Firestone Walker Brandy Barrel Barleywine: Sip Your Grape Juice

Downward curve

Let’s talk about Veblen Goods. These are items where the demand increases as the price increases. This is usually irrespective of increasing quality, the premium is in possession itself. Most of the time we are talking about Rolexes, boats, rare handbags: today we are talking about Firestone Walker.

Rare bourbon or sought after beers are weird in that they have an upward sloping curve: when dudes in cargo shorts see the price rise, their hearts beat in those North Face fleeces. Veblen items usually cover themselves by 1. Being accessible to only to people who spend a ton on a brand or 2. Being inaccessible for other reasons.

Firestone Walker has a $600.00 reserve society, it’s basically a bet, in exchange you get some rare goods. Some of these beers people want simply because they are not available. Nike Dunks tell people that you are a renter even if they’re in a rare colorway.

When the hype planets align, you get a beer that is both underwhelming, expensive and inaccessible, that people want. Astrologists call this Veblen in Gatorade.

I was so excited for a Brandy Barrel Barleywine. I had dreams of single cask Sucaba, the majesty of such luxury. Surely I wouldn’t once again get something worse than Bravo still sitting on shelves? Then I read the label.

Two winemakers were involved in the anniversary beer. Why? Oh because the barleywine was made with 48% fermentable grape must. Who asked for this? The winemakers. You get a free olive oil in the box. Oh. Then find out that the GM of barrelworks spent 15 years in the olive oil industry.

The barleywine is wiped out, has a body that is absolutely drilled down to an Altbier consistency. Hey don’t worry, it’s still 13% abv so it’s bone dry, wafty, fusel, and we got residual fermented grape flavor to balance out ::checks notes:: leather and graham crackers.

For that consumer who wants something both too big and insubstantial at the same time, weird fruit stripe gum merged with a Skor bar. I can only assume this merged lovingly in FW25 with the tequila barrel aged Velvet Merkin [I am not making this up.]

I wanted this so badly, but this is one veblen good that sent my curve straight downward.

Don’t bother showing up to my bottleshare unless you look like you were gored by a Castilian bull

Alvarado Street Brewing Naturally Aspirated Exhibits High Compression No Boost

Wastegate not needed

I have had a push/pull relationship with Alvarado Street. At the outset I felt like they made nothing but safe moves. The haze was unremarkable, the canned stouts were fine, it was a series of grounders for people just getting into craft beer. That’s fine. Bay Area Bottleshop owners had to field wince inducing calls, but the rest of us could go about our lives.

Then they started taking huge swings in crazy areas. Yeast of Eden started putting out absolute consistent fire. They made a smoothie seltzer that should have straight up won the cup. And now we get this absolute insanity: Imperial stout aged in cognac & brandy barrels for 47 months.

This is intensely ambitious and I almost feel like the name itself was cribbed from DDB parlance, but I don’t want to be that gauche. This beer is overwhelmingly complex and was a blast to unpack, peeling the layers back like a grand’s biscuit.

Without any additives, they have presented everything from blackberry tart, to fig jam, prune chocolate fondue and diner grape jelly. The cask as it warms goes from ensemble to full heated monologue, overtaking the overripe fruits, soliloquizing cocoa and almond to the back rafters.

The swallow has intense sheeting not with residual sugar, those have been stretched and tanned over 4 years in a barrel, instead it is waves of fusel heat that break against a bulwark in the back palate providing an odd Godiva dipped date. It is “she doing too much” in the best way.

I love that a beer like this, hypercasked into absurdity will inevitably draw comments of “too hot, needs age to mellow” “this will be better in a couple years” thereby undercutting the project itself. It’s like watching a Charlie Kaufman film and being like “Synecdoche New York tries too hard.”

Breweries actively are punished for taking these risks, incurring these costs, and there aren’t enough DDB dipshits yet to affirm this grand undertaking. This is that Pugachev 25year anniversary, that HOTD spirit, and I am here for it.

This is uncompromising and sacrifices nothing to secure its funding. If you enjoy brewer-as-auteur projects unfettered by front of house or marketing, this is the amazing/bonkers result.


Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof is the Worst Whiskey I Have Had This Year

“Don’t review the neck pour” I tried this many times and even proofed it down. It remains malignant.

Parasocial relationships are unilateral affairs where one side extends interest, emotional investment, and the recipient is unaware of the other. You will see this with simps pouring cash into Onlyfans accounts, tipping twitch streamers, or responding audibly to a pre-recorded podcast. It’s a fascinating phenomenon.

For all the gruff, potstilling, whiskey running, outlaw branding, tough as nails marketing: bourbon dudes are a sensitive lot. Insecurities are a Sarlac pit for parasocial relationships so it’s no surprise you’ll see these same middle managers going senpai and siding with Heaven Hill despite labor issues, or wringing their Merona flannels when someone is undervaluing their precious Blanton’s with a horsie letter they want. Unreciprocated allegiance is rampant.

So when Jack Daniels announced all of the hype words strung together: cask strength, single barrel, store pick, the charcoal filtered fetishists showed up to defend Brown-Forman, a company that doesn’t give a single shit about them. MM LINCOLN COUNTY PROCESS MY WOOD MOMMY.

You should never meet your heroes. Jack Daniels may have this amorous tone when mixed with Pepsi in some sweaty leaky undergrad basement, but like a date with a guy who does improv comedy: a little bit goes a long yes and’ing way. You don’t need full strength JD.

This isn’t an ad.

This bottle is shitty. Wait, if you enjoy that sick sweet meets aspiring taste of Advil coating, then you will enjoy this 130pf hateswallow. Come in expecting Shasta Stagg, leave with turpentine Barq’s root beer in your shame hole. The nose is fine, brown banana with sandalwood. The sip shows true Jack, the one coke is made for. The abusive fusel wave that needs to be tempered with fizzy sugary therapy.

If you love oversteeped tea, black pepper, acrid popsicle sticks, and walnuts soaked in Absolut, then step right up. Jack doesn’t care about you. In 1911 he kicked his safe out of anger injuring his foot, contracted gangrene and died. Perhaps that iodine and toffee is the “extra blessing” charcoal embrace you seek. Maybe you Venmo your discord admin. Either way, it is harsh one sided love that will never be reciprocated


Cellarmaker Edge of Time is a Svelte Spicy Blantons Barley Bomb

Dog bowl for scale

Social Proof is a psychological concept where people make value judgments based upon their overall impression of something, the halo effect. Master Chiefs aside, Cellarmaker would like us to believe that their well done hazy beer and lowkey banging saison program somehow makes them experts in barleywine.


Straight out the gates a $24 375ml is gonna rankle some jameses. These small format barleywines keep costing more and more, but if TG is out here selling $50 bombers of non BA stout then anything is possible.

The key complaint I already see coming a mile away is that this barleywine is “too thin.” If you’re the type of person whose main social presence is on LinkedIn, then you’re the insufferable character we can imagine saying this with that air of judgment and hustle culture. It isn’t too thin. The shift in palates toward glucosephillic tendencies is notable lately.

It is as “thin” as Sucaba, BB4d, Aftw, Segbago and everything in that realm. If you don’t know any of those, you are probably safe returning to your IP theft hypecans of hollandaise. Gatekeeping aside, it is spirit driven and presents that lack of balance I almost appreciate in these exaggerated offerings. I will bow to this spicy fusel mistreatment because it feels good. Out of ten friends only one of them has a printer, but it is out of indigo so you cant print your stupid black and white resume to get a job that already requires an online application. You deal with the nonsense because of what is in store.

It is bitter, oaky, goes a walnut/pecan sandie route for a moment and it’s back to the booze. The thighgap in the tiny frame somehow dual wields Skor bar and a graphite aspect. The finish is exceptionally clean, leaving a napalm strike across the gumline of peanut brittle drizzled with Willett.

Like your friend who is super into their adult dodgeball league, yes it is pushy and kinda irresponsible but charming in its own way. You crave the heat and avoid the sugar. Sometimes you continue an unpleasant relationship with your therapist because dumping them is more painful than therapy itself. The cask here is your therapist, and it is served barrel Social Proof.


