back to basics

12 May
My Mother's Day gift to myself.

My Mother’s Day gift to myself.

It’s been a while since I have just reviewed a beer.  Probably a bit too long.  I’ve been contemplating this or that, waxing stupid about stuff, going to festivals, and generally ignoring the idea of a simple beer review.  Time to get back to basics.

This is part of the Class of ’88 series from Deschutes, which is a collaboration between breweries that opened in 1988.  Each brewery brews their version of a particular style…in this case a Barley Wine.  This beer was also brewed by North Coast and Rogue, but here’s the skinny on this particular beer from the press release:

In the same year these breweries were born, renowned beer connoisseur Fred Eckhardt published The Essentials of Beer Style which included a barley wine style guideline which will provide the basis for this collaboration. All three versions of the barley wines that will result from this unique collaboration will be packaged in 22-ounce and 750 ml bottles, plus draft.

The pour leaves a nice 1/2 inch head that holds for about 45 seconds to a minute before starting to disappear.  Love the color on this beer.  Really an orange/light amber, which gives me the impression it’s sweet.  That’s clearly just me being judgmental, as I have always had this innate prejudice that assumes all barley wines are part of the dessert-side of the beer world.  That is just not true, I know, but it’s a long-held belief on my part that I am trying to get over.  The nose starts off with a bit of fruit to it, sort of caramel apple to me, but it ends up in boozeville.  The beer is 10.2% ABV, so this isn’t a surprise.  Initially, the beer tastes of turbinado sugar and vodka-soaked apricots, but it pretty quickly gets more bitter and dry.  This is not the sugar bomb I was worried about.  This is a nice balance of sweet and bitter.  Not much aroma hop to my nose, though.  That’s a missing piece for my tastes.  I don’t necessarily want a dry-hopped beer here, but a little more in the nose and final flavors would be nice.  Again, the beer finishes a bit hot from the alcohol, but that is more enjoyable than distracting to my tastes.  What is really impressive is that, even though it has a healthy amount of sweet to it, the beer has a nice moderate mouthfeel.  It doesn’t coat my mouth or get all chewy on me.  I have to say, though, it sits heavy in my stomach.  Not sure if that is a function of the grain bill in this beer or the higher alcohol content.  Either way, drinking the whole 22 oz (which I did) is a bit of overkill.  Best to split this with a friend.  Certainly not a beer I would reach for on an even semi-regular basis, but I have to appreciate how well it is made.    As I am trying to open my horizons to styles I don’t normally drink, this beer was a good way to do that.  I had a hoppier version of a barley wine at the downtown Deschutes pub this past winter that I liked more, but anybody into this style would be well served to pick this up.

And although I wouldn’t probably do a side-by-side tasting of these three versions, it might be fun if somebody else did and told us all about it (that’s a hint, Mike).

Food Pairing:  I am no expert on barley wines, but this particular one has a bold bitter and sweet profile.  I think it needs a food that also plays into bold aspects of the flavor wheel.  By this I mean food that has pretty intense sweet, sour, salty, and/or heat profiles.  My initial thoughts were Thai, but what dish?  I landed on Pineapple Fried Rice, a favorite of mine.  A really spicy plate of it, too.  It has the sweet and hot component, plus the saltiness from the fish sauce.  The intense bitterness of this beer would help with the heat, and the sweetness would work well with the fruit.  You could always go sweet, too.  Maybe a dish of grilled pineapple with vanilla marscapone cheese and salted caramel?  I’ll have to give this pairing some more thought.

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2 Responses to “back to basics”

  1. Chad May 13, 2013 at 9:17 PM #

    I’m not a huge Barley Wine guy either. Frankly I avoid them more often than not. But your review shock a cob web as I believe that I may have had the Deschutes Mirror Mirror somewhere; it is pretty low on IBUs but I do recall it, if it was in fact the Mirror Mirror, having a nice hop bite to it and not so bad to drink; I had like a tiny pour though.

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