GABF awards are a dicey mix. Sometimes you can use them to find tiny breweries you have never heard of, other times it’s someone winning a “BRETT PUMPKIN WILD ALE” category with like 9 entries. Other times, it’s a hoppy beer category so saturated with entries that the most milquetoast, c20 malt, no-name combatants get moved on round after round.
Sometimes people win Best Barleywine, and then you have my attention.
Kansas has a proud pedigree of old school barleywines from the likes of Free State, Old Backus, heralding the silent drunken spirit of the great plains. Wichita is known for “air” and being the birthplace of Pizza Hut, so you gotta make your own fun. You can only visit Kirstie Alley’s childhood home so many times is what I’m saying.
This barleywine delivers much the way that Wichita State’s mascot does, it is a Shocker. This is such a fantastic dance of muddle fig newton, port and iced wine, tight lines with a silky fun ovaltine and raisin swallow, the cask doesn’t scream bourbon and instead leans more into a grapey Cognac realm that is complex for seemingly how light this is.
The swallow is long and oaky, peppering you with dryness and Gale Sayers currant tones. The abv is incredible well hidden and I am sure someone has ended up in the Wichita emergency room trying to climb that big ass Keeper of the Plains statue and shattered their kneecaps.
It’s a recreational beer is what I am getting at.
Everything doesn’t need to have some $300+ secondary price tag with $5 extra added WOM. Sometimes there’s just great beer made furtively in nice places with nicer people and you just exhale and throw rocks into the Arkansas river. You don’t need some good medal to tell you @wichitabrewing is good, tap the plains for white mana and set aside some money for couples counseling and go at it Kansas style