Posted by: Tyler Rippeteau
Oct. 5, 2012
Finally! The Barleywine Project is back! And we’re kicking off the second half of this project with a Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barleywine, a beer I have been waiting a long time to get my hands on.
For those of you who have been counting, yes, it has been a little over four months since The Barleywine Project’s last post, but we knew back then that it was going to be a while before I was able to track down another one. Summer isn’t exactly Barleywine season and all the low-hanging fruit out here in Colorado had already been picked. So, there wasn’t much hope for a new review.
After a long summer of no Barleywine, however, I was ready. I wanted to taste another one of those big, sweet (but still hoppy), deliciously bready concoctions again…and I wanted to write about it. So, I managed to make a trade with a fellow beer enthusiast in New Jersey. He sent me a few great Barleywines along with one of the elusive beers for me in this project – the Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barleywine.
I have really been looking forward to this one and I was thrilled to track down two bottles of it, so let’s crack this thing open and get it in the glass, but first…some stats:
Cost: Some Russian River and a Bottle of Fred from the Wood
Brewery Location: Amherst, Wisconsin
Style: American Barleywine
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A/4.26
My Beer Advocate Rating: A+/4.83
Current Number of Reviews on Beer Advocate/Rank in the Top 20: 410/13th
Description: Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barleywine
Bottled On: 2012 Vintage
…And one more note, before we bust this beer open – this is the highest rated beer on Beer Advocate on The List for this project. It is ranked No. 6 in the American Barleywine category and trails only a few very, very small batches in its category. OK, enough is enough, let’s pour:
APPEARANCE: (4.5 out of 5) A pretty aggressive pour yielded a full finger of head resting on top of a typical-mahogany colored Barleywine. I read plenty of reviews prior to cracking this one open that the head retention was fairly weak, but it wasn’t too bad in this case. Hundreds of tiny bubbles rush up to the surface around the edges of the glass, trying to feed the head before it slowly fades away.
In addition to the surprising head retention, the lacing on this beer is pretty decent as well. It isn’t great, but some nice web-like lacing stretches from the bottom to the top of the glass. This is not something I expected out of a barrel aged monster like this.
SMELL: (4.5 out of 5) The smell emanating from the bottle was much stronger that that coming out of the glass, which was quite surprising. Either way, there is a wonderfully complex aroma here. A blend of cherries, vanilla and wood provide the most substance here, but hints of caramel and citrusy hops are also present. Excellent smell, could be a touch stronger though.
TASTE: (5 out of 5) The cherry from the nose is still very strong in the taste. Other dark fruits and wood, along with a big helping of vanilla create a flavor profile just as complex as the nose. The middle of each sip brings a slight hop balance to balance the sweeter fruit up front. As the tail end approaches, however, the bourbon flavors come on strong with more vanilla, more wood and a pretty strong boozy heat. Caramel, chocolate and a bit of bread also make an appearance, but one aspect that is missing (or maybe just overpowered) is banana, which is so typical is American-style Barleywines. It doesn’t need it at all, just an observation. All in all, this is truly an exception beer in terms of flavor.
MOUTHFEEL: (4.5 out of 5) This beer is the definition of full-bodied; rich, thick, creamy and chewy. Despite its malty sweetness up front, there is a little pucker from the hop bitterness from the middle to end of the sip. Just as the aroma and flavor, the mouthfeel here is very complex.
OVERALL: (4.5 out of 5) This is a remarkably well-done beer. Despite the very wide array of intense flavors from the malt to the hops to the barrel, nothing tips the balance. What a treat; it makes me want to try some Doggie Claws right next to it, but I have to say, I think Central Waters is the new leader for me in The Barleywine Project. Delicious. Actually, ridiculously delicious.
By the way, the decision to allow this one to warm up before pouring it was a very good one. I imagine that above cellar temperature a lot of the complexity would have been lost.