This @destihlbrewery collab with @binnysbev is pretty deece, it’s not not deece. Please understand I mean this relative to other barrel aged barleywines, which is to say it is still better than almost every other thing you could buy at a big box alcohol retailer. Just by virtue of even deciding to make a bourbon aged barleywine you know Destihl gets it.
The issue arises because it’s a demanding style and you inevitably get compared globally to some of the most insane beers within the segment. It’s got some of the more expected bites, Riesin candy, prunes, fig Newton’s, but it has this crackly sharp astringency that become more pronounced at higher temps. It’s not like the full on twang of Sherry, but it’s on that route.
Ultimately it’s a pretty good but not great example of the most competitive segment you can seek to enter. With every passing can the public becomes more steeped in sticky malt runnings.
NORTH CAROLINA FreeKaleek alert: Ok so @dssolvr AFTER is a solidly made, conceptually ambitious pastrywine, but I don’t much care for it. By way of background, the Dssolvr kolsch is simple and refreshing so it’s not a lack of ability. Wooden teeth was arguably my favorite beer of 2020, so it’s not depth. The problem lies in conceptual execution. They added coconut and vanilla to a solid barleywine base and the result is subtraction by addition.
Pastry barleywine is almost never better than just the OG base. That’s one of the best things about barleywine, you never see minor variants artificially throttled for max profits. Barleywine usually just is, and it’s the palates that have to conform. It isn’t a malleable protean affair trying to mimic some dessert case offering. It’s first and foremost barleywine, and the consumer is the one that has to adapt. This is the reason confectionary Barleywines will never sell for $500, because they don’t court the disposable incomes that dudes wearing Chunky Dunks will drop.
The beer itself is snickerdoodle and sugar cookie, the vanilla has a waxy lipgloss aspect like cream soda. The coconut with the base beer unfolds like angel food cake if you poured a shot of jim beam on it. It’s a merger of worlds I am not ready for. Neophytes love the simplicity of desserts. The brain runs on glucose and no matter how full you are, base instinct will allow you to eat dessert. That’s the reason for its placement at the end of a meal. However, I want barleywine to be the entree.
I’m sure there are 14 year old girls who love Machine Gun Kelly playing a pink guitar with Blackbear. It’s sticky sweet. I would submit that I enjoy different things than some distance learning generation Z palate, despite being a tiktok attention seeking trash person myself. People will love this beer, I recommend sticking to the base and their fantastic clean offerings. Now let’s all unite and find that piece of garbage who punched Rick Moranis.
Most people know @cigarcitybrewing for Hunahpu or Jai Alai, and that’s fine. It’s kinda like only knowing Nirvana for Nevermind and not listening to Unplugged in New York: you’re missing out on something amazing. Their barleywine program runs deep. Cigar City crushes the strong ale game and has had a resurgence in the malt game as of late that Catador Members have been secretly sucking down like teens polishing off champagne glasses at a wedding. We all know what you are up to.
Charleywine is a collab with @magnanimousbrewing brewing. The eponymous Charlie Meers rocks drug rugs, probably wears Vibrams and looks like he wants to discuss Phish phantasy tours from the mid-2000s with you. You can close your eyes, see the System of a Down blacklight poster and just know what that 8th grade bedroom smells like.
Magnanimous is right next to Garagiste and Hidden Springs, so you would assume they are dripping in residual sugar and epipens. Paradoxically, they pivot to make resinous haze and strong ales that have a drier finish. It’s sheer irony that Magnanimous is in the same state notorious for some of the greediest beer traders this side of St. Louis.
But is this real Life? Yes, it is so so well done. If you had CCB Cyclopaedia and hit those waves of caramel apple sucker, you know this boozey treat is warming up your clavicle. Sees butterscotch lolipops will cut your mouth, but its worth it. Apple brandy and rye barrels push/pull to add this peach fritter, floral, potpourri aspect to a tightly wound pumpernickle body. It’s waves of flavor in a compact package. The Jon Snow of barleywines.
