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Barley wine ale: Too good to miss

Our Journey

When it comes to barley wine ale, the British definitely had it figured out.  This historical brew made it to the Americas safe and sound, but has, naturally, been altered over time.  Not to say the results aren’t great because the brews that many new craft breweries are popping up with here in the United States are nothing short of amazing.  In fact, we’ve found several that come so close to the traditional types that we had to ask the brewmasters which style they were aiming for.  Most have said they are aiming for British-style barley wine ale because it’s quite popular and ages very well.

Barley wine ales were typically created as an ale that would age very well.  You have to consider, a few centuries ago they didn’t exactly have the preservation methods we currently enjoy.  This meant that ale had a pretty painful shelf life unless it was created in a manner that allowed for outstanding aging.  The same could be said of wines.  Barley wine ale was the answer for many at the time, and still is today!

You can age barley wine ale?

Barley wine ale ages very well and often results in aromas and flavor profiles that come out of nowhere to add honey sweetness, oak aromas, and a dulled bitterness that many enjoy.  Much like how an RIS ages well over time, merely losing a bit of bite, barley wine ale acts in the same manner, but is able to pick up some interesting characteristics from the container it is used to age in as well.

While oak barrels have typically been the go-to for most barley wine aging, that does not mean it cannot age well in the bottle as well.  In fact, it seems to do quite well in the bottle and the result is nearly the same, simply lacking much of the oak imbuement of aromatics.  After all, it’s aged in barrels to start either way and you’re still going to gain a bit of that aroma no matter what, so don’t be afraid to age your brews for a little while.  Drink one fresh, then another a week or two later, etc. to see how the aroma and flavor profiles change over time.  Then find that “sweet spot” that you like best and go with it!

What are some great barley wine ale labels to try?

Barley wine ales are made across the world.  Here we’ve listed a couple British-style barley wine ales we think you will enjoy.  We’ve certainly enjoyed learning how these ales have changed over time and we hope you get a chance to someday try the old-fashioned British versions often served in pubs across the pond.

  • AleSmith Brewing Company: Old Numbskull
    • AleSmith has created a barley wine ale that is absolutely delicious.  If you aren’t sure about aging an ale, this is a great place to start, because their barley wine ale ages quite well in the bottle.  The aroma will actually make your mouth water, even fresh, so be prepared to want more than one bottle of this outstanding brew.
  • North Coast Brewing Company: Class of ’88
    • This take on barley wine ale is definitely one you’ll want to check out.  We all know that North Coast is coming out with some great craft beer every year.  Many of their reserve offerings are ones you’ll want to age, as they openly state the brew gets better with aging.  The same is the case with this lovely barley wine.  We suggest buying a few and aging some of them to different dates.

There are plenty of brewers out there who are creating their own take on the classic British-style barley wine.  These two are just a couple of the great versions that are already available on the market.  We’d love to list all of them, but where would the adventure be in that?  Go out, explore, and let us know what else you find in your travels that really catches your interest.

In the meantime, we’re going to be right here in West Palm Beach.  Our opening in coming up fast in April and after receiving our tanks we were far too stoked to get everything put together, rather than creating a longer list.  Selfish, we know, but we hope to get this operation rolling so we an see all of you in April here in Florida.  Happy brewing everyone and keep checking back for more features!


Feb 22, 2017