Dec 7, 2009
Good Beer Times: Uinta Anniversary Barleywine
Winter beers tend to be darker, and you see a hefty emergence of imperial brews. Imperials are basically traditional styles with the alcohol level amped up seriously. For example, a regular stout might have 4% - 6% alcohol, while its imperial brother/sister might have 10% alcohol. So if you see "Imperial ______" on your bottle, get ready for some lightheadedness. There are of course exceptions (I just had Abita Christmas Ale and it is certainly not particularly dark), but high alcohol/dark beers are fantastic in cold weather, so more of these beers seem to emerge. Something else that blooms in winter is barleywine.
Barleywine is not wine. It is beer, and it is made with the exact same ingredients as your average beer. However, there really isn't an Imperial version, as there is no need. Barleywine by definition ranges from about 8.5% to 12% alcohol. My experience with it is limited, though growing rapidly, to the detriment of me being "awake". On the reccommendation of my local beer jockey, I picked up a pack of Uinta Anniversary Barleywine.
Uinta is a pretty small brewery out of Utah. They make a pretty good pilsner that we sell at my restaurant, but the great thing about them is that they are entirely WIND-POWERED! (This is where I nerd out. Wind-powered beer. How do live there?) The other great thing about them is that their barleywine is outfreakingstanding and made possible-convert Matt and I very, very happy.
We opened our bottle not knowing exactly what to expect. The smell resembled chocolate-covered cherries to me, and there was very little hop aroma. Mainly there was just a rich, fruity yeast smell with a nice chocolate malt. The taste mirrors the aroma quite well, though it adds in a bit of breadiness and dried berries. The body is almost brandy-like, very smooth and warm. It has the slightest hint of carbonation that helps it go down tremendously easily. It was drinkable in the extreme, and even despite its 10.4% ABV, it is a remarkably easy beer to sip and enjoy.
What happened next will probably live in our family lore for years. After a bottle of the miraculous Uinta, Matt and I sank into what I can only describe as an angelic drunk. No headache, no thirst, no twice-an-hour bathroom trip. He and I sat on the couch, much to the amusement of our significant others, in a state of prolonged, nearly silent bliss. As a matter of fact, when we spoke, something like, "Wow, this stuff is amazing," was all that made its way out of our newly useless mouths. Our eyelids drooped, our tension slipped away, and our heads fell back on the softest couch we had ever known. It was the same couch as always I guess, but isn't that what this time of year should be about? The pillows feel fluffier, the blankets more enveloping, and the friends closer than ever. If a glass of barleywine can help . . . well, the more the merrier.