I have leveled this challenge before and I am usually met with either Belgian rejoinders, or obscure styles but I will posit it to you, gracious reader: what style of beer can you obtain arguably the absolute pinnacle, easily off the shelf? I am sure some will say Live Oak Hef, or maybe we get some staunch old guard who swears nonironically that nothing is better than OG Saison Dupont. Sure, fine. But Straight Jacket is an entirely different being. Every other segment is either underserved, hard to find, obscure, extremely local, triple digit bottle counts, or some other frustrating shit.
Even within barleywine itself there are dead spots and no service T-Mobile zones of dropped service year to year. You’ve got the Flatitude Grats, you’ve got the lamentable 2014 BB4d, some used to say that 2012 was the “hot” batch of Mother of All Storms, the cancellation of Sucaba entirely, completely flat 2014 Adam from the Wood, I mean, need I go on? Then there’s this god damn beer. Since 2012 it has been absolutely chest kicking not only beers within its segment, but roundhousing beer across styles for five years consistently. That is completely bananas. Think about it.
A few months ago I did a head to head for fun, just to see how a 2012 (i.e. the bottle that won the DDB blind barleywine challenge in arguably the most insane lineup ever put together.) compared to the 2016. Some soothsayers argue that English barleywine cant hold its oxy over time as well as American iterations (Great, Kuhnhenn BBBW being essentially indestructible). The original vintage has aged more gracefully than Diane Keaton or Goldie Hawn and you welcome it’s slide into AARP geriatric bliss. The light cardboard is a pleasing offset to the carmelized sugars and mallow foam attendant to this weird construction paper, flan crepe. The 2016 was equally compelling with a bouquet of fresh red fruit, figs and toffee, rolo and Skor bar. Why haven’t they fucked this up? I’ve heard stories of infected Mad Cow, problems with some of the hoppy offerings, but Revolution consistently puts out a god tier, end of game, post-loot beer every single year.
Not content with just releasing a Turbo 911 of a beer, they aged VSOJ (Very Special Old Jacket) for over twice as long in Heaven Hill and Old Forester Barrels. I had this beer in an unofficial capacity and then again at Firestone Invitational and both times needed to dust myself off from my encounter with the ground after I was summarily floored. People squeeze their nips over rare, and good lord if a stout is aged over 6 months we never hear the end of it. Here we have the magnificent base with layers and coats of shellac and complex depth added to it. Imagine the sweet and oaky juice from the base, with this leathery, canvas, abandoned Sees candy warehouse, Sugar babies from last Halloween left in a Jansport type of vibe. Barleywines rarely if ever get to this level of complexity that just purely outshine the stout world and make pastry boys look puerile by contrast.
Oh and they are fucking canning this beer and putting it in four packs. CANS OF THIS. If you need an industry comp. let’s just wait until two months from now when Goose Island releases a comparably aged, arguably shittier version of this beer at six times the price per ounce. I pray to God the infantile palates obsessed with cream of wheat vape oil in the haze scene do not ascend to the barley life.
Oh, and if you needed further reassurance, the current vintage is still completely apeshit and sitting on shelves. If anyone every complains about those UPON HIGH reviews from DDB of some ultra limited inaccessible shit, then book mark this. I have served it up for you: do you want the absolute best a style has to offer, without parting with your precious HENNA or icecreamwhateverthefuck stout? Then here you go.
Ah for old times sake, NARRATIVE:
Kevin waited anxiously at the Bucca Du Beppo for his date that he met on HESYCHIA, the hottest new internet dating app. A beautiful late 20’s brunette approached with a guarded smile of indifferent dentistry, sweet but refined. Taryn wore that effortless high pony that commands attention and a poised respect for the natural grace exhibited. “Our special tonight is the eggplant parmigiana, and of course we serve everything here family styl-” the waiter rattled off summarily, rotely, “ah, HESYCHIA date huh?” The waiter glanced at the open iPhone, Taryn’s photo left open. Kevin nervously sipped his Dr. Pepper and gripped Taryn’s warm comforting hand, lightly worn no doubt from canvas artistry or some high minded laboring in entertainment. “Well if you’re both on HESYCHIA, I guess I will SAY NO MORE! Ha, sorry bad joke, I’ll leave you time to look over the menus.” Kevin tried to get a read on the glint of self assured nervousness in the pools of caramel iris surveying him reflectively. The silence amplified his own self-doubt, but magnified his ardor. Taryn half coughed and raised a trapezius in a faint affirmation that Kevin looked within 15% of his profile photo, older, with depth, sweet smelling like scones and boots. HESYCHIA promoted this union. A dating app predicated on first-date silence. Life merging based solely on conversation free interactions. The two would need to decide on the interlocking minutia, merging lives for the first time in a tender whipped silence, no filler, no self-aggrandizing tales or rehearsed valor: just life exhibited in observation. Kevin looked down at the chipped Wet N Wild burnt sienna nail polish and attempted to reconcile the low stance with brand new Tory Burch flats. Taryn was a self-aware and superficially aware of her aesthetic wiles, appearing oddly forgiving of his own shortcomings. In surveying her life, she was reflecting his in thoracic-engaging insecurity. The ease of technology had made beauty accessible, if only for a moment, the rest was a labor of connection and appreciation. Flowerbomb was redolent across the checkered red and white table cloth. Kevin tapped “creme brulee” and Taryn’s eyes lit up, the confectionary delight of a passion shared. HESYCHIA addresses life in wondrous ways.