Turning Barley Into Wine

Friday, July 24, 2009

I have been aging a bottle of Weyerbacher's Blithering Idiot, which is their Barleywine Ale. A Barleywine is the opposite of a Double or Triple IPA; where those are hop bombs, these are typically malt monsters. But like a DIPA or a TIPA has malt to provide a hint of balance, barleywines should have some hop presence for that same suggestion of balance. Funny enough, my mother in law picked this up for me on a trip to Florida recently because she thought the name and the bottle were funny.

I poured the beer into an Imperial pint glass. It was a light muddy brown with ruby red hues when held against the light, with some dusty sediment (perfectly fine and natural for a beer like this) that got stirred-up when I opened it. It poured with a thick, fluffy meringue-like head, but unfortunately it dissipated very quickly to almost nothing but some lacing on the top.

The aroma packed a wallop of massive dark, ripe fruit esters: dates and figs and plums. Another smell yielded chocolate. Yet another: brown sugar. But after a few good whiffs, my head spun from the unmistakably dominant alcohol. The booze in this beer, at over 11%, provided peppery spice and an unfortunate solventy aroma to the beer. It wasn't quite "dark fruit and sugar covered in turpentine, but it was approaching that.

My first quaff stung my tongue with alcohol. My taste buds were assaulted by massive dark fruit backed by a huge alcohol burn. This beer is Darwin's dream: only the strongest and fittest flavors survive the alcohol onslaught. Massive malty sweetness, almost cloyingly so, competes rum, raisins, dates and coffee; no light flavors here. Remember the days of jungle juice at a college party, where all you tasted (if you were lucky) was fruit soaked in booze? That's this beer: big dark fruits soaked in rum and vodka. Carmelized brown sugar pokes through the mess as well. And there, somewhere, was a lonely hop screaming for help, drowning in a sea of maltiness. Not even enough of a hop to add bitterness or balance; just a lonely little hop, as if someone begrudgingly added hops because beer is "supposed to have them." This beer is a malt hammer on the anvil of my tongue.

The beer had a massive, creamy mouthfeel with light carbonation. The heavy malts added lots of body to the beer, and the alcohol, while predominant, was still pleasantly warming all the way down like a shot of scotch.

I should have cellared this for a lot longer, like a year. Perhaps the alcohol would have subsided a bit and some of the bigger flavors would have mellowed. At 11%+, this is a beer that can handle a cellar for a loooong time and maybe even benefit from it. It had qualities that I enjoy in a big malt bomb barleywine, with all the sugars and big fruits, but the alcohol just rode roughshod all over everything. This barley field just got trampled by heavy cavalry. I would have liked more hops to provide the illusion of balance and perhaps they would show more if I aged it. Perhaps not. I will definitely get another bottle, and just store it.


Mike 9:40 PM  

I had this one a while back and don't really remember what I thought.

Sopor 9:58 AM  

Hmmmm Bliterhing Idiot. I snagged one of these bottles a while ago and it sat in my cellar for over a year. Thinking back to what I thought and comparing it to your notes, cellaring is probably the way to go.

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