This month's session is hosted by Jon at The Brew Site. The chosen theme is Barleywine, alternately written as Barley Wine. A substyle of Strong Ales, the style is divided into English and American versions. The American versions typically have a more assertive hop character. English versions are usually more suitable candidates for long-term aging, and many aficionados actively search out vintage bottles. Interestingly, in the U.S. Barleywines are labeled Barleywine Style Ale. The appellation simply alerting the consumer that barleywines are high in ABV like wines, but are indeed beers. An example of our government regulators hard at work protecting the American consumer by making matters more confusing.
Sticking with a local theme, I selected the 2007 Barleywine from Legend Brewing in Richmond, VA. A couple of other Legend beers were reviewed previously. The brewer used a London ale yeast strain and English hop varieties; Fuggles and then Goldings for dry hopping. The Legend web site notes that the barleywine is aged for 6 months before release.
Legend Barleywine pours an attractive chestnut-brown color with a thin head. The head soon drops but leaves a persistent ring and minimal lacing. A complex aroma of caramel, raisons, and plums meets the nose. As the beer warms light alcohol aromas are released. The bottle I had is from the late 2007 bottling and is labeled 11.5% ABV. The taste of this barleywine lives up to the clues offered by the aroma. A sweet caramel maltiness, along with dark fruits like figs and plums are detected. There's a substantial, though not over-powering hoppiness as well. The mouthfeel is smooth with a light carbonation. This barleywine leans towards the English style rather than the more aggressively hopped Amerian style. Legend brewer John Wampler writes that the beer is "Probably a hybrid the way it turned out, leaning toward the English." However you choose to classify it (if you must), this is a very nice drink and we'll surely visit this local offering again.
We paired the Legend Barleywine with a banana split dessert made with a warm barleywine sauce. The recipe was taken from the chocolate chapter of our well-worn copy of The Best of American Beer & Food by Lucy Saunders. Barleywine, dark brown sugar, chopped almonds and butter are simmered into a smooth sauce. The barleywine sauce was poured over bananas which were in turn topped with butter-pecan ice cream. The dish was then topped with Colleens world-famous chocolate hardening sauce. The almonds and the dark fruit flavors of the barleywine blended very well and the dessert complimented our drinks quite nicely.
That's it for this month's session. It was fun to plan out a special evening treat around an enjoyable, if not somewhat decadent, beer and food combination. Be sure to check out The Brew Site for a summary of this month's Session.
Update: Jon has posted the Session summary here.