This week, I'm digging into the cellar to bring a pretty strong and bold beer to light. This is the Umatilla Coffee Barleywine from the folks over in Lakeland, Florida, at the Brew Hub.
Brew Hub has done quite a lot for allowing brewers to expand capacity at will and has played an integral role in providing the logistics for outside brewers like Green Man Brewery and, perhaps this year, Toppling Goliath to come to our state. It provides brewing space for Cigar City Brewing, Orange Blossom, BJ's Restaurants, and others as a way for them to produce what they need. In short, it's a facility that gives some breathing room to breweries in dire need of capacity.
But it also makes a few beers under its own label, called the Brew Hub Collection. I shined a spotlight on the Diver Down imperial red ale last year, for example.
This time, it's going to be a big malty look at a barleywine from its portfolio that hits in at 11.4 percent alcohol by volume. It's an English barleywine by style, so it should be a showcase of malty richness.
This big brew was created to celebrate the facility's first year of operation, named after a legendary cemetery in Umatilla, Florida.
"We found ourselves drawn to the story," the bottle reads. "While we make no claims as to the paranormal nature of this brew, we will lay claim to the diverse excellence of its composition."
It's full of Pacific Northwest hops to counterbalance the incredibly malt-forward palate. "Exotic coffees [from Tampa's Buddy Brew], Acerola cherries, and Madagascar vanilla in the aging process" round out the beer.
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The beer looks typical of a barleywine in that it pours clear with a rich garnet-like color. Aromas are dessert-like with toffee, chocolate, caramel, a mild edge of coffee, and character that is reminiscent of sticky pudding.
Flavors are unsurprisingly big and sweet, with a finish of toffee and butterscotch. Some light fig, brown-sugar flavors round it out. The coffee is enjoyably subtle and well-integrated into the barleywine profile. It doesn’t feel like disjointed companionship, and it's quite enjoyable to experience the interplay of rich sweetness and slightly roasted coffee.
It's currently available at the Brew Hub taproom in Lakeland and has been around in 22-ounce bottles in Central Florida distribution. South Floridians will have to do a bit of legwork to get a bottle, but it is worth it if you're a fan of the style.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers. He is a Certified Beer Server and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.