Today, it's time to delve into the musical arts with a sampling of Funky Buddha Brewery's Iron and Barleywine, a big and boisterous English-style barley wine beer.
This beer is part of the Little Buddha series, a small-batch collection the brewery puts out into the world from time to time. As with the rest of these types of releases, it's offered in a 22-ounce "bomber" bottle.
It falls squarely into the barley wine category too. That's number 17D for those keeping track with the BJCP at home. The idea behind these sorts of beers is to "showcase... malty richness and complex, intense flavors... When aged, it can take on port-like flavors. A wintertime sipper." Here, we will be looking at a fairly un-aged variety. The modern barley wine traces its history back to Bass No. 1, which was first called a barley wine in 1872.
A barley wine is not a wine per se but rather a variation on the old ale, of which beer historian Martyn Cornell believes there is no real distinction between. For all practical purposes, these beers are big, malty, and high in alcohol. Buddha's Iron and Barleywine hits the nose at 10.5 percent alcohol by volume.
It pours a reddish orange with a hint of purple and with a slightly hazy but mostly clear opacity. A nice ring of off-white head clings to the rim.
Aromas of currants, dates, dark raisin, and a sort of sugary sweetness come off the glass.
On the palate, there is an immediate sweetness that hits up-front, with raisin right up in there, then a hit of bitterness that disappears back into the caramel-forward malt complexity. As things quiet down, it leaves a lingering fig note on the back. A moderate alcohol heat clings through as well on the end, playing with the fig.
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It is gorgeously complex, like a symphony, slowly changing through each thoughtful sip and temperature change. A sweetly-heavy beer accented enough with grape must to drive forward the illustrious nature of dark dried fruits that make up big malty beers.
There are suggestions on the label to age, and I would be curious to see how this would change over time. Would some acute oxidation, something that is known to happen to beers kept for long periods of time, mellow out the fruit? Only time will tell on that, so perhaps it's worth it to pick up a bottle or two for longer keeping.
Iron and Barleywine is available at major and local beer retailers and can be found only in 22-ounce bottles.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers. He is a Certified Beer Server and has been a homebrewer since 2009. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.