Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn
Posted on 7/26/2011 (863 days ago)
1 Member Rating | Great Overall | 8/10 Appearance | 8/10 Aroma | 7/10 Mouthfeel | 7/10 Flavor
When selecting adjectives to describe the barleywine style of beer, words like ''powerful'' and ''tenacious'' come to mind. These are big beers. Really, really big beers. There is not a single barleywine on the planet that can be tamed by a novice. They reside in the ''are you worthy'' spectrum of beers along with Belgian Quads and Old Ales. When you reach a point where you can dissect the nuances of barleywines, then you can firmly consider yourself a seasoned brew enthusiast.
Flying Dog's barleywine is called Horn Dog. In the glass, this beer takes on a deep reddish brown coloration with a very fine haze. The yeasty particles are very small and almost undetectable. It's what I like to call a ''clean'' haze, where everything is nicely uniform to give a light syrupy appearance. Barleywines can vary significantly in appearance, so as long as it doesn't look dirty or chunky, it's generally fine.
This beer has some big aroma. One very common trait of barleywines is the alcohol presence. It's everywhere, you can't avoid it, so better to make peace with it. Horn Dog is no different. Alcohol is the dominant aroma, but I can also detect big sweet malts and strong sourdough bread notes underneath.
As you can imagine, the take home point from the first sip is alcohol. You have to get used to it before other flavors emerge. There is an alcohol burn from start to finish, but after a few sips you can start to tame it. The really cool thing about barleywines is that the alcohol intensifies the flavors. Once the middle ground emerged, I tasted some concentrated caramels and dark fruits. The flavors are big and bold, so enjoy them when you find them. The finish is very dry and leaves a mild roasted aftertaste.
Overall, Flying Dog's Horn Dog is a very nice barleywine. In rating the style, the word is aggression. Is it so aggressive that you can't enjoy it? Is the burn too weak to compensate for the massive flavor punch? Horn Dog balances this well, making it a very palatable big beer. I'd say my only gripe would be the hop profile, which is so muted by the other strong flavors that it's barely noticeable. Consequently, this beer reminds me more of a Belgian Quad with a roasted character. It's a fun beer to study for seasoned brew fans. And just to reiterate, novices should stay away from this beer at all costs. It'll punch you in the face, kick your dog and send you crying back to wine coolers.
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Yeah, it seems that of all the "generic statements" one can use in the better beer world, "Beginners should stay away from barleywines" is about the easiest and most true of them all.