Thursday, December 30, 2010

446. Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Jack & Ken’s Black Barleywine

We’re closing out the year with a bang—the final Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary beer, Jack & Ken’s Black Barleywine. Sure, there is technically another day left in this year, but I seriously doubt I’ll be blogging just for the sake of my one consistent fan (hey Jeffrey!). While I’d like to apologize to all of you out there who feel slighted by my favoritism, since I’ve been told that the second Jeffrey McElfresh Homebrew Drinking Week is about to become a reality, I’m all about playing favorites. After all, what have the rest of you done for me lately? But enough about my blessed good luck: previously from Sierra Nevada, we’ve sampled 30th Anniversary Our Brewers Reserve Grand Cru, Homegrown Estate Ale, 30th Anniversary Charlie, Fred, & Ken’s Imperial Helles Bock, Southern Hemisphere Harvest, Bigfoot, 30th Anniversary Fritz and Ken’s Ale, Kellerweis, Celebration, Torpedo Extra IPA, Anniversary Ale 2009 and Harvest Wet Hop Ale 2008. If it wasn’t your damn anniversary, Sierra Nevada, I might have to complain about the long-ass anniversary beer names. I get it—you’re old and awesome, so stop name dropping.

30th Anniversary Jack & Ken’s Black Barleywine pours a rich, clear chocolate with a creamy cardboard colored head. When we first poured this, it was straight out of the fridge, and it smelled and tasted rather neutral—not much in the way of anything that jumped out and said awesome. So we put it aside for a half an hour, and then came back to it, and that half an hour was helpful. The nose is creamy, with a touch of dark fruit along with caramel, toffee, and licorice—and surprisingly, not much in the way of roasted malt. Chocolate and caramel open the front—more chocolate than caramel—and the roasted malt comes out in the middle, along with a light touch of the dark fruit, but very very little. I’m guessing that will be on the up and up in the next couple of years. There is also bitterness in the middle, which lingers through the finish. The chocolate also comes back at the end; along with the previously mentioned bitterness, there is also some alcohol that lingers on the palate. Black Barleywine has a rich but uneven mouthfeel—the creamy chewiness is nice, but the alcohol warmth and flavor is a bit too forward currently. The creamy carbonation helps, but this beer does need a couple of those “graceful” years alluded to below to balance the beer and allow flavors to marry, as well as allowing the alcohol to fade back into the beer. The current strength is the bitter roastiness, but even then a bit more time is needed to blend the current alcohol warmth. Happy Anniversary Sierra Nevada, you glorious hoppy West Coast bastards...

Somewhere, the Abyss lurks...

From the bottle: “Jack McAuliffe was the first American ‘micro’ brewer. His tiny New Albion Brewery in Sonoma, CA inspired countless dreamers to start small-scale breweries of their own. Jack agreed to brew this very special ale with us in honor of our 30th anniversary. This Black Barleywine Ale is a nod to the legendary ales New Albion served at their summer solstice parties. Rich with bitterness and roasted malt flavors, balanced with whole-cone American hops, this robust ale should age gracefully for years.”

ABV: 10.2%
Hops: 100% Cascade


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