Eighth State Brewing Pepper and MIVII, One is amazing, the other isn’t even a barleywine

Everyone just wants the cat label tbh

The FCC used to mandate bumpers during children’s cartoons to save them from deceptive advertising. It helped young minds differentiate between what was content and what was manipulative. IG doesn’t have that so instead we have pithy 26 word reviews with more hashtags and Tavour link promotion than actual writing.

Transparency matters. It isn’t that Pepper is a disappointing barleywine, it is, it’s that it isn’t a barleywine at all. When I saw the vanilla, my Madagascar alerts starting going off. When I heard the comparisons to Anabasis, I was wary. Kill confirmed: Pepper is an very good vanilla stout and nothing more.

If you heard the flavor descriptors: kit kat bar, Drumstick ice cream cone, burned s’more and robusto cigar your first question would not be “oh so was this an American or English barleywine?” Because it isn’t. Usually we have coward breweries calling barleywines anything but that to avoid perceived marketing pitfalls, this is a weird reverse alignment. The thing is though, it is a well done stout.

The apple brandy contributes this candy apple sweetness, bourbon lending complexity, cask is well managed. What did this beer even taste like before being Frankensteined with Peruvian vanilla beans? If someone drops $200 on this are they disappointed or happy that they got a solid, albeit completely different beer?

A new challenger appears

Here’s the rub: Microcosm I Volume II is the best beer that 8th state has made since Neck and Neck b2. It rights all the confusing wrongs that Pepper sets forth. If you wanted port complexity, here it is in all its raisin and fig newton glory. It is tighter, more nimble, and doesn’t have the messy vanilla distraction present. The two beers seem similar but MIVII is vastly superior in every way.

MIVII is a masterclass in managing waves of currant, prune, reconciling the intense sherry/cracker jack aspects, and closing with an impossible dry topgrain leather finish. It is a malty marvel to behold.

Style guidelines are amorphous, as long as the beer is good, I guess it isn’t fatal. But holy shit if I open one more can labeled “IPA” and it is default hazy I’m going to lose my god damn mind.


Firestone Walker Vine Minded: a bizarre fusel society exclusive no one asked for.

It’s bc I didn’t use the glass they provided me with.

Whenever I see a 10%+ abv American wild ale it is already like “god damnit, here we go.” However, this is Firestone and a club exclusive, it’s not like they going to just release a bone dry, fusel, acetone bomb on their fans after joining a $600 society right? Anakin.reaction RIGHT?

Well enjoy your new gel tips and the wafty solvent bliss of weird phenolic tripel base and Jura must. This thing is all over the place like an insecure dude who cant stand that his girlfriend has a “work husband.” It needs some grounding.

In the long tradition of taking strong ale bases and pulverizing them into something acidic and bizarre (Dark and Stormy, Old Manhattan et al.) comes this thing. The wheatwine and bourbon profile is drilled into deep obscurity and youd have to dig to find it like that one Note in the Notes App where she has a list of all her bodies. She has one trust me.

It makes you question the intent. Usually when I see a beer like this, it’s a salvage mission. Firestone has those sweet Duvel bucks, they don’t need to be retrofitting wild ales into strong ale chassis. This isn’t poorly made, it’s just conceptually bonkers. I don’t know if that helps or makes it worse. If you see a dude in salmon 5” inseam shorts and no show socks, he meant to look like that. You cover your drink and walk away when he brings up Wolf of Wallstreet. But this makes me wonder why Firestone wanted to hit such a devious lick.

They aren’t like the Paul Arney’s where this needed to occupy a market segment. We want single barrel sucaba and gin grisettes, instead we get this. It’s the palate equivalent of call 811 before you dig, this is an easily avoidable tragedy.

Firestone also has this fiercely loyal, Dave Matthews Bandesque following that will be like AH YES THANK YOU ACID MOMMY DOES KITTEN NEED MORE ALLOWANCE. So this will be like 4.4 on Untappd otherwise you have to deal with the sunk cost fallacy that is your life. The idea of Transaction Utility in economics makes these beers sell and you get addicted to the mistreatment. Hey at the end of the day, if you want Curieux’s gaslighting gatekeeping brother, here you go. Society exclusive, Riesling hairspray for all 1pp.


