When you unite Oregon and Washington as a disjointed, rainy Voltron, those verdant expanses provide a compelling argument for cancelling your Fedex account outright. From Boneyard’s hoppy offerings, Ale Apothecary and Upright running the saison game, Engine 9 and De Garde pumpin out tart AWAs and Hair of the Dog and Fremont are left playing cleanup on every strong ale: their bases are covered.
Today I wanted to give Washington some love in the form of two breweries that I have already embraced lovingly, middles touching serenely in the soft Puget Sound mist. In many ways these two breweries represent a sort of one-two Gemini of the Bye and Bye state. Holy Mountain has solid hoppy offerings and saisons that are silently becoming beyond reproach. Fremont, while not knocking it out of the park in that regard, has unquestionably cornered the game for stout/babw/strong ale/old ales, if not other spheres of influence.
Let’s run our hands over these uncut gems, appraise their inner value. Like when Chrysler made that one car that looked just like a Bentley, I always saw these breweries for what they really was.
At first I had a degree of trepidation in embracing Holy Mountain’s capacity to dance in the haymaker swinging realm of barrel aged stouts. They are more like Nightcrawler, delicate, teleporting saisons and gentle subtle jabs that leave lasting marks. It is like when Florida announces that they have a new saison that you just have to try, you smile knowingly and pat them on the shoulder like the parent of tiny child with MMA aspirations.
That being said, this defied expectations and put it right over the plate in every way, without discernible fault or noteworthy gripes to be had. The viscosity, my greatest nail chewing point of agitation, was hefty and syrupy. In fact the body of this coats and paints in a way that can be expressed as “pharmacy grade BCBS.” It’s like dating a mormon girl who secretly has been into muy thai for years, silent power from a winsome exterior.
The taste has very little vanilla, but that is reconciled by a fantastic marshmallow and espresso body to the swallow. The barrel unites that sweet and the roasted in a s’mores type of unity candle that results in a delicious Parabolaesque variant that feels more complex than the one two punch of the threadbare COFFEE AND VANILLA execution that we see so often. Tootsie rolls in your first rated-R film, sweet and melty in the front row. The caffeine in your veins on a first date, coffee compelling cross-legged foot joggling.
This is unquestionably tasty, albeit not in the realm of the absolute best vanilla bangers in the game. This is a well executed warning shot in the sand from a high powered barrel rifle at 1000m. Holy Mountain has its target set.
This beer however, Fremont pulled out all the stops for this one. When I first entered the ring, I expected a noteworth interlocutor like the previously incomparable Old Bridge Rider.
This beer not only takes all of the direction from OBR, but improves upon that model with more heft, ramped up barrel presence and method acting malt profiles that immerse you in the experience. While I realize DDB has sensory bias favoring the babw genre, this is top tier and amongst the best in the game. My only regret is that I was too young for Aaliyah, similarly this beer was too young for the Blind Barrel Aged Barleywine tasting.
It certainly would have performing fulgent roundhouses on the top 10 contenders in that bracket. The way that this exhibits lissome poise and still has the power of the barrel build therein is a paradox. If you have ever been in an AMG SLK, you’ll know the irresponsibility of pairing two incongruous elements for extreme oomph.
The nose is all toasted coconut, macaroon, and fig jam. It is English but seems so saturated that the oak brings it into this tannic resinous American handshake across the aisle. When a barleywine can execute a transatlantic bipartisanship, incredible results ensue. The taste is hefty spoonfulls of brown sugar mixed into cream of wheat, rye bread, pumpernickle with a prune and plum jam spread across. It has a long bitter oaky finish like Wooden Hell amped up with Bane serum.
This section is usally reserved for some hemming and hawwing, some value appraisal that brings the prior praise under some scrutiny, perhaps some jabs at the culture which my outfit is fully immersed. I cannot in this instance, you simply cannot find a comparable analogue, even dusting off the typical JUST BUY STRAIGHT JACKET apothegm seems disingenuous. Honestly, if you can summon a “better” barleywine of recent memory, BA Vermillion notwithstanding, then place it in direct parity.
This beer towers over other entries in such a way that it eclipses bottles in a cross-genre global manner. When you climb the highest tower in the city, Etzio gains the further vision. This barleywine reveals the map in an illuminating way before swan diving into a pile of malty hay.