Double The Fun

Friday, July 31, 2009

ATK-occasional Greg happened upon some of Long Trail (Vermont) Brewing Company's Double Bag Ale. He described it as, eloquently, "pretty good!" He passed me a couple of bottles and I am thrilled to give it a shot. It is described as an American Strong Ale, which is essentially a barleywine like I reviewed last week. And I like a good barleywine.

Double Bag poured a beautiful, crystal clear copper with a thin but resilient head, eggshell white, that faded to a lovely lacing across the top of the beer. The thin lace clung to the sides of the glass all the way down to the last drop. I never expected to see a barleywine so beautifully clear, and the high alcohol gives the beer a visible viscosity.

The aroma holds so much enticing promise. Apple cider. Caramel. A whole range of floral aromas. Toffee. And to top it all off, a lovely alcohol ester, heady and spicy. This had all the sticky-sweet aromas of a pastry shop; tiramisu and other boozy sweet surprises.

Big rich chewy malt greets my tongue, toasted grains, all fading to a lingering sweetness. The sweet is tempered by a tangy hop that tips the balance towards bitter. Not quite citrus, not quite earthy, but sharp on the tongue like black tea. The toasty grain and malt flavors hang on throughout the beer with the leafy hops as the fumy alcohol warms the body of the beer along the way. The beer, despite being served cold, is as warm and inviting as my best friend's dinner table.

The beer has body, but isn't syrupy. The alcohol is warming without being solventy, and lightens the body of the beer a bit, helping it be as drinkable as it is. Scrubby bubbles cleanse your tongue between quaffs, but just enough to add to the flavors of the beer. It is just a tad watery for a barleywine, but that's only a small mark against this otherwise very fine beer.

I really enjoyed Double Bag Ale. It was all the appropriate parts grainy, malty, bitter and warm. I can't figure out what the hell the label has to do with the beer, but maybe if I was a Vermont native I'd get it. Regardless of the label, this was a fun ride!


Sopor 11:28 AM  

Interesting! Sounds complex and very likeable. I would love to brew something like this for winter at MPBC. Perhaps I need to start a pilot batch...

So tell me Smitty... is there a difference between American Barleywine and American Strong Ale? And if not... why does the BJCP maintain both categories?

Smitty 2:23 PM  

The 09 guidelines have American Barleywine listed under the Strong Ale category.

Sopor 8:15 AM  

ah-hah. So Barleywine is a sub-category of American Strong Ale. Makes more sense now.

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