Thursday, April 5, 2012

Barleywine Review #8 - Avery Hog Heaven Barley Wine

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

Apr. 5, 2012

The Avery Hog Heaven Barley Wine is a particularly interesting beer for us here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights.  To begin with, it is the only beer that potentially belongs to both projects we’re currently working on, The Barleywine Project and The Avery Project.  So, I had to decide whether or not to be lazy and just count it as a review for each project or just for one.  I went with the latter. 

In order to complete The Barleywine Project, Hog Heaven is necessary.  For The Avery Project, though, it is optional.  I would rather give another of Avery’s beers a chance to shine, particularly since I have such great access to them.  This is the same reason that I will not re-review The Maharaja from Avery as I already reviewed it for the DIPA Project.    

Anyhow, the second reason The Hog is interesting is because it is one of only two offerings on our Barleywine list that is available year-round.  The other is Uinta Brewing Company’s Anniversary Barley Wine Ale.  The Uinta is brewed in Utah and just recently snuck onto the list in the number 20 spot.  Whether or not it remains on the list until I get to it is another question. The DIPA Project list changed occasionally, but the Top 20 always remained intact, with a few beers simply switching positions a few times.  The Barleywine list has proven to be much more volatile so far.   

Finally, one last point about the Hog Heaven before the review, in terms of a Barleywine it is somewhat controversial.  Many people claim that it is more of a Double or Triple IPA.  In fact, I have heard some people who sell it claim that they believe it would sell better if it were renamed Hog Heaven Imperial or Double IPA.  This is one of Avery’s oldest recipes, though, and from what I hear it is one that is close to Adam Avery’s heart, so the likelihood of it changing anytime soon is slim.

In all honesty, I have found myself on both sides of this controversy at times.  It is a beer I am familiar with and have tried many times and in many different forms.  I have tasted it in the Taproom at Avery, I have had it in the bottle, I have tried it fresh and I have been lucky enough to sample two, three and four-year old Hog Heaven.  With that said, I have never reviewed it, nor was I ever in a position to seriously focus on it for the sake of determining what style it should be called.  I just wanted a big, flavorful beer.  So, I suppose we should just call this post the Myth Buster’s edition of 20 Beers in 20 Nights.  Is Hog Heaven really a Barleywine?  Let’s find out.

Location: Boulder Liquor Mart
Cost: $2.39 for 12oz. bottle
Glassware: Funkwerks Tulip Glass
ABV: 9.2%
IBUs: 104
Brewery Location: Boulder, Colorado
Style: American Barleywine
Average Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.97 – Very Good
My Beer Advocate Rating: A-/4.23 – Excellent
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate/Current Rank:
Brewery Description: Avery Hog Heaven Barley Wine
Bottled On: NA

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) The Hog Heaven pours a penny copper color with a half-inch thick cap with some staying power.  Others who have reviewed this beer have reported a haziness to it, but that has never been my experience and even after pouring the entire contents of the bomber into my glass, the beer underneath is crystal clear with hundreds of bubbles drifting northwards towards that cap.  As for the lacing, I would call it superb – look at that!

SMELL:  (4.5 out of 5) The nose on this one is delicious.  A big dose of pine blends with banana, clove and maybe a little brown sugar.  For a Barleywine that has been dismissed as a mislabeled Double or Triple IPA, this smells an awful lot like a Barleywine.  The only difference is that those Barleywine aromas are just accented with some strong hop aromas.

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) The first sip confirms that the Hog Heaven is most certainly a Barleywine; a hopped up Barleywine, yes, but still a Barleywine.  OK, now that that argument is settled, what else is going on in this one? 

To begin with, there is plenty of hop flavor packed into this beer, but despite the 104 IBUs, the typical bitterness associated with the hop is muted.  Instead, a big, sweet wave of caramel and bananas crashes into the palate right off the bat and any bitterness comes in later in the form of grapefruit and lemon which are riding a second wave of floral and piney hoppiness.  The finish leaves an interesting medley of slightly puckering bitterness along with a sweeter taste from the flowers, pine, caramel and banana.  The Hog Heaven really stays with the palate.

MOUTHFEEL:  (4 out of 5) Big, sticky, rich, smooth and creamy.  This Barleywine goes down incredibly smooth and leaves a nice bittersweet finish on the palate. 

OVERALL:  (4.5 out of 5) Again, for all the talk about this beer being more of a Double IPA, it sure seems like a nicely hopped Barleywine to me.  After tasting this beer with purpose and without distraction, it is hard to see how I ever believed it was more of an IPA, but at the same time, it is pretty damn hoppy.  Given that intense hop flavor, this is one of the better Barleywines to taste fresh.  With the complexity, intense malt flavor and high ABV, though, it also makes an excellent candidate for aging.  I’ll be putting a couple bottles in the cellar soon.

By the way, Opening Day at Wrigley Field is today - in the words of the late, great Steve Goodman "Hey Chicago Whatd'ya say the Cubs are gonna win today.  Go Cubs Go!"


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