Ok, Mad Fritz makes strange beers. I don’t mean that in the “Paul Arney sure is wacky” sort of way. I mean it in the “what in the name of Napa-branding is going on in Saint Helena?” Nothing is remotely close to style, and that’s fine, if you’re OEC. this is not OEC. This a brewery with so much experience and resources that no one restricts them, almost to a fault. They do whatever they want. If you’ve ever had to sit through your friend’s Moth short story or listen their Noise Band mixtape, then you get it.
The bottles use those French swingtop gaskets and have labels that look like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Each bottle has this lengthy moral parable on it. It drips in divorcee Pinot Grigio aesthetic. The brewery itself has insane experience and resources and seem to have zero cares about profitability. Mad Fritz gonna Fritz. Their barrels are named Goethe and Nietzsche, leaving even Shaun Hill blushing. This barleywine though, is not good. This is not bad from a lack of proficiency, it’s just unpleasant to drink as a net experience.
The underlying barleywine itself looks more akin to Belgian tripel or a Wheatwine. It is radiantly amber with brassy tones. The nose is outright bizarre. It is both astringent with orange zest and clove, but also intensely bitter. It is off style, in every style. The taste transitions into this grapefruit pith and JUUL pen. You are left clawing through the bitter oaky ballpit for the cognac. If you approached this expecting a sessionable A Deal With The Devil, prepare for intensely tannic Curieux. I don’t know how. The finish is clementine furniture polish, long and fusel despite the 10.5% abv. It is so strange because the wild ales from this same brewery were very good, but then we have this grand marnier lacquer train derailing. 🍊 🧼 When a brewery gets to do whatever they want, sometimes the public gets exactly what they deserve.