I know what you are thinking, “a DOUBLE barleywine? What manner of chicanery is this?” Fear not, I have this one under control. This beer is a brewery only, growler only release from Dark Horse. Why this brewery chose to growler a 20% abv beer in two liter format is beyond me but, here we are. I am told something to the tune of 30 growlers of this were filled and it was $50 a fill, so this was quite an undertaking. This is not an iced beer, just straight up doubled down barleywine, so let’s get to it.
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States
American Barleywine | 20% (?) 17.50% ABV (?) There are conflicting reports and I am unaware if this was lab tested. Either way, God damn.
A: Just look at that tepid inky blackness. The growler leaked en route from Michigan and getting even a drop of this mahogany darkness on your skin is like tattoo ink or that black stuff from Pirates of Dark Water. There is little carbonation to speak of but just look at that sheeting. The clear alcohol on the glass takes everything like 16th century prelates. There is no lacing, no embroidery, no quilting to tell old Gam Gam about. This beer has zero fucks to spare.
S: The bouquet is outrageously sweet, with notes of caramel, oak, bourbon, vanilla, toffee, and Heath bars. I must reiterate: this beer is NOT ice distilled. Furthermore, it is not even barrel aged, but I am told that Dark Horse has sinister plans of actually barrel aging this beast and unleashing it upon the Michigan public to determine the extent that their livers can withstand. Detroit is basically the nation’s haunted house, so I am confident that this beer will not shake things up in that region.
T: This has an initial huge sweetness that is similar to charred brown sugar, maple syrup, mocha caramel, and some sticky light pine at the backend. This is a complete monster through and through. I shared this at the Bruery with the staff that had just finished the 19.x% batch of Black Tuesday from this year and everyone in attendance was mystified at this beer. This drinks in a manner leaning towards liqueur in the intense booziness and sticky residual sugar profile. I spread this around the attendants of the tasting room like a DUI Fairy, blessing each participant with court sanctions classes and bus rides.
M: This is incredibly sticky and lingers for a long time after the finish. I drank about 12oz of this and that was an incredible feat given the complexity, sweetness, and downright booziness. This is not exceptionally difficult to drink, but it will put you directly to bed. You don’t get the alcoholic burn that you would be expecting from a Manticore of this proportion, but it will still light up your chest like E.T.
D: This is a highly nuanced beer that can be enjoyed completely flat and at room temperature, that being said, this is not exceptionally drinkable. I can only imagine the marketing meeting at Dark Horse where they decided that 64oz growlers were the appropriate serving size for this Chimera. I am glad to have tried it but it was on the upper end of what I can tolerate. I have to remind you, this is reviewing it in light of TNP, Five Squared, Double Black, and the other “ultra-beers” that I have tried. This warrants an entirely new style classification. In sum, a great beer that should be shared without hesitation.
Narrative: Clarence Cimmerian was born in Madison County, Illinois to humble beginnings. The water birth was a success and he shed the successive husks of his nascent shell in accordance with the waning of the lunar cycles, as was tradition with the broodlings in his bloodline. His foster parents weren’t sure exactly how to treat him, what with his 7 clicking sticky mandibles and front hooves oozing acrimonious gel. Sure, he was a “monster” in the loosest sense, but what is a monster but that which has not been classified? The Cimmerians patted his smooth carapace and handed the sack lunch to one of his writhing metatarsus and motioned for him to board the bus. His compound lenses scanned his classmates and excreted a putrid larvae onto the classroom floor, for first grade was even more taxing for the dark grub harvester, Prince of a thousand reliquaries.