It’s the type of barleywine for the dude who has consistent unprotected sex with bumble dates and says “not looking for anything serious” then orders a Deleuze and Guattari book he will never read. It’s the cool mom who lets kids get ripped on apple pie moonshine in the basement because “as long as they’re doing in under my roof it makes me feel better.” It’s complex but unrefined.
Beers like this demonstrate barleywine’s superiority over adjunct stouts in a way that almost makes you feel bad for people who haven’t gotten there yet. Barleywine is for us.
When you’re a little kid you learn that cows have four stomachs. The largest stomach is the rumen and it serves as a living fermentation vat. This evolutionary advantage converts fibrous, husky, plant material into fatty acids. Cows turn worthless fescue in coveted thick mass. It’s the conversion that matters. Urban Roots produced a base barely, Summer Life, that wasn’t as worthless as yard trimmings, but it needed to roll around in an oaky rumen. Sometimes that rest and depth that is added to a barleywine’s rich malty structure provides the incredible aesthetic value that converts it from bermuda to wagyu. This beer has been tramsuted into A5 by virtue of a barrel rumen.
Sure, the base beer was fine. However, the barrel aged version has elevated itself into that realm of accessible, unassuming, low cost, incredibly high quality barleywine in the same realm as Royal Oil, Straight Jacket, and Sucaba. The beer has this toasted sunflower seed and banana bread that is a touch bitter at first. It’s not astringent but it underscores a hoppybackend like your stepdad’s New Balances streaked with chlorophyll. The body is incredible carved and lean, pandoro with agave nectar drizzle, and a swallow that is honey roasted walnuts with a kiss of Bit O’ Honey, those terrible candies that still exist that no one buys but there they are, right next to the Circus Peanuts and the SNO CAPS.
This beer is particularly dangerous because you can mow through the complexity quickly due to the low residual sugar and oiled leather finish. It’s the barleywine you give to the guy who says “wont get far without these” and grabs his keys. It’s approachable enough for guys who have kept their wide leg Tommy carpenter jeans long enough to accidentally be in style again. It is summer ale in the way that a server nods and splits a check between five maskless pet nat drinking women at brunch, cumbersome but obliging.
So many barleywines that hit market are balls of cud. Most people think of grassy Bigfoot wads of pine and regurgitated malt when barleywines are offered. Beers like this transmute those palates into meat loving, grass fed, ruminant worshiping hindus of malty sacrifice. The conversion is the journey, and it is worth passing through the cicerones’ four stomachs.
Coconuts are in the drupe family, from the Portugese word coco meaning “skull.” They are indigenous to Lake Zurich, Joliet, and the tropical neighborhood of Woodland in south Chicago. The coconut ripes and forms a surrounding husk to prevent wildlife from foraging its sweet interior juices.
Hype breweries have to endure a similar teleology. Ravenous shitlords can pound on the husk of the brewery, complain about Applepay not securing their cart, engaging in simple rituals to curse breweries for not paying fealty to the altar of the Locals. I feel for them. Shaun Berns was not stranger to these batter smeared savages. Helicopters were attendant at his first releases. He has single handedly provided much of the nutrition for growing west Chicago millennials in liquid sugar form. This time, it has coconut and cinnamon.
Phase Three and the prior lineage has always been solid, but like TOOL and climbing gyms, it’s the fanbase that sours the experience. Thankfully, this beer is so good that you merely tolerate the voracious locals hammering at the fleshy sweetwater inside. The beer pours on the Derivationy/Wakefieldian viscosity with substantial sheeting. The legs wipe away the dark ecru tones from the glass with hateful clear legs. It’s a big boy in boy and literal fatness. There are residual lipids dancing on the surface like drunken Sea moneys, frothing up the chocolate. I imagine this beer was extremely expensive to make because there’s no slugs, no clumping, no artificiality, and more importantly, it doesn’t lean on lactose like some Coffeemate creamer extravaganza to achieve its goals.
The barrel is present and imparts a touch of dryness and complexity like a ribbon of caramel through the center of a dipper macaroon. Cinnamon can go chalky or metallic really quickly, or your end up with a dry Big Red performance. The cinnamon here pulls things into a Samoa cookie space and is more like an uncaring chaperone who lets the kids drink Goldschlager under the bleachers. They don’t pay him enough to care. His hair smells of Polo Sport and hawaiian tropic from water polo practice.
It is exceptionally well done and if anything they hit the mark so fully that it is like seeing a hypertechnical guitar performance where you want it to be a little messier in a way. It’s massive, but controlled, unapologetically pastry, but it pays for the duvet it threw up on. Take Goose Island prop14, let it wrestle an HGH regiment and it will give heartfelt hugs after the dripping lavacake pin is achieved. If you ever knew a kid who had rich parents who miraculously didnt end up reading Atlas Shrugged, you respect them more. This beer is really really good, climb way up there, and get inside that sweet fleshy interior.
2nd Shift enjoys interesting St. Louis benefits. Neither as coveted as Side Project, nor as intensely scrutinized as much as Perennial, failing to generating the hophype of Narrow Gauge, they have been afforded the freedom to silently turn out solid farmhouse ales and drillable gems. What happens when shitlord profiteers pull out their batter caked jewelers loupe and make them the subject of examination?
The result will pull your palate in two directions. Maple, coconut, bourbon BLIS, LSD is a strange, bipolar experience. The base LSD follows the stylistic gestalt that the rest of 2nd Shift exceeds at: tight lines, relatively dry, lithe beers you want to crush in volume. Adding maple and coconut to the mix tosses sticky cinderblocks in the trunk and makes this beer handle like a shopping cart dipped in agave nectar.
At its core you can detect the base beer which is classically executed and well made. The base beer is lightly roasty, relatively thin and limber, tollhouse chips and flatwhite finish. The secondary treatment is like some network executive added TikTok and Vine stars to the cast that add little and distract heavily. This just isn’t what 2nd Shift excels at.
The result is a beer that feels pumped with Torani syrup to capitulate to middle school palates. It is synthetic macaroon, instant maple oatmeal, both svelte and overweight. The beer feels skinnyfat. LSD doesn’t need this madeline/IHOP treatment. It feels like when Banana Republic, a brand of neutral basics, suddenly starts pandering to the kids with cropped pants and tyedyed shirts. Go back to Peacoats or whatever finance bros enjoy. The overriding caucophony is the maple, it just ramps up the Waffle House tones to 11. We are all scrubbing molasses out of our jeans.
The most frustrating part is seeing a well made beer that is conceptually flawed. Shaun Hill isn’t vying for the fruited puree berliner crown for a reason. 2nd Shift makes good beers, they are just bad at intentionally ruining their own beers.
Gotta take the time to show some love for my Canadian chums up at @outcastbrewing : today we confront a 10.5% abv hazy TIPA. Quite the divisive endeavor. It was really well done the style limitations considered. Their traditional soft approach really melds well with a style I often find excessive so it’s a perfect match that keeps it from being Fusel and there’s no residual hop burn.
It’s more perfumey and floral with wispy carb that doesn’t provide a ton of sustain but makes it more drinkable. Grapefruit zest and agapanthus dominate. The heat is masked extremely well and doesn’t lean on a gristy oat profile to usher the alcohol Trojan horse in past the palate gates.
It’s Extremely well integrated albeit not as demonstrative as Biggie Biggie or some of the hallmark Other Half examples of style. It’s becoming fascinating to see a homogenous style see these little rivulets turn into alluvial fans of execution. There are now these microrifts in hazy iPas so they are tasting less like one big hollandaise affair and have the semblance of unique intent.
Two years from now we will have dudes in screen print tees having distanced arguments about the differences between quad and quint dry hopped, the subject of Conan London ale III hybrids, serious Orange Julius connoisseurs. I will be here suffering through it all.
