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Toronado Barley Wine Fest '05

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Some friends and I made a stop at this year's Barleywine Festival at the Toronado here in San Francisco. They have around 50 Barleywines available for your tasting pleasure many of them very good. The festival runs through the 26th, if you are interested in this sort of thing.

http://www.toronado.com/events.htm#137

I've been intending to go to this pesky event for about 3 years now, and this was the first time I actually made it. I like but don't love Barley Wines.

My first priorities were to taste the Speakeasy and Stone offerings, so I got tasters of both. Actually, I didn't hear which was which; but, after tasting it was immediately apparent which was which. The Old Godfather from Speakeasy had all the quintessial Speakeasy flavors. Perhaps a little too much. It really tasted more like a double Prohibition, than a barleywine to me. The Old Guardian from Stone was a nice gargoyle of a beer. Intense strong and hoppy. Certainly worth seeking out.

Next I wanted to sample the offering from El Toro. My wife and I are big fans of their Poppy Jasper, and I wanted to see what they could do with a Barleywine. Unfortunately, the answer is not much. This was easily the worst beer of the night and the worst beer I can remember having in some time. They didn't list the alcohol percentage; but, I think it had to be over 15. It tasted like malt, hops, brown sugar, and everclear had been mixed in a bucket, left overnight and bottled the next week.

I didn't take notes, so after that things get a little muddy.

21st Amendments Lower de Boom was very good. Anchor Brewings Old Foghorn quite tasty as usual. Lagunitas Old Gnarleywine was very tasty.

Of the beers which had one the tasting contest, the only one in the top 5 which was not sold out was Alaskan Brewing's Big Nugget. I'd not tried any beers from this company before, so it was a pleasure to find that we also judged it among the best of the evening. I'm going to have to try some of their other beers.

If you're in town, be sure to check it out, just don't forget to pace yourself!

Erik


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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What no Big Foot Barley Wine. It seems to have such a cult following. Just bought a six pack but I've heard it needs to sit for a long while(like a year) before it's any good. Have you tried it?

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What no Big Foot Barley Wine. It seems to have such a cult following. Just bought a six pack but I've heard it needs to sit for a long while(like a year) before it's any good. Have you tried it?

One of my friends got one towards the end of the evening because I couldn't remember if I'd had it before. Unfortunately, it was towards the end of the evening, so I still don't have a clear recollection of what it tastes like...

When I first moved to CA, I drank a lot of Sierra Nevada's beers. After a while I got kind of tired of something in the taste or style and haven't really gone back to them. Usually, we stick with beers from Speakeasy and Deschutes for our regulars.

I haven't really experimented with aging beers, aside from my annual Anchor Christmas Beer taste off. Is it really necessary?


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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What no Big Foot Barley Wine. It seems to have such a cult following. Just bought a six pack but I've heard it needs to sit for a long while(like a year) before it's any good. Have you tried it?

Bigfoot is very good young as well as aged. Last fall a friend if mine and I did a 6 year veritcal of Bigfoot vintages. It seems to peak around 2-3 years and starts to fall off after that. I love teh stuff young though. The assault of hops and chewy malts are divine.


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I haven't really experimented with aging beers, aside from my annual Anchor Christmas Beer taste off.  Is it really necessary?

It really depends on the beer. Most barley wines will age well. Many Belgian beers age well. Lighter styles IPAs, most lagers, etc... age rather poorly and are best consumed fresh. Generally the higher the alcohol content the better it will age. Hops fade quickly from beer as it ages, thus the most noticeable difference will be the mellowing of the floral/pine/citrus hoppy bitterness (assuming the beer exhibited any of these components to start with).

In the beer community there is a bit of an obsesion with aging beers and trying them as they age. I am guilty of this to some extent, but I have found that most beer that the average beer drinker will run across is best when consumed fairly fresh.


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I haven't really experimented with aging beers, aside from my annual Anchor Christmas Beer taste off.  Is it really necessary?

