Saturday, September 17, 2011

483. Jeffrey McElfresh Barleywine

I’m back up on that Jeffrey McElfresh bandwagon. You win some medals, you get that attention. I’ve had this beer for a while—I think Jeffrey’s on like 75 or something now, and this is 39, so you can do the math—and since it won its category at Brewfest, I figured that it was time to bust it on out and see what is what. I guess that makes me the biggest winner, doesn’t it?

JM B-wine pours a rusty brown with a fair amount of orange to it—roughly the color of weak truck stop coffee that you notice is looking a bit sketchy right before the cream goes in—but this is beer, and thus not nearly as disturbing for that particular shade of tepid. It is, however, brilliantly clear—the rusty is color-based, not clarity-based. There are ruby highlights through the glass on the table (which is one difference between this beer and truck stop coffee—this is being consumed out of a glass, not a styrofoam cup), and the barest sheen of carbonation across the top of the beer, although when swirled you can see the carbonation slowly fighting through the thick fluid. This beer also has legs, but since it is around 12% ABV, is anyone really surprised by that? I let it sit for 10 minutes on the counter before opening it after pulling it out of the fridge, and I’m letting it further warm up in the glass while typing all of this. Yes, I’m typing slow. I haven’t even smelled or tasted it yet. Such due diligence.

The nose is rich and warm, with faint, bright alcohol coupled with chewy toffee malt, toasty bread dough, and caramel. There is a decided creaminess and a touch of dried fruit, although no real fruitiness discernable from the yeast. I’m not detecting much in the way of hops either, but the malt is pretty prominent. The malt character grows as it warms, getting more rounded and softer. Flavors are malt forward, at least until the smooth alcohol flavors make their presence felt in the middle and on into the finish—there is bread and toffee with hints of nuttiness running along the edges in the front, dropping into brown sugar and caramel sweetness in the middle. The alcohol flavors provide a balance to the sweetness, although they still have a slight upper hand; they come in right after the brown sugar and dance on the tongue with the caramel malt sweetness. Flavors dry up a bit into the finish, although brown sugar and caramel corn comes into play in the finish, mixed with a warmer alcohol and light hop bite. The body is slightly chewy, although not as chewy as the aroma initially indicates—the alcohol thins and lightens the mouthfeel, although this beer does strike me as still rather young. The creaminess of the nose is in the mouthfeel as well, along with a touch of slickness from the alcohol. As a whole, this is a good beer, but it has not yet achieved the depth or complexity that comes with age—I was hoping for some oxidized or vinous notes along with that malt complexity that comes with age. But all this means is that the second bottle is gonna keep sitting in the basement until it is time for its triumphant rebirth into the mouths of saints and sinners alike. B-wine goes in the B-mouth.

Smack your tweet up, Jeffrey.
The second half of the bottle was slightly more spritzy with the carbonation—a couple skiffs of foam even suffered to hang out for a while on the top of the beer. As it approached room temperature, the body thickened on the palate, although the alcohol also increased in the finish—there was more warmth and a stronger bite that minimized the malt characteristics of the final third, but there was also more brown sugar and caramel across the entire profile.


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