Thursday, March 13, 2014

Breckenridge Barleywine Batch #1 review

Breckenridge Barleywine Batch #1Lovers of big beers take note. Breckenridge Brewery of Denver, Colorado is about to release their new Breckenridge Barleywine Batch #1 on Saturday, March 15th, 2014. Before it's available in limited quantities, Fermentedly Challenged was offered to review it in a sneak peek.

Breckenridge's new Barleywine Batch #1 is the first release in what will become an annual release of this beer. However, Breckenridge stated that each year, this beer would undergo some variations in the recipe as to create something totally unique each year. The 2014 Batch #1 of this big 10.1% ABV Barleywine first spent the first 3 months being cold conditioned and then spent another six months aging in fresh American Oak barrels. When released, it will be available in 22oz wax-coated bomber bottles.

In my experience, Barleywines, when newly released, have big bold flavors and a lot of bitterness. This style of beer tends to be a great candidate for beer cellaring for at least a year or two. And as this style of beer ages it changes for the better in most cases. But how would this big bold beer taste fresh after bottling? Fermentedly Challenged wanted to give this beer the full review treatment.

Appearance: After spending 10 minutes carving off the thick wax coating from the top of the bottle, I was able to open it up and let this beer breathe. I chose to let this beer warm a big due to it's big nature. Once warmed up to about 50 degrees or so, I poured it into a big glass that narrowed at the top. The beer was a dark brown color with a lot of mahogany and deep red edges along the side of the glass. I got a wonderful 2-3 finger tall head that formed on the glass that left a wonderful lacing along the edge. It only took a gentle swirl to get a nice ring of foam to kick up again. I couldn't see any sediment in the first pour from this 22o bottle. It was dark enough that I couldn't see through it, but from what I could see it looked clean, adequately carbonated and strikingly tempting.

Aroma: I'm glad I let this beer warm up slightly as the aroma in this beer was big and powerful. I could pick up an immediate sense of a big malt base with sweet undertones in Barleywine Batch #1, a hint of booziness, a bunch of dark fruit and a hint of vanilla from the oak and some molasses tones. This beer had a LOT going on with the aroma. It's a smell that was really inviting, but led to be go cautiously due to it's big 10.1% ABV nature. A gentle swirl was all it took to fill up the top of the glass with a wonderful malt aroma.

Breckenridge Barleywine Batch #1 close-upTaste: Breck's Barleywine hit me up front with a strong malty taste that has a big bold mouthfeel to it. I could detect the alcohol strength in the taste immediately and sipped slowly going forward. While the malt base was big, I could pick up some tastes of dark fruit, a nearly as powerful hop bitterness and a touch of underlying sweetness.

I imagine this beer would change immensely if left to age for another year or so. The bitterness would subside a bit, the sweet molasses taste would evolve into something like sherry or brandy. But as it was now, this beer was strikingly sharp on both the malt side and the bitterness side. Just what I would expect in a rich young barleywine. Granted, this beer had already aged a bit in oak barrels, and the aromas and tastes from the wood are nicely detectable, but well placed into the background of this beer.

Overall: I could tell that a lot of planning went into a big beer like this. The balance of malt, hops, body, aroma and alcohol content seem to go well together for a young Barleywine. I really wish I had gotten another 2 bottles of this beer because I'd love to see what age does to this beer over 1 year and again at 5 years. Being a limited release beer, you'll have to scramble to get a few bottles during the release at the brewery on March 15th and at select stores. Next year's beer may prove to be a totally different animal, but I can say with some confidence that this beer will most likely delight the majority big beer lovers. I'm a fan already and would definitely seek this beer out again. Good job Breckenridge Brewery! Please make more like this one again.

Disclosure: I was contacted by Breckenridge Brewery directly and was offered this bottle of Barleywine Batch #1 for review. I was not paid for this review, but is a personal opinion of what this beer is like.

Related articles:
- Breckenridge Brewery set to release Barleywine.
- Breckenridge Agave Wheat review.
- Breckenridge Imperial Porter review.

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