It really depends on the beer. Most barley wines will age well. Many Belgian beers age well. Lighter styles IPAs, most lagers, etc... age rather poorly and are best consumed fresh. Generally the higher the alcohol content the better it will age. Hops fade quickly from beer as it ages, thus the most noticeable difference will be the mellowing of the floral/pine/citrus hoppy bitterness (assuming the beer exhibited any of these components to start with).

In the beer community there is a bit of an obsesion with aging beers and trying them as they age. I am guilty of this to some extent, but I have found that most beer that the average beer drinker will run across is best when consumed fairly fresh.

Very well described, Jeff.

Regarding your comment about aging Bigfoot...

It seems to peak around 2-3 years and starts to fall off after that.
I will keep that in mind. We have Bigfoot aging from 1999 on. Sounds like it might be best to start drinking those...

We also have some 1999 Brimstone Big Ale. When would you suggest for drinking that?


Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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It really depends on the beer. Most barley wines will age well.

I find the beers that age the best, are the ones I like the least.

:wink:

I keep buying the Stone Vertical Epic beers; but, I'll be darned, they just keep disappearing!

http://stonebrew.com/epic/

I don't particularly care for the Anchor Christmas beers, so I find I have no real problem keeping them around in the cupboard. Don't really find they improve with age, though, just get a little less fizzy, and as you say, some of the crisper hoppy tastes disappear and the spices become more accentuated. Which can be a bad or a good thing, depending on the year. I think the year I started saving them was 2001 (or perhaps 2002?). That year I believe they experimented with a little too much Star Anise. It remains my least favorite.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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We also have some 1999 Brimstone Big Ale.  When would you suggest for drinking that?

Ahhh Brimstone Big Ale. I had some 1998 vintage cellared and it was horribly infected and tasted and smelled like burning band-aids. Yum! I have heard however that the 1999 vintage is infection free. That one is up there at something like 13% abv so it will likely keep for a while more. I have not had it so I can not tell you for sure, though I do think that there is point of diminshing returns for any beer, the trick id to find that point!

On a related note, this past December I tried a bottle of Dogfish Head Immort Ale that I have had since 1997. It was sublime.


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On a related note, this past December I tried a bottle of Dogfish Head Immort Ale that I have had since 1997. It was sublime.

Oh my, I bet it was sublime. I didn't realize he had been making Immort Ale for that long! How time flies when you're having fun in the world of beer.

:wub:

Edited to add: Speaking of aging and big beers, I'm now sipping on a glass of Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout '03-'04.... Mmm-mmmmm good.


Edited by Susan in FL (log)

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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On a related note, this past December I tried a bottle of Dogfish Head Immort Ale that I have had since 1997. It was sublime.

Oh my, I bet it was sublime. I didn't realize he had been making Immort Ale for that long! How time flies when you're having fun in the world of beer.

:wub:

Edited to add: Speaking of aging and big beers, I'm now sipping on a glass of Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout '03-'04.... Mmm-mmmmm good.

Susan,

I can tell you that I recently had a 1995 Bigfoot that I thought tasted great.

I agree with the Brimstone. It was bottled for two years by Brimstone, Brimstone got bought out by Frederick, and Big was bottled for one year by Frederick. I did not get any of the first year of Big. I did get two cases of the second year of Big. One of the best aging beers ever. I had to throw out all of my Frederick Big becasue is got badly infected.

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On a related note, this past December I tried a bottle of Dogfish Head Immort Ale that I have had since 1997. It was sublime.

Oh my, I bet it was sublime. I didn't realize he had been making Immort Ale for that long! How time flies when you're having fun in the world of beer.

:wub:

Edited to add: Speaking of aging and big beers, I'm now sipping on a glass of Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout '03-'04.... Mmm-mmmmm good.

