APPEARANCE: Dark, hazy mahogany
HEAD: Thick, tightly knit off-white head that fades very slowly
LACING: Minimal…standard operating procedure for a Barleywine
NOSE: It’s amazing how different breweries interpret the same style. I sampled the Old Blarney back-to-back with the Avery Hog Heaven and you really can’t find two more dissimilar Barleywines. While the Hog Heaven was all massive hops and grapefruit, the Old Blarney is pure, sweet malty goodness. The nose is all caramel, molasses and toffee with bursts of fruit (cherries, dates, and figs). Lots of spiciness and a sting of noseburn from the booze hits you at the end.
TASTE: Rich, robust and warming. It’s redolent with the same sweet notes from the nose (mainly caramel) and the middle is chock-full of dark stone fruits and pungent spice. Unlike the Hog Heaven, there aren’t enough hops here to make a dent in the malt and that lack of hops (which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing) also allows the alcohol to clearly reveal itself with a dry “finishing kick”. What little hops there are show up in the finish with a slightly sticky pine resin flavor.
MOUTHFEEL: Extremely full-bodied, thick, slick, and syrupy. Rolls around on the tongue like red wine.
DRINKABILITY: Low, of course. You won’t be sucking back Old Blarney’s all night long, but drinkability isn’t particularly relevant to Barleywines. Personally, I think the Old Blarney better represents the style than the Hog Heaven, but that’s a highly subjective opinion. To me, it tastes closer to the Platonic ideal of a Barleywine than Avery’s offering. Is that a stupid way to rate beers? Probably. But how seriously are you taking these ratings anyway? It’s not like the Aleheads have any idea what we’re talking about. We’re drunk half the time, for the love of hops!
RATING: 3.5 Hops