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It’s Super List time again. This is the monthly post where we share our top beers, which are defined by a “Super” rating in Tammy’s beer journal. Visit our introductory post for a more thorough explanation of the series, but let’s get on to the beers.
The theme this time around seems to be big and beautiful, with several barleywines in the list this month. The strong, heavy style is not a typical choice for spring but we admit to being big beer people (meaning people who are into big, flavorful, strong beers, not people who are large in size ourselves).
If you have had any of these beers, let us know what you thought.
À l’Abri de la Tempête Corps Mort (in bottle at Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont) – This 9%-ABV morbid mouthful from Quebec poured a crystal clear orange amber and had a thin, rimmed cream head. It smelled and tasted like the best parts of a hearty, but not heart healthy, breakfast: bacon and maple syrup with a splash of bourbon. For a barleywine, it had some nice smoky flavors and a typical boozy finish.
The Bruery Rugbrød (in cask at Galaxy Hut) – This murky, medium brown Scandinavian Julebryg-style Christmas beer rings in at 8% ABV. It had aromas of cola, spice, coffee, and raisin bread and tasted surprisingly sweet, with a toffee backbone and some bitter coffee flavors towards the end. Pronouncing it? Pretend you’re clearing your throat and you’ll be about as well off as these people.
Mikkeller Funky (E) Star (in bottle at the Birch & Barley Mikkeller Dinner) – This 9.4%-ABV Belgian ale brewed with Brettanomyces poured a clear amber brown with orange hues. The Easter beer’s lacing, foamy cream head helped deliver a lovely nose with tons of orange, honey, and some mango. It tasted as it smelled, absolutely delightful. The Easter bunny can leave one of these holiday beers in our basket any day.
HaandBryggeriet Norwegian Wood (in bottle at the National Geographic Society Scandinavian Beers Seminar with Garrett Oliver) – This complex smoked beer smelled like tangerines and tropical fruit with a touch of tobacco. The flavor profile went from fruit to hops and then from malt to smoke. The beer was interesting but balanced, with a charred aftertaste and quite a bit of heat from the alcohol, despite only a 6.5% ABV. It’s brewed with juniper twigs. Smoke on that.
Nils Oscar Barley Wine (in bottle at the National Geographic Society Scandinavian Beers Seminar with Garrett Oliver) – This beautiful, bright orange amber beer was sweet and strong. It smelled like tangerines and vanilla and tasted fruity, hoppy, and alcoholic. It could have been a beer mirage so late in the tasting, but we thought we detected some cantaloupe in the aftertaste. We were impressed with the balance of this 9.5%-ABV English-style barleywine. Not your uncle’s beer, but Nils Oscar was named after the Swedish brewer’s uncle.
Heavyweight Brewing Old Salty Barleywine 2004 (in bottle at a friend’s house) – This 10%-ABV barleywine from New Jersey’s defunct Heavyweight Brewing Company was a hazy, resin-like amber and had plenty of sediment (what we like to call “floaties”). It smelled like our favorite kind of barleywine, lots of butterscotch and carmelized sugar, and tasted just as it smelled, very sweet with the addition of dark fruit. It had a warm and boozy but smooth finish. Thanks to Mike for sharing this retired champ.
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2005 (in bottle at a friend’s house) – This renowned English brewery’s barleywine was aged in Lagavulin whiskey casks. It smelled like orange slices soaked in sweet whiskey and as a result, was strong and fruity with lots of warmth and the perfect touch of smoke. Thanks to Rob for sharing this rare beauty. It is one of the best beers we’ve ever had.
Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter (on draft at ChurchKey) – The talented brewers at Flying Dog in Frederick, Maryland, aged this 9.5% Baltic porter-style ale for seven months in new whiskey barrels from Colorado. The smell and taste had predictable coconut, wood, and whiskey flavors over the usual dark chocolate, but each in a delectable amount and combination. This beer is one of the reasons we have been on a barrel-aged porter/stout kick this spring.
Devils Backbone Three Ridges Tripel (on draft at Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland, Virginia) – This 8.5%-ABV Belgian-style tripel was on the sweet, fruity side of the spectrum, but done exceptionally well. We noted distinct flavors of honey, crisp apple, spice, and pear. It was one of those beers that was so good, the notes are little more than a lot of general exclamations like “GREAT,” written in capital letters with lots of exclamation points. A good one, to say the least.
Photo by Bernt Rostad used under a Creative Commons license