I am fairly certain that it is from 97, at least that is what I wrote on the label when I cellared it. I think it may have been the 1st year it was bottled. BBCS is always good, yum.


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Hey!

The Toronado Barley Wine Festival 2006 is coming up February 18-25.

Last year they had more than 50 Barley Wines from around the country.

Some of the beers are available in fairly limited quantities, so if you want to sample the widest variety get there early on.

Be warned, it is usually very crowded and the bartenders overworked and surly*.

*This is not unusual for the Toronado. Well, the surly part, anyway.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Here is the list of Barley Wines for this year.

I'll probably go on Tuesday or Wednesday.

---

Toronado Barley Wine Festival 2006

Description:

Saturday February 18 to Saturday 25, 2006

Toronado Barley Wine Festival 2006

# Brewery Barley Wine Name

1 Moylans Old Blarney

2 Triple Rock Odyssey Ale

3 Magnolia Old Thunderpussy

4 Hoptown DUIPA

5 Glacier Brewhouse Big Woody

6 Big Sky Old Bluehair

7 El Toro Yo

8 Lagunitas Brewing Co. Gnarleywine 2004

9 Russian River Old Gubbilly Gotch 2005

10 Anchor Brewing Co. Old Foghorn

11 21st Amendment Lower de Boom

12 Thirsty Bear Brewing Co. Bearley Legal 2004

13 Elysian The Great Pumpkin

14 Full Sail Brewing Co. Old Boardhead 1995

15 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2006

16 Beermann's Bourbon Barrel 2004

17 Bear Republic Old Scoutters 2005

18 Speakeasy Old Godfather 2006

19 Pizza Port (Carlsbad) Hops On Rye

20 Half Moon Bay Moonglow

21 Farmhouse Brewing Old 97

22 Rogue Old Crustacean 2003

23 Anderson Valley Horn of the Beer

24 Mad River John Barleycorn 2005

25 Stone Old Guardian 2004

26 Alaskan Brewing Co. Big Nugget 2003

27 Eldo's Croaking Toad

28 Iron Springs Barstow Lundy

29 Green Flash Barley Wine

30 North Coast Old Stock 2004

31 Kona Old Blowhole 2004.5

32 Marin Brewing Co. Old Dipsea 2005

33 Snake River Devil's Teat

34 Pizza Port (Solana) Shark Attack

35 Real Ale Brewing Sisyphus Barleywine

36 Rubicon Wheat Wine

38 Drake's Barley Wine 2003

39 Uinta XI

40 Alpine Great

41 San Francisco BC Alexander Gunn

42 Bison Brewing Co Organic Barleywine

43 Seabright Leroy 2005

44 Mt. St. Helena Barleywine 2003

45 Deschutes Mirror Mirror

46 Standing Stone Barley Wine

47 Midnight Sun Arctic Devil

48 Schooner's Barleywine 2002

49 Pacific Coast Brewing Co. Code Blue

50 Dogfish Head Old School Ale


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Went to the Toronado Barley Wine fest last night with some friends.

Sadly they were down to only about 20 barley wines left. We were disappointed not to be able to try the Dogfishhead or Russian River Brewing Barley Wines.

Of those we tried, the two that made the most impression on me this year were the Speakeasy Old Godfather 2006 and the Pizza Port Hops On Rye.

Last year, I didn't think the Old Godfather was even really a barley wine, it tasted so much like their IPA. This year they have managed to make a true barley wine and still maintain the speakeasy character and flavor profile.

The Pizza Port Hops on Rye's main failing may have been a bit too much character. Extremely hoppy, with the Rye's flavor coming through quite clearly. I liked it. Others felt it was too extreme.

I also tried a Moonlight Brewing St. Lupulin on cask, which I believe is a fresh hop beer. I thought it was pretty outstanding, though, some in our group compared it to the smell of a barnyard. I agreed, but, didn't think that was necessarily a bad thing. New mown hay, silage, and the like. Kind of nice.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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