Sample list, and some samples.
Barleywine & Big Beer Tastival 2008

Well, it was a Saturday afternoon in Portland and unfortunately, I had to go to work. Yep, I had to go down to the Lucky Lab in NW Portland and check out the Barleywine and Big Beer Tastival: drink strong beers, talk to fellow beer lovers, drink strong beers, take some photos, and finally, drink strong beers. How do I even get out of bed in the morning?

This is the first time I'd gone to this event. After going to this one, I can tell you that it won't be my last. With 36+ beers available, there was no lack of choices. And these weren't you average choices. For $1.75 for a 4oz taster, one purple ticket was your key to great beer.

Barleywine & Big Beer Tastival 2008
4:00pm crowd on Saturday.
Most of the time, you might see one barleywine pop up on the seasonal list at your favorite Portland Brewery. Many of the breweries around here release one each year, but rarely do the batches run as big as the rest of the seasonals. Since most barleywines require ample cellaring and aging, something as simple as storage space can limit the batch size. Demand also plays a part, as many folks are afraid of these sweet, malty, sometimes estery or fruity, high-octane concoctions. Because of all of these circumstances--unless you're squirreling these few bottle releases at home--the opportunity to compare these beers seldom arises. At this years Tastival, there were plenty of opportunities.

Barleywine & Big Beer Tastival 2008
The tasting room.
To the tough-livered barleywine enthusiast, there were many familiar names such as: Old Foghorn, Old Knucklehead, Old Stumblefoot, and Old Yeller. And others that broke with traditional barleywine naming conventions like Bigfoot, Gnarleywine, Mirror Mirror, and Train Wreck. Whatever the name, they all bring a few things to mind: something big, something aged, and something dangerous. Well, these beers were big, with an average ABV percentage in the high 9's. Aging ranged from last year all the way back to 2002! As far as danger, it's dangerous to assume anything about barleywines as a whole. These beverages are a veritable witches brew of ingredients with the more-than-usual malts and hops, but also things like bourbon and oak from the barreling process, vanilla, jasmine, rose, eye of newt. You get the idea.

This event, hosted by the Lucky Labrador Brewing Company, was a success by all measures: great beer, knowledgeable crowd, and a perfect venue. Another tough day at the office.