Ohhhh man. Barley wine! They're a rare treat around here in Smashin' Transistors land. One reason is that they're not something you see just at any random store. Another reason is that they're usually an occasional or season thing for most breweries. Usually packed with sweetness and a high alcohol count they can be thick and syrupy laying down some major hurt the next day. Moderation is the key as usual but doubly when it comes to them.
When it comes to suggesting a barley wine to a first timer Olde School from Dogfish Head is always at the top of my list. It is sweet but not way to syrup like, packs a 15% abv and sports one of Jon Langford's country music art pieces on it's label (which makes it 100% more bad ass than any other barley wine out there just based on it's cool factor alone). We're talking on of the kings of the style here.
Deep and clear amber color and a fizzy head and some serious lacing clinging to the side of the glass all the way through. Quite a few levels in the aroma. Apricot, green apple, toffee, sweet malts, some piney hops and, yes, many an alcohol fume on the nose. Reminds me some really fancy brandy or something like that.
The thing that jumps out the most on an initial sip is a bittersweet sting and a whole lotta warmth that doesn't seem to come from the alcohol but from the blast of flavor that comes out all the way through the glass. When it's cooler malt, caramel and sour fruits lays it down heavy then as it warms it takes on more of a dark fruit and spicy, hinting at a Belgian Quad ale or almost a cognac, flavor. It's finishes full and bold but it's stickiness doesn't coat the tongue and the back of the throat too thickly. We had a slight bit of snow flying around this evening. I'm looking out the window, sipping this and smiling because even if the heat wasn't turned on this is keeping me warm.