Sunday, October 23, 2011

Barleywine Review #3 - Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Ken & Jack's Ale

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Oct. 23, 2011

The Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary – Jack & Ken’s Ale was pretty easy to find.  In fact, I believe that Liquor Mart in Boulder still has a couple cases left.  I had tried this bottle once in the past, shortly after it was released, but I never reviewed it.  I do remember it tasting a little maltier and sweeter last time I had it, but this time here is what I found:

Location: Boulder Liquor Mart
Cost: $15.99
ABV: 10.2%
IBUs: 60-70? (speculated, but not confirmed - if you can confirm or correct let me know)
Brewery Location: Chico, California
Style: American Barleywine
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.08 - Excellent
My Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.93 – Very Good
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate/Rank in the Top 20: 362/14th
Brewery Description: NA
Bottled On: Summer of 2010

Photo Courtesy of Legal Beer
APPEARANCE:  Dark as night.  There is no light penetrating this beer whatsoever.  The head, no matter how softly it is poured swells up into a nice, homogenous group of tiny bubbles that forms a finger and a half of off-white head.  The dissipation is rather quick, but a ring of lace and a wispy thin layer of foam cap the beer after it has settled. 

SMELL:  The nose is medium to strong and dominated almost entirely by a sweet, milk chocolate smell.  Some coffee is present and a tiny touch of hop aroma creeps in, but this nose belongs to the cocoa.

TASTE:  The big, sweet, chocolate aroma blends into the first sip, but about halfway through the hops take over in a big way.  The 30th Anniversary is a much stronger and much hoppier Barleywine than I am used to.  Citrus and dank bitterness flavors steal the show from the chocolate mid-sip.  The chocolate returns for a big finish, but the sweeter chocolate flavor has turned into a bitterer, darker chocolate.  As the beer opens up it mellows and while it remains a bitterer, hoppier Barleywine than most, it does begin to resemble the style a little more closely with a boatload of roasted malt and sweeter flavors beginning to expose themselves.

MOUTHFEEL:  The mouthfeel is fantastic and spot on for a Barleywine.  It is nice and oily, but has enough fizz to let the palate know that it is still a beer.  The only deviation from the standard Barleywine is that it is much more dry than most, but that is not a bad thing.

OVERALL:  I think I would classify this beer as more of an enormous and malty Black IPA than a Barleywine, but that does not change the fact that it is a solid beer.  If you find yourself with a bomber or two share it with your friends who love IPAs and dry porters, die-hard Barleywine fans may be let down.  Also, do not introduce anyone to the style with the 30th Anniversary, it’s more of a riff on a Barleywine than a traditional American Barleywine.

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