The Badass Tap: Avery Hog Heaven Barley Wine
Regular followers of the Badass Tap might be starting to think by now that we're favouring the Avery Brewing Company. So far we've had The Czar (Russian Imperial Stout) and duganA (Double IPA), and pretty soon we'll be getting a keg or two of The Maharaja Imperial IPA delivered. But this week it's the turn of their Hog Heaven barley wine.
There are people who buy bottles of barley wines such as Hog Heaven every year and cellar them like vintage wine, then have a 'vertical tasting' of several year's-worth. Barley wine is one of those beer styles that's perfect for that sort of thing because it improves with age when kept under the right conditions. Higher alcohol beers and beers with a big, high-roasted malt component are generally better for ageing than hoppy beers because the hop character of something like an IPA fades relatively quickly, and if a beer is all hops and no malt you're going to be left with something fairly bland. You'll rarely find ten-year old bottles of double IPA - there's no point. Hops are best enjoyed fresh.
Having explained that, Hog Heaven does actually have a pretty decent hop profile. American style barley wines are often much more hoppy than the original English version; sometimes insanely so and with a mouth-puckeringly bitter finish. They usually have a higher ABV too. There's a brewery near Manchester (Robinsons of Stockport) which makes a barley wine called Old Tom that you can only get during the winter (barley wines are usually a winter seasonal). It would sit on the bar in a cask (which was a pin - 4.5 imperial gallons, or half a firkin) and they'd only serve it in half pints (10oz). Once you hit three of those that was your lot for the evening. I can tell you from bitter experience that you really don't want more than three, despite it being a fantastic brew, unless your plans for the following day include little more than staying in bed, keeping the curtains closed, holding your head in your hands and intoning 'Never again'.
Old Tom comes in at 8.5% ABV whereas Hog Heaven is a bit stiffer at 9.2%. Not exactly what you'd call a session beer, so we'll be serving it 12oz tulip glasses and, like Robinsons, we'll be cutting you off at three.
Jim Hughes, Head Beer Nerd, Alamo South Lamar
“If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink… I’d spend it on drink.” ~ Sir Henry Rawlinson