine would be Anchor’s Old Foghorn. Well out of the price range of Monster Ale, but if you are going to do an English barleywine, you might as well do it right.
Overall, it was nice to take a stroll down memory lane, but this beer fails to make any new memories with me.
There are a lot of beer companies that I have had and then forgotten about. Sometimes, you are at a bar and there is a special beer on tap, so you have a glass and it’s the most amazing beer that you have ever tasted. A lot of times, it fades to the back of the mind due to other circumstances, ex. events, conversation, too much to drink, etc. Sometimes you pick up a random bottle or two of a far off distant company, enjoy the beer, and then forget all about it. That happened to me with this company, Great Divide Brewing. Not that the beer was forgettable, just that I could not remember the company name…
My first dance with Great Divide came in the form of their Oak Aged Yeti imperial stout. An amazing beer that was big in flavor, that always stuck in the back of my mind. The problem was I could not remember who made it, I could only remember the clever name of it, due to me being a Sasquatch enthusiast. Sure I could have looked it up, but sometimes I am a bit lazy I guess. Anyway, while scanning the beer isle at my local grocer, I spied with my little eye this dandy of a brew:
Old Ruffian barleywine style ale.
Barleywines are one of my all time favorite styles of beer. My very first taste into the complex world was from Brooklyn Brewing with their Monster Ale, back in 2003. From then on, I have searched out for more and more barleywine ales to quench my thirst. Enter this beer…
At first taste, the familiar flavors of a barleywine hit you, but this beer hits you with a hint of hops. The label of the beer says a “huge hop character,” but I would not go that far. When I think of huge hops in a barleywine, I immediately think of Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot ale, which punches you in the taste buds with hop flavor. With GD’s Old Ruffian, the hops are more subdued, which makes this beer more drinkable in my opinion. I should point out though, when I say “subdued,” that is only in comparison to SN’s Bigfoot. The beer does boast 90 IBUs, which definitely puts it in the “hoppy” category.
The major difference of this barleywine compared to others that I have had though, is it is more balanced, drinkable, and smooth. All of the ingredients in this beer work well together, each one complimenting the other. I would go as far as calling it a more refined Bigfoot ale. That is in no way a knock on either beers, but at first taste, side by side, Old Ruffian will be easier and more enjoyable to drink. This is now the beer I am going to recommend to folks when they want to try out the style. Hands down, best barleywine that I have ever tasted.
Now that this beer is under my belt, I don’t believe that I will be forgetting the Great Divide name any time soon. And also, for style points, I need to pick up one of these:
Well done, now I need to go on a beer run…
Cycling jersey photo from Great Divide’s site.