Friday, October 7, 2011

Barleywine Review #1 - AleSmith Old Numbskull


Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Oct. 7, 2011

It seems appropriate that the first beer reviewed for the Barleywine Project – AleSmith’s Old Numbskull – is from the very same brewery as the last beer of the DIPA projectAleSmith’s YuleSmith.  Yes, Review #1 of the Barleywine Project is from what is quickly becoming one of my more sought after breweries, AleSmith.  In addition to this beer coming from the same brewery, it also came from the same dude – ren, from Beer Advocate, who I think I can now officially call my “Beer Guy in San Diego”.

Ren and I have worked out a couple of great trades since I have moved here to Boulder.  I’ve been able to find him some amazing sour beers, including Immitis from Avery and he has provided basically all of the AleSmith beer I’ve ever had.  I am grateful for that.

Anyhow, tonight Emily and I finally split the bottle of Old Numbskull that he sent me a couple of weeks ago.  What a treat it was and although I am about to discuss this in greater depth below, I have to mention it here as well, AleSmith makes some really good beer, but they seriously make some of the best looking beer I have ever seen.

Alright, onto the specs:

Location: Home
Cost: In Trade – One bottle of Avery Immitis + (Cost of that bottle $6)
ABV: 11%
IBUs: 99
Brewery Location: San Diego, California
Style: American Barleywine
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.17 - Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.1 – Excellent
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate/Rank in the Top 20: 340/15th
Brewery Description: Old Numbskull
Bottled On: NA

APPEARANCE:  (5 out of 5) After just a very limited experience with AleSmith’s brews, if there is one thing I know about them it is that they know how to brew an amazing looking beer.  The YuleSmith (Summer) took home the 20 Beers in 20 Nights award for the best looking beer of the entire DIPA project.  Well, as the first beer in the Barleywine Project, the Old Numbskull is sure to be in the running in the same category.

The color is a solid, opaque, copper penny red with an exceptional, big, foamy and white, two-finger head.  The retention, as it was with the YuleSmith, is outstanding.  I poured this beer, then prepared myself a plate of cheese and crackers, then ran around the house for three minutes doing small errands for Emily, then sat down and began to write this review…and guess what?  The head is still there.  It is just about an eighth of an inch thick at this point, but this is retention at its finest.

The lacing, again, just like the YuleSmith is exceptionally strong, covering roughly 80% of the back of the glass, about 50% on the sides and somehow managing to keep a few wisps hanging in there on the side that I am drinking from.  I am stunned that one brewery has been able to produce two different beers with such a great look.

SMELL:  (4.5 out of 5) A quick sniff under the freshly popped bottle cap reveals hints of a big, booming aroma.  My initial reaction was that it smelled like a big, malty Double IPA.  As it pours into the snifter that malt aroma become more apparent.  A boat load of caramel hits the nose right up front as vanilla and a touch of piney hops sneak in as well.  As the head fades the aroma does as well, but it remains strong even after a coaster-thick head settles into place.

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) The first impression the Numbskull gives the drinker is that of balance.  A nice, moderate, brown sugary sweetness greets the palate with each sip.  That sweet, caramel-laced flavor slowly fades and gives way to a fairly bitter finish that showcases a surprisingly grassy taste along with a touch of anise.  The wave of flavor from front to back and from medium-sweet to medium-bitter is one of the smoother rides of balance that my palate has ever been on.

MOUTHFEEL:  (3.5 out of 5) The carbonation is there, but only provides a slight tickle.  Otherwise, this is a sticky, yet not a mouthcoating beer.  The dry, hoppy finish (in fact, much dryer than most Barleywines) cleanses the palate quite nicely for such an otherwise sugary beer.  It feels like a big Belgian with the finish of a big, crisp and bitter DIPA like Ruination.  I only wish that the carbonation was stronger.

OVERALL:  (4 out of 5) This is a dynamite example of a Barleywine.  In fact, it almost seems like a prototype for the style; big, complex, malty and hoppy.  While this is not the best Barleywine I have tasted it is right up there amongst the finest and it really is an excellent example of what the style should be.  If someone were to ask me to give them a beer that epitomized Barleywine, this would make an excellent offering.  



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