The Fruit of the...Stalk?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Barleywines are a favorite of mine. Big, huge malty sweetness and heavy hops combine to make a syrupy, high-gravity beer fit for kings. But in the latest issue of Beer Advocate Magazine (subscribe to this magazine right now, by the way), one of their astute authors penned (do we pen things any more?) an interesting article about wheat wines. Essentially, they are a little more mellow than their barleywine bretheren, have that great wheat characteristic present in so many luscious wheat ales, and hit just as hard with the big abv.

Fortunately, I didn't have to search far for a shining example. Oades Big 10 on Clippert had several bottles of New Holland Brewing Company's Pilgrim's Dole. Funny enough, this beer has been around for a while. But until your eyes are opened to something new, you pass it right by. I bought it in a 22-oz. bomber and shared it with a good friend who claims to enjoy the big barleywines.

The wheatwine poured a beautiful, cloudy copper, almost like a burnished copper that you'd find on a countertop or plate. From there, the foam cascaded like Guinness along with some of the particle-sized sediment. That cascading action just beakons you to drink; it's like it pulls your mouth to the bottom of the glass.

A sniff yielded a dizzying display of ripe fruits; I got pineapple, ripe strawberry...think ripe, tart fruits. Underneath that is this really mellow vanilla or toffee aroma to smooth it all out. You know...that kind of mellow sweetness that's not cloying but sweet enough to balance the tartness of the fruity/wheaty armas. The backbone is certainly the malted wheat aroma you'd find in any great American Wheat Ale. A scant hop bitterness and alcohol spiciness peeks through the other aromas at the end.

Now the taste is something fantastic. Tangy malted wheat mixes with those mellow vanilla flavors to combine on your palate like a cognac or smooth bourbon. The wheat produces a nice graininess, and the tang is not overpowering. I can't detect any of the vague astringency you can get from malted wheat...it's all just so mellow. New Holland's choice of hops for this beer, along with the alcohol content, form a beautiful spiciness that finishes the beer through to the end on your palate. It's smooth and slightly syrupy like a high-end cognac, coating your whole mouth with the flavors that slowly burn off your tongue as you rest between quaffs; nicely medium-heavy body and just carbonated enough to help cleanse the palate between each drink.

This beer is truly a winner. It's so much less cloying or heavy than a barleywine can be and is a pleasant addition, in terms if its drinkability, to the extreme-beer craze that has striken craft brewers.

6 comments:

Sopor 4:32 PM  

Once again, New Holland Brewing Company comes out of nowhere with an incredible brew! NHBC realy is one of my favorite breweries period, and this beer is one of the reasons why. I fell in love with this stuff when I first tried it at The Festival Of The Sun in Lansing in like 2004. I wasn't anywhere near as much of a beer geek then as I am now, so what really blew me away was the mouthfeel. It was like syrup compared to everything else I've ever had!

I've had another Wheat Wine from NHBC in their pub once, called Flying Dutchman. Unfortunately it was a one-off that was simplyleft over from being brewed to blend with something else. It was amazing though, I'll have to link to my review of it when I get home.

I've got a bottle of the 2006 (I think, maybe 2007?) Pilgrim's Dole chillin' in m cellar at home. I'm tempted to crack it tonight! Also have a bottle of their Existential Hopwine, and I think I have another bottle of the DoppelBock too. Man they make good beer!

Mike 9:43 PM  

Dude, your beer writing is top-fucking-notch. When are we getting your beer writing i Beer Advocate?

And, yes, I have had two barleywines me'self -- Sierra Bigfoot, Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot -- and 1/2 of a Great Divide Hibernation Ale, but that doesn't mean my opinion isn't worthy, does it?

(Makes me drunk, but not unworthy of an opinion.)

Smitty 10:24 PM  

I gotta tell you, sopor, MHBC is in danger of replacing Founders as my personal favorite. I have met one of their head brewers, Bret Vanderkamp, several times and he is one cool dude. He is an accurate reflection of their beers.

Mike: thanks dude! I take that as an extremely high compliment. Your beer reflections and opinions are more than welcome here...it's a communal keg, after all.

Sopor 9:16 AM  

Dude totally. Founders makes some great beers, don't get me wrong. They've got the whole "extreme beer" thing to a "T", in that they make some more "extreme" beers than the average brewery, but they don't go over the top with it.

NHBC on the other hand producers more "normal" beers, in that they fit the style guidelines a little better and don't push the envelope as much. They are damned good beers, and all stand out for their incredible balance and artful execution, they're just not extreme. And I really appreciate that!

These two breweries complement each other well, and just up until recently, NHBC's pub kicked Founder's pub's ass! Now I'd have a hard time choosing which to visit!

Rickey Henderson 1:46 PM  

Sounds tasty indeed to Rickey...

Bob "Chief Beer Advocate" 8:37 AM  

I thought Smitty had drank every beer. Good to see the reviews are back.

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