I would be hard pressed to recall a brewery that has more pre-release fanfare than Private Press Brewing. If you have your AARP card you might say Rare Barrel, or if you paid your Joliet mortgage reselling MoRE bottles, youll say PHASE THREE with cake batter on your goatee. This is something else entirety.
Private Press is the brainchild and product of former Jackie O’s maven Brad Clark. This brewery is not a company with a reserve society, it is ONLY a reserve society. It functions in the way that many Napa hype wineries have squeezed max profits out of divorcees in Free People sundresses and mid-50s GenXers who wear Titleist hats. But who are the easy marks for Private Press? In a strange turn of events, it appears to be people who want to actually drink the beer. I have been repeatedly asked “Can we get more tasting notes about those PP bottles, your podcast is terrible?” “When is the Brad Clark interview, is there a version where you don’t talk?” etc.
So here goes. Out the gate, the bourbon barrel aged vanilla stout, Beyond Forever, aims for balance and complexity over a gauche wafflecone wheelie. “IS IT THIN THO” will be the chief refrain amongst the type of people who need “Fight Club” explained to them. If your palate is so demanding for glucose that you thought Appervation, or Parabola, or BCBS Vanilla was too thin, then yet, this 12 plato stout is “too thin” and hopefully they just bottle wort for you to enjoy. Instead the emphasis is on a tootsie roll, ganache, flourless cake that never feels excessive. The cask for a component blended beer isn’t intrusive and structures the sweeter aspects with some oaky underpinnings.
The barleywine, Life is Round, is even better. Like crushingly good. It has this disjointed first taste, intermission, swallow format that covers the spread with deft precision. The first taste is almost THE OBSCURE sweet with burnt brown sugar, chick O stick, See’s scotch kisses, the mid palate rests the game with a dry oaky presence that zambonis all the c6h12o6, to set the stage for the incredibly complex swallow of port sherry, ice wine, dried cranberry, prune and resonant dry Sazerac closer entreating the next air to ground combo of sip swallow.
Private Press is doing something ambitious and remarkable, time will tell if the current beer palates fetishsizing excess are ready to actually enjoy beer again.
It is possible to feel guilt about what you haven’t become. It’s a weird inversion of regret, because it’s based on passivity. Sulla Terra absolutely shouldn’t express regret for any shortcomings, it is fantastic, but comparison is the thief of joy.
There is a condition called highly superior autobiographical memory, HSAM. People with this condition will feel those pangs of sadness and shame about past actions, seemingly at random. The mind shuffles a deck of cards and at the grocery store will remind you how you were emotionally disrespectful to someone in 2008. This barleywine suffers the pangs of these unfair spectres.
Sulla Terra invariable has to live in a St Louis orbit with Anabasis, or worse, For Gabe, or Double Barrel Anabasis. The same space, and casks and opportunities can create a gilded life, or one that is just “really solid.” The cocoa krispies nose, chromexcel leather, wafty toasted kindling, and swallow long and redolent of squaw bread. It is super pleasant and then BAM, a memory of putting a cat in the bathtub when you were 6. Part of the issue Sulla Terra struggles with is a style crowded with absolutely heavyweights at much lower price points, completely content with their existence. This isn’t even Sulla’s fault. The fact that Batch 4000 exists and is also good is not a sleight, but it feels inequitable by contrast. If you have ever gazed at the infinite scroll on your phone and been an unwilling participant in that game “How Do They Afford That” then you know Sulla’s plight. Being excellent but feeling inadequate, Luxury but not absolute luxury, flying to Dubai coach.
The molasses twists with the Sugar Daddies on the mid-palate and the closer has a woody swallow that imparts a dryness that is extremely well done. But others have made this inaccessible, inadequate by contrast. Sulla shouldn’t feel this way, but we all trudge forward seeking that saccharine fulfilment brewed by others. Sulla Terra is enough, more than enough, and the sooner we acknowledge that the less we can shell out to MFTs.
Psh this is just a regular M4, not even competition package; so embarrassing it’s not even rollcaged.