Lervig Paragon is liquid Norway Culture Par Excellence

Bro the 2.8 ain’t buttery enough GET THE PRIME

Horatian satire employs mild mockery and lighthearted wit to deride whatever it seeks to criticize. It is not motivated by moralizing or malice, it provides depth and nuance through sweetness and a lighthearted grace that is both affable and accessible. The fuck does this have to do with barleywine.

Norwegian people. We know the cliches: vikings, perpetual darkness, black metal, socialism medical death panels. But Norway is kinda like the Vermont of Europe in a many ways. Genial people, hearth drunkneness, strange traditions, negligent skiing and Lovecraftian lore.

Lervig was founded in 2003 when things weren’t this terrible. I would say its a NARKE Light of sorts but Swedish dudes would fjord their cropped pants pointing out that head brewer Mike Murphy is American. Lervig is old school, tightly wound, refreshing beers.

So when Lervig made a barleywine, the execution follows that framework of gentle lampooning of other excesses that makes it so pleasant. There’s no Rolos or Skor bar. You wont hear the wince inducing cliché “BOURBON SOAKED RAISINS” it’s a lighthearted approach. It opens leathery and dusted with nutmeg, the body that shredded 9% body fat just evidencing the sinewy sugar babies pumping through that figgy vascularity.

Barleywines can sometimes be merely defined by their strength. As though the utility in carrying an atlas stone is a virtue in itself. Lervig set out for a more deft hand and gives you that approach of someone who owns a Crowley turntable but uses it to play Sidney Bechet albums. The dissonance is powerful. Sure there’s some rozijntjes but its not ALL rozijntjes.

In being massive alone, some barleywines lose their focus and end up like women who wear beige cardigans and clumsily distressed denim. Sticky caramel calf high boots inducing yawns at the apple picking date. In European fashion, Norway decided to class it up and playfully present a softer more port and currant driven experience that satirizes the excesses of the genre by contrast.

It is extremely well done and leaves many American entries looking like dudes who wear Billionaire Boys Club and Amiri jeans. Effusive colonial decadence at the expense of taste.

This isn’t an ad

Good Word Brewing and Blue Jacket Just Made a Lager Masterpiece with Only Memories Remain

A lager ballad

Only memories remain is absolutely phenomenal and a ddb top 10 beer of 2021. I want you to pause and think how well done a dark Czech lager has to be to get that superlative. I simply cannot improve upon it.

@goodwordbrewing and and @bluejacketdc did something remarkable: take an obscure low abv style, maximize the flavor and lose nothing in translation. This delivers optimally in every way. The body is clean and intensely efficient. Lean malty vascularity like a bottom fermenting fencer swinging a toasted scone epee. The carb is flawless and feels like it was whipped with egg whites. The cap separates masterfully from the watery mouthfeel below and sheets in wispy doilies.

This beer shouldn’t exist. It will lose the brewery money. And yet, it is one of the best beers that locals will never drink. The swallow has a fantastic honey buckwheat scone with a burned crescent roll finish. It’s a market segment this is both underserved and worthy of blowing up.

The Lotus Elise is powered by a Toyota Corolla engine but it’s tiny frame propels it with panache and Grace. The small body on this dark Czech lager thrashes and remains so poised. The nose is like almond milk shakerato, cracked walnuts, and pretzel roll, salt kernels in the brackish water profile and all.

I don’t know how they did this. It is a page directly from Suarez and Moonlight, in Georgia, from a place not known for this degree of old world nuance. I pray they can somehow replicate this because people need beers like this in their lives.

This isn’t that contrarian hyperbole to present a counterpoint to present excesses, this beer is just beer flavored beer in the most classic way. If this were Halfway Crooks or Bierstadt I would be like oh they just made the best beer of their year. Instead this collab blew the doors off of comparable entries in the field, globally.

Please flick this malty gem into some turns and watch it handle the understeer and remain gripped as a beer you can give to anyone and drink anywhere.

