During Thanksgiving 2009, Tom and I were able to brew an English Barleywine together when we travelled down to Virginia to visit Tom for the holiday. The beer, which was named 'Brother Barleywine', was a big beer (10+% ABV) so we knew it would need some age before it hit its prime. Below are the notes we tasted the beer when it was 6 months old.
Aroma: The aroma reveals the beers boozy nature with plenty of alcohol in the nose. A hint of moderate caramel was also detected.
Appearance: The beer posesses a ruby-red, dark honey color that was very plesant. Super clear. There is only a slight head upon pouring or swirling the beer, but it never lasts long and quickly disappears.
Flavor: Complex caramel notes with a hint of a cider character, which is followed up by smooth alcohol and a boozy presence. The beer has a little noticable English hop bitterness and has a drier finish than we had expected. It is balanced for what it is with a lingering hop bitterness in the aftertaste.
Mouthfeel: The beer is a lot thinner than we had planned, without much structure to it. A little disappointing.
Overall: The alcohol is present, but not assertive. Good sipping beer. The dryness lets the beer keep is drinability without being cloying. There is a residual build-up of flavor/richness with the beer, almost to the point of palate fatique.
While the beer took a turn from what we had expected it to be, we are both very curious to see how it will be in 6-12 months from now when it reaches maturity.
"It was as natural as eating and to me as necessary, and I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking beer."