Barley Mowat 

GIB Barley Wine

with 2 comments

On Wednesday I counted myself lucky enough to be invited down to Granville Island Brewery for a preview of their first ever Barley Wine. In addition to a glass goblet heavy enough to brain a horse, I was given unlimited access to their most recent brew, and even a nicely wrapped bottle to take home for offsite consumption.

So, is it worth a damn? Yup. Vern describes this effort as a stylistic middle ground between the more refined, traditional English-style Barley Wine and its loutish American/New World upstart offspring. I would agree with that sentiment, although the bourbon barrel ageing is a definite New World touch.

On pouring, this guy has an awful lot of carbonation for a barrel-aged Barley Wine… almost too much. It’s hard to say whether this is for sure artificial, as the beer is bottle conditioned. Even so, I’m unsure how much extra carb you’ll get out of yeast that’s given its all to make 11.5% ABV and then spent the last four weeks chilling in a used bourbon barrel.

The nose is very mild, almost imperceptible malt and a touch of bourbon. On tasting, the hops come through initially and then the bourbon follows up with a solid kick to your chest. The malt, though, is almost absent, with all those rich sugars effectively hidden behind the whiskey.

And that’s my main complaint about this beer: Where’d the malt go? The sugars, and all that caramel-y/toffee promise that they bring are definitely there–the hyper-smooth mouthfeel will testify to that–but the barrel ageing is all you’re going to pick up on right now.

My secondary complaint would be that this shares a certain je-ne-sais-quoi with GIB’s main beers, specifically their Pale Ale. Whether it’s the yeast or the hops, I can’t say (although I’m leaning towards hops), but it does have that unique GIB-ness about it.

The negatives I mention slowly fade over the course of 8oz or so, and the smooth mouthfeel and body build up nicely. The bourbon and hops create a nice spiciness, very similar to Central City Thor’s Hammer. Try one to see for yourself, but only try one… for now.

Ageing is not optional with this beer. Right now this beer is interesting, perhaps even decent, but give it a few months to half a year and it could become great.

With time, the bourbon and hops will fade, and hopefully give all that malt sugar a chance to come forth. At ~$10 a bottle, this is priced low enough that even inexperienced cellar-ers should pick up a few to see how it develops.

Lastly, I think the bottle-conditioning, cloudiness of the beer, and complete lack of filtering (aka potential for oak bits in your glass) give this beer a wonderful homebrew-y quality, which is the exact opposite of what you’d expect from a brewery that is, after all, a wholly owned subsidiary of MolsonCoors.

Coles notes:

Brewery Granville Island Taphouse
From Vancouver
Name Ltd Release
Style Barley Wine
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Silver
Drink Mid-2013 to early-2014
Watch out for Bits of oak floating in your glass
Availability Select LRS (60 cases) & at GIB (300 cases)
Cost $9.00-$11.00 per 650ml bottle.
Similar Beers CC Thor’s Hammer, Driftwood OCD/OBD
Chuck says Buy several and use it as a tutorial on ageing beer

Turns out Barley Wines are good.

Written by chuck

December 21st, 2012 at 11:53 am

Posted in Beers

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2 Responses to 'GIB Barley Wine'

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  1. I just finished a pour down at the tasting room. Unfortunately it’s pouring ice cold and a bit over-carbed. After swirling to warm and de-carb flavours come out. As you said malt is lacking, except I get more caramel malt than I’d like (probably due to the lack of other malt). The barrel aging flavours are quite well in balance, not over the top. I just wish there was more malt to balance it as the whiskey flavour really accentuates the caramel sweetness and ends up almost cloying. The hop bitterness seemed quite low in comparison to the sweetness – I’m not sure if it will age well given the already sweet balance. Overall it’s not a bad first attempt and reminds me of last years chocolate stout that was overly sweet.

    Side note: I have a feeling this is labelled at 11.5% much like OCD is labelled 11.8% – I don’t believe either of them.


    21 Dec 12 at 13:14

  2. @Rob – Vern figures they brought it in at 11.5 or so, but the barrel 100% will add 1.0-1.5% to that figure.

    I do have some concerns about where this will go once the bourbon dies down a bit. I couldn’t directly pick up on all the malt tones there, so I can’t say what the profile will be once you can directly taste them. After a bottle, though () I get medium caramel and light toffee. Those should go well with a reduction in whiskey, but only time will tell how it plays out.


    21 Dec 12 at 15:17

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