This week’s Sip With Us Saturday, Obscure Exports, led me to the country of Sweden. I hopped on my private jet, flew in to Stockholm, and grabbed a bottle of Nils Oscar Barleywine. Well, I was going to do that until I realized my wife was already using the jet to pick up some sushi in Okinawa, so instead I sauntered over to the local beer store.
The single bottle of barleywine set me back $5.99; a hefty price for a bottle so small (330 ml). Why did I choose this? I adore barleywines, even on a warm spring day. They tend to be a more highly priced style (especially those that utilize first runnings) but generally I have found the adage “you get what you pay for” has some merit.
So I poured the Sweedish Barleywine into my brandy snifter (1/2 for me, 1/2 for my wife)…
The beer pours a hue that is red orange. There is almost no head, but that can be expected from the style sometimes. A typical barley wine usually let’s you know that is a barleywine with a bold display of viscosity. Nils Oscar Barley wine did not.
I was drinking my beer that night by campfire, so I moved out of the way so as to focus on the aroma. This beer was born to be mild on the nose. There were absolutely no bitter hop aromas (i.e. pine, citrus, pepper) and moderate malt aromas that had to be concentrated on to be perceived. I picked up on some mild toffee and plum notes, a bit of cotton candy like aromas, and bit of yeast aroma that came across like whole grain wheat bread.
As soon as the beer hit my tongue, I knew something was amiss. First of all, as the pour suggested the beer is way too thin. With an ABV of 9.5% it really should have demonstrated more silky syrupy aspects. Then there was the flavor. I guess I was expecting (presuppositions are bad) a Thomas Hardy’s-esque experience, but what I got was a maraschino cherry syrup experience. The beer was very sweet–which I typically like–but in a bad way. It tasted almost as if the brewer had used a bunch of demerara sugar after a low temp mash to get the beer up to brandywine style sweetness. It taste very artificial. While in a barleywine hops can be downplayed, there was practically nothing going on in the area of balance/bitterness.
The beer was not sink worthy, but still not very good. So I lit up a cigar. After a few minutes the peppery qualities that were tingling my tongue and lips from the stogy made the beer much more palatable, providing a little artificial balance. In the end though, I will not buy this beer again.
Among other Barleywines:
To prove my coolness, enjoy the picture below: