Barley Wine, for a Barley Man

Being one of the Barley Men, I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on one of my favorite beers, the barley wine. The name, barley wine might, be a bit misleading. If you are new to beer, or are more of a wine enthusiast, this style of beer will might be a bit of a culture shock.

There’s enough information on barley wine’s out there to get you a full history on this wonderful concoction, so I will give you a brief history, as well as a few of my recommendations. Barley wines can vary in color, from a deep ruby to a dark brown, almost back. Though not originating in the United States, they have gained increased popularity therein. Most American Barley wines bare a distinction in their hoppiness (as many American craft beers do).

While not a wine in itself, they get their “wine” epithet due to their higher alcohol by volume (ABV). Like a wine, their bouquet and body can have varying degrees of depth and viscosity. Each one has its own distinct trinkets you can savor such as, caramel sweetness, toffee notes, vinous hints, and much more.  If that’s not enough, another similarity to wines can also be the cost.  Depending on aging techniques, locale, demand, etc., you can pay a minimum $8.99 to over $20.oo per bottle.

So where to start? I would recommend trying the least experimental first, to for ma base. From there, move on to the more experimental types. The following is a list of some of my favorites, and if you are thinking of trying a barley wine, wheat wine, or lager wine, keep on sampling. Sometimes the first taste isn’t what hooks you.

DISCLAIMER: These are only my top 10, there are may others that are up there, but I’ll let you explore.

jacks-abby-bride-makerJack’s Abby

Bride Maker

13% ABV

This, I found to be all around delicious. The sweetness was not overwhelming. I picked up on hints of  caramel vanilla. It had a bit of a  bourbonesque character too.


rockart-brewery-vermonsterRock Art Brewing


10% ABV

This is what one might accept from an American Barleywine, by that I mean it’s strongest characteristic is the hops. Don’t  let that scare you, this treat of a beer is deliciously sweet and balanced. There’s an almost nuttiness  the prevails at times. If you can find it, pick it up.


sierra-nevada-jack-and-ken-untappdSierra Nevada

Jack and Ken’s 30th Anniversary (Black Barleywine)

10.2% ABV

This one has it all; from the sweet fruity aroma, to the bitter hopped finish and roasted malt flavor. I was unable to get a second one to age, how unfortunate.


Goose Island

Bourbon County Brandywine

12.1% ABV

There are some things that make me mad at InBev, and this beer is one one them. It’s really good. You can expect a malty overtone. The body is thick, with a complimentary sweetness with a smooth finish.  GET TWO, one to drink now, and another to age until next year. It’s also pretty great on tap, thanks Brick Alley Pub.


Magic Hat Brewing

Humdinger: Graupel


So, yea, I went through a phase where Magic Hat wasn’t my favorite. This beer, however, this is what brought me back to Magic hat. The sweetness just danced on my tongue, and the complexity of the taste kept me sipping.


evil-twin-freudiant-slipEvil Twin

Freudian Slip


Another American Barley wine. There’s a very hoppy foretaste, with a very slightly sweet compliment. I was surprised at the lighter mouthfeel with the strong accompanying taste.



nogne-o-100Nogne O



I’m always impressed with Nogne O, and this just keeps the expectations heightened. With its full body, and chocolate malt notes, hints of a mocha aftertaste, and vinous nose; this will bring a smile to your face and warmth to your core.


smuttynose-wheat-wineSmutty nose

Barleywine Style ale (2013)

11.1% ABV

This was very enjoyable, with a rich malty sweetness. Great for any time of year.



firestone-sucaba-barleywineFirestone Walker

Sucaba (2015)


At time with a higher ABV, the booziness protrudes. There’s a bit of a tingly creamy taste  which is very pleasing to the palate. It finishes off with a maple syrup-like essence.


shipyard-pugsley-barleywineShipyard Brewing

Pugsley Signature Series: Barley Wine


This full bodied and sweet dried fruit nose with a warming finish. This Barley wine is smooth and thick, and goes well salted caramel brown ale ice cream



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