Cellar Selections: Blue Sky Brewing Co. Olde Bluehair Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine Ale 2013

Big Sky Brewing Co. of Missoula, Montana has been at the forefront of Montana’s craft brewing industry since its inception in 1995. Best known for their Moose Drool Brown Ale, Big Sky is the largest craft beer producer in Montana and also has the largest distribution area out of state. Olde Bluehair is a 10.2% ABV Barleywine by style that has been aged for 3 months of Kentucky Bourbon barrels. Olde Bluehair is a relative rarity with only 3750 bottles produced annually of which this one is marked 1663/3750. 

Bottled in a 750ml with a cork and cage, a huge explosion with a slight pull on the placed cork. Pours with a heavy carbonation, almost effervescence that builds a huge foaming, overflowing head. A bright golden hued amber with light orange and ruby red accents in the body capped with a densely bubbled off white. Tons of lacing foam coats the glass and despite the initial outburst the carbonation settles down to nothing. The aroma is at first glance filled with overtly sweet toffee and caramel malts, candied and dried fruits and with a drizzle of fruity hops. Light apricot and candied apple aromas with a candy like aroma blend with toffee and caramel malts and the poignant hop flavours. The barrel has imparted a rich earthen aroma with a light vanilla and bourbon notes that extrudes itself through the candied malt aromas. The first sip is just as sweet as the aroma indicated with maple syrup like malt flavours combining with toffee and bready caramel. Sweet dried fruits of apricot and apple add to the character as the barrel becomes involved. Light vanilla and maple notes, earthen notes and a slight smoke come through towards the finish. The hop profile is notable and present throughout but is a bit lacking in character imparting only light spice and citrus notes. The finish is warm with alcohol and lingers through to the aftertaste with light hop bitterness and astringency. Olde Bluehair is a great beer to share on a cold or wet winter night. A beautifully complex and well rounded barleywine with nice barrel accents and sweet candied fruits. 

Grade: 90/100

Anchor Brewing Old Foghorn Barleywine

Anchor Brewing is seen as a the gtrandfather of American craft brewing. Founded in 1896 Anchor has a long and esteemed history that has seen many of America’s worst and best moments including being destroyed by the Great San Francisco earthquake. During prohibition Anchor survived despite having “nothing” in production. In 1965 Anchor Brewing was saved from bankruptcy by Fritz Maytag of Maytag washer/dryer fame. In 1971 Anchor expanded its lineup with four other brews; Anchor Porter, Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn Barleywine and the annual Christmas Ale. By 2015 Anchor has over a dozen flagship and seasonal releases but still get back to their roots with the original Steam beer. Old Foghorn is a Barleywine style ale with 8.8% ABV and is single hopped with Cascade. 

Pouring a bright ruby amber colour with a finger of dark beige head and tons of streaming sparkles of bubbles. The aroma is emphatically malty with tons of toffee and caramel malts that fill the palate entirely but for a subtle citrus hop and dark dried fruit aromas. Light flavours of prunes, raisins, tart cherry and woody malts in the front blend with heavy toasted bread, toffee, caramel, licorice and burnt brown sugar. A bit sweet throughout with a nice balanced profile. The finish has a moderate presence of alcohol that along with the full bodied mouthfeel make this the perfect winter warmer. 

Grade: 91/100

Mikkeller & Three Floyds BooGoop

BooGoop a highly lauded collaboration between two of the worlds most prolific craft breweries is a barleywine brewed with Buckwheat malt. The two breweries involved in the creation of this beer are Copenhagen, Denmark’s Mikkeller and Three Floyds from Munster, Indiana. I recently wrote a post on this blog reviewing Three Floyds Dark Lord 2012 an Imperial Stout which I was privileged enough to taste on tap at Mikkellerbar Viktoriagade. Boogoop was brewed at De Prouf Brouwerij in Belgium to 10.4% ABV and 80 IBUs.

BooGoop pours a highly carbonated mixture of creamy pale yellow head and a burgeoning blend of murky brown and ruby red. The aroma has a sensational toasted graininess with the aroma of a barley field. Sweet brown sugar with an emphasis of resin and grapefruit hops in the nose blends well with the overblown malt backbone. This beer has the aroma of a truly beautiful barleywine. Taking a first small sip a mouthful of brown sugar and molasses lends a ton of sweetness to the flavour. MIld toasted grains with a noted buckwheat flavour and light toffee and caramel malts. The mid palate has a large grapefruit presence with a tangy pinch of lemon rind and citrus zest. After the citrus subsides a mild resinous finish has a nice solid hop bitterness that lingers into the aftertaste. Boogoop has one of the most outrageous and solid barleywine flavours thanks to the heaps of hops and buckwheat. Boogoop has an incredible balance with a warm, resinous and hoppy finish that makes me want more.

Grade: 97/100

Price: $11.99/ 750mL