Galaxy Hopped Barleywine, a successful experiment in balance, subtlety, and complexity
Widmer Brothers brewing, fresh off a media event about their new outside packaging and branding, are now showing off their insides. The latest addition to the Brothers' Reserve series is the Galaxy Hopped Barleywine. "At Widmer Brothers, we're always experimenting with new recipies, and the Brothers' Reserve Series brings some of our most innovative concepts to market," said Rob Widmer. "We love craft brewing, we love great beer, and our hope is that we're able to share that passion through the beer releases in this series."
These releases are pretty easy to spot on the shelves as each 22 ounce beer comes in it's own post-consumer recycled brown box. Though standing out on a shelf is great in a state with so much beer competition, a suggested price tag of $9.99 will give even the most seasoned beer connoisseur pause. For most of us, that's not the price point where we grab a handful of bottles (or in this case boxes) and toss them in the cart without thinking.
Galaxy Hopped Barleywine got all the right pieces in all the right places... This beer is a successful experiment in balance, subtlety, and complexity.
While it's common to see 22 ounce bottles on the shelf in the $4-$6 range, barleywines traditionally are a couple of dollars higher. The brewing and cellaring process is a bit longer for these beers which can be almost twice the alcohol content and they don't fly off the shelves in the same volumes as Pale Ales and IPAs. Those who know me know that I'm a sucker for barleywines. A great barleywine can win out over all other styles when I'm shopping for beer. I'm always curious how brewers attempt to tame a beast with huge alcohol content, loads of malt, and choice of hop additions. These beers can get out of hand very quickly: too much alcohol burn, too bitter, too syrupy sweet. With all that can go wrong, I really enjoy a barleywine that goes right. Galaxy Hopped Barleywine Ale went very right.
Galaxy Hopped Barleywine got all the right pieces in all the right places. In a beer this complex, the subtleties are hard to tease out. I pulled this bottle out of the fridge about 15 minutes before I opened it to let it warm up a bit. The beer poured with an exceptional clear, glassy, mahogony/ruby color. The aroma was subtle at first, with darker fruits like cherry and plums coming through. these flavors were also blended into the taste and it's hard to figure out what is making the most contributions to this, the yeast or the hops. There is no mention to the yeast strain, but I'd imagine that there is quite a bit of this taste from the yeast esters. The Galaxy hops used are a variety from Australia, a high alpha acid, dual purpose hop (both for bittering and flavoring). They are described as having both a citrus and dark fruit aromas, but I think they lean much more to the dark fruit end of the spectrum both in the beer and off the vine, imparting a slight mix of strawberry and cherry notes. As the beer warmed, things got event better as the malt backbone contributed a bit more caramel and vanilla to the mix. The taste of alcohol was definitely in the profile, but balanced well with the sweetness and the bitterness. There are a lot of great things going on with this beer. It's going to take a second (or third...) bottle to really get down to the bottom of this mystery!
This beer is a successful experiment in balance, subtlety, and complexity. This is a perfect example... Wait, I think that Kurt Widmer can take it from here: "From the moment we brewed our first beer, we've sought to create unique interpretations of beer styles, and Galaxy Hopped Barleywine Ale is a perfect example of a new take on an old favorite," said Kurt Widmer. "A take off the strong ale style which originated in England, our barleywine is a great beer that we're excited to bring to beer lovers nationwide."
If you don't believe me, or Kurt Widmer for that matter, go get some of your own. It's out now. Let us know what you think!
Galaxy Hopped Barleywine Ale Vital Stats:
- 60 IBUs
- 9.5% ABV
- 24.0° plato
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