Beer can be like this again, but only if you buy beers like this.


MINTY TUBES: E.H. Taylor Amaranth Grain of the Gods

Mmm yes daddy let me see that tax strip

Next in our search to answer “What Happened to the Double Digit Age Statements” we turn to the mint tube hype juice, E.H. Taylor, Amaranth Grain of the Gods. Now we know that the bourbon community has made CIRCUMSTANCES surrounding their bottles practically erotic fan fiction. The more a community has diminishing returns, the crazier the backstories have to be to justify the steep premiums. Ask a sneakerhead why those SB Dunks are worth $1000 and revel in the DISCRETE EVENTS.

EHTAGOG was hypothetically $70 in 2019, but age statements were already laughably gone by then. Every sale post for these EHT one offs always brags about how it has a MINT TUBE. Then they provide 7 pics of the tax strip because these are so heavily counterfeited that the packaging feels like it is worth more than the actual experience of drinking it. For guys who have zero intention of drinking things, fake bottles give them a nervous breakdown.

This bottle is underwhelming and well short of the $1,700.00 secondary price tag. None of the one off EHT minty tubes are worth it but this one is outright unremarkable. Prior to this they made FOUR GRAINS and dudes who never knew they wanted extra grains flipped those. So now we have a RARE WHEAT ANALOG. OMG elusive butterscotch bombs.

It’s a slightly mintier, wheated bourbon. It provides a touch of toffee and figgy pudding, and a bit of extra juniper to the swallow and that’s it. You get a melange of cinnamon and wintergreen Five gum. The swallow has a touch of hibiscus and honestly who cares. It might as well be a Bourye blended whiskey.

The best part is people almost universally accept that it’s a mild improvement and still flip these. In bourbon, possession and collection always beats consumption and reflection.

What does an Aztec wheat have to do with the storied history of bourbon? Nothing. It’s like cross pollinated hype narratives from the equally ridiculous/exploitative Tequila world. No one else uses this seed, and you can’t have it, that’s the extent of its wholly mediocre virtues. Just buy a Four Roses store pick and tell these resells to finger their own minty tubes.


Amalgam Brewing Is Going to Fix Hazy Palates: Hoppy Table Saison Summer is here

.50 cal rustic knockout

Brewers need to get in on this get rich quick scheme, stay with me now: HOPPY TABLE SAISONS. We already know floccbois want that haze. What if you hit them with the original unfiltered creamy Sunny D: farmhouse ales. The average hazy ipa fan only interacts with the sun when they are standing in a DMV style lines for cans or walking around a theme park, but the green glass will hook them.

Take Amalgam for instance. We lure in these saison-curious palates with promises of hops and POG juice, then once they are firmly in the barn, hit them with the bone dry hay bales. It has the fescue, that Bermuda/herbal smack but with an Anjou pear underpinning. We already know NE IPA fans basically just want citrus juice, so we shift their palates to other produce instead.

The 3.6% abv reinforces their ability to croosh mad lychee juice and wont cloud their judgment when they are looking at NFTs or Toyota 86 coilover kits. Table beer is what hollandaise fans secretly have been missing all along. Most of them were born in the 90s so they missed out on terrible Hoegaarden or Shock Top Belgian wit era that we all suffered through. To a hazeophile, they are making this radical bucolic discovery. The chlorophyll and construction paper will validate that adult regression that has these people doing coloring books, journaling and adult kickball leagues. It’s stunted growth by design because the ABV is meant to be small.

Imagine if Blaugies did 16oz pounder cans with stolen IP on them. Wallonian citra cravers would be peeling out in whatever the French equivalent of a TRD Tacoma is. American craft beer dudes will buy their entire wardrobes from REI and Carhartt and then average 1600 steps a day. We can change this.

Beer nerd exercise doesn’t need to be standing in lines and stumbling from tent to tent with pretzel necklace resistance bands. Hot saison summer is upon us and these bone dry drillers can turn things around.

When you spot a dude in a five panel hat ripping crème brulee clouds, tell him this is the new hazy IPA made with a crazy yeast that had to be imported. Or that Travis Scott drinks table bieres. Table time is now.