Saturday, May 19, 2012

Barleywine Review #10 - Mad River John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale

Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau

May 18, 2012

I actually reviewed this beer last November during a trip to Oskar Blues in Longmont, but my words have been hiding in the notes on my phone for months.  I kept meaning to break the Mad River John Barleycorn Barleywine review out, but never remembered to.  Now that most of the low hanging fruit in The Barleywine Project has been picked, however, I figured it was time to scroll back through dozens of beer reviews and random thoughts to resurrect the Barleycorn. 

With this being Post #10 of The Barleywine Project it will be time for some half-time entertainment soon.  After that, onto half number two.  One beer is already reviewed for the second half, but it might get tough to track down the remaining nine beers.  Barleywine is no longer in season and many of those that are distributed here in Colorado have dried up for the year.  So, I anticipate the project not coming to a close until late winter or early spring next year.

Anyhow, how bout some specs on the Barleycorn?

Location: Oskar Blues Liquids and Solids, Longmont, CO
Cost: About $8/10oz. pour
ABV: 9.5%
Brewery Location: Blue Lake, California
Style: American Barleywine
Average Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.73 – Very Good
My Beer Advocate Rating: B+/3.88 – Very Good
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate/Rank: 318/18th
Bottled On: NA

APPEARANCE:  (4.5 out of 5) The Barleycorn pours a pretty mahogany with a medium opaqueness.  The head is creamy, white and a quarter-inch thick in the 12oz. snifter.  It isn’t huge, but it is absolutely locked in place even after a few sips.  The lacing is very solid at the top covering about 95% of the back of the glass, but it eventually slides down as the snifter empties creating some holes.  This is a good looking beer.

SMELL:  (3.5 out of 5) Chocolate aromas make a strong appearance in this rich, malty smelling beer.  Some dark fruit and caramel also lurks in the background along with a hint of spice. 

TASTE:  (4 out of 5) The Barleycorn starts out surprisingly mild, but grows throughout the sip.  The ride begins with a semi-sweet maltiness that comes along with some dark fruit; cherries, maybe even strawberry?  A big wave of citrus and hops washes the sweetness away about half way through.  It teeters on going too far in the citrus department, but just as it’s about to go over the edge a wave of brown sugar covers it up and provides enough balance to pull it back.  This is really a complex, rollercoaster ride of a beer.

MOUTHFEEL:  (3.5 out of 5) This is a creamy and smooth beer.  It walks the line between dry and sweet, but ultimately falls on the dry side.  Actually, after a few sips that becomes even clearer, this is a pretty dry Barleywine, there just happens to be a couple little bursts of sweetness in each sip.

OVERALL:  (4 out of 5) The Barleycorn certainly improves with air and warmth.  It is a bit harsh and sharp at first, particularly in the citrus department, but as it warms the puckering lemon flavor fades away and the sweet, malty and sugary flavors emerge.  By the end it is a nicely balanced Barleywine.  It really does need time to warm if it is served cold though.  Oskar Blues does a great job of keeping all their draft beer cold.  I imagine that it was under 45 degrees when it was served to me and I probably should have waited to start it until it was a bit warmer.  Once it was finally there it really did show itself off as a strong Barleywine.