Another Barleywine

After tasting the 2010 releases of Anchor’s Old Foghorn and Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot, I recently completed the Holy Trinity of West Coast US Barleywines, tasting the just-released (brewed in 2008) Old Crustacean, brewed in Newport, Oregon by Rogue. Kudos to Rogue for the best bottle – a gunmetal grey 750 ml ceramic bottle with a swing-top closure. At 11.5% abv, it’s handy to be able to pour a small sample and re-close the bottle. Like all Rogue products, the bottle is screen-printed and offers a lot of information about the beer – brewer John Maier is not shy about his malts and hops. This brew claims 110 IBU’s, and it tastes it.

That said, I’m of mixed minds on this beer. It’s a huge beer, fruity aroma (peaches? apricots?), lots of warming alcohol, lots – and I mean LOTS – of hop bitterness. I’m just not sure there’s enough malt under there – in this day and age of extreme beers, “Imperial this” and “Extra that”, might they have taken a step too far? This is a very dry beer, especially at first. The alcohol carries the bitterness a little better the more you drink (or maybe your senses are so overloaded that you don’t taste the bitterness as much later on?) but that first sip is a little harsh. Now, I love some of the big extreme beers (particularly Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard) but when I pour a barleywine I expect more of a balance. This is not particularly balanced. It’s hoppy and bitter and alcoholic. I’m repeating myself, but there it is. It might be interesting to blend Old Crustacean with Old Foghorn (which I found to be too sweet and not bitter enough) – it would probably taste more like Bigfoot (which I found to be nicely balanced…). That would be an expensive experiment, as a single 750 ml bottle of Old Crustacean costs about the same as a six-pack of Old Foghorn…

In search of Stone’s Old Guardian Barleywine, due out some time this Spring, I’ve heard…

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