Friday, January 23, 2009

Ladyboy's Style Profiles: Barleywines

I'd like to congratulate our readers on surviving all winter holidays and New Years festivities, allowing themselves the opportunity to stare yet another hellish winter right in its cold black heart. By now seasonal effective disorder and cold-weather cardiovascular disease have undoubtedly clouded your thoughts and ravaged your already questionable health.

Friends, these are lousy times and the majority of you will surely continue to suffer. If, however, there are any among you who will dismiss all preconceptions of fermented malt beverages and invite astronomical original gravities and blasphemous levels of international bitterness units into your hearts, I can offer you a little sustenance in these dark times and some recourse against the cold.

The gift I share is no miracle of these modern times, like the vibrating USB bathrobe or the furby. This gift was contrived in antiquity, either by dwarves or gnomes, a drink that will lift the spirits of you and your brethren and revitalize you until you are supremely drunk. Know that I offer you no simple magic when I offer you Barleywine.

I will now reveal the nature of this beverage by way of a tea analogy for those of you not familiar with historical brewing processes.

Consider a blend of fine teas is steeped to perfection at the bidding of an individual rich and powerful beyond comprehension. The result is a beverage as fulfilling and as finely nuanced as the raw ingredients are capable of producing. After this tea has been whisked away for the masters consumption, the tea leaves are steeped once again and this weakened, inferior tea is served to the delight of ordinary hardscrabble people.

This heirarchal production system describes the medieval Parti-Gyle brewing style, where the brewer mashes and re-mashes the same grain, and the runnings from the two mashes are collected in separate vessels and fermented to form two very distinct beers. A strong beer or Barleywine is typically produced from the runnings of the first mash, while the second runnings produce a relatively easy drinking and unremarkable ordinary bitter or small beer.

It is not my intention to degrade the or persecute these ordinary beers. In a pinch it is better to drink weak but otherwise pleasant tea than scuzzy, brackish water tainted by sewage. All I am saying is that it is January and any drink could be your last. Consider this friends. Prepare for each day as you'd prepare for the birth of your first child or minutes before inpatient surgery. Drink the strongest and the most complex. Drink the finest and drink lots of it.
Whether you know it or not, you deserve the libation of the so-called better man.

When that first sip of Barleywine passes your lips you will know that if ever you were going to drink tea, instead of just expressing huffy opinions about how lame tea drinking is, this is exactly the kind of tea you would be drinking.

Hopefully by now your curiosity is sufficient to send you running from your desks to pursue beers malty and true. Because I have drunk Barelywine and it has given me wisdom, I also understand that a few of you probably have some questions that you want answered before you risk your life in the cold. Principally, how does Barleywine taste?

Barleywines will typically be described as adhering to one of two stylistic profiles, English and American. If you are familiar with the differences between other types of English and American ale styles, you will recongnize a familar set of distinctions between the two. For those of you who aren't quite sure how to make this distinguishment, a comparison of the two countries native Barelwines will emphasize their inherntly different takes on the principles of ale construction.

English Barleywines often feature a complex layering of balanced and intricate malt flavors. These ales are incredibly robust and sophisticated, with hop use generally more focused on acieving balance than dominance. The sweetness of the malt is very often complimented by toasty and nutty charachter, along with a distinct fruity prescence, which reflects the yeast strain and fermentation conditions. English versions tend to be darker in appearance than their American counteparts, ranging from amber to dark brown, although the color of both styles reflect the enourmous quantities of malt used.

American Barelywines move the balance away from the malt end of the spectrum. These ales are a showcase of native hop flavors and noticable citrus-like aromas. Amarillo and Cascade are among the extremely popular American hop varieties that lend their character to these beers. Malt plays a supporting role in these ales, providing deep and complex carmelly, bready malt flavors.

Both styles may give the impression of being intoxicatingly strong, though hot, solvently alchohol aramos or flavors are considered flaws. Both styles will way in at between 8-12% ABV.

By now you are surely entranced, willing to voyage to the ends of the earth if necessary, all for the oppurtunity to raise this truly benevolent nectar to your lips. Fortunately, recent diversification of our national beer palate has begun to affect greater distribution radiuses and wider availability of Barleywines and other strong and aged beers, such a voyage will be not be necessary.

Many of you will prefer to sift through this ale's layered sophistication garbed your favorite smoking jacket, in the company of your most excellent foxhound, the two of you reclining before of a crackling hearth under the watchful eye of a taxidermy cheetah. To you I recommend taking advantage of local retailers, who are likely have a few bottles of the good stuff carefully tucked away behind six packs of those ever-so-precious Pabst Brewing products this time of year. Barelywines may be particularly sought at well-stocked specialty beer stores, supermarkets that sell single 22 oz bottles of craft beers, and at bodegas recently restyled as gourmet-type shops.

Be sure to examine prospective bottles carefully, not all Barelywines will be overtly labeled. If you want to get the booty you've got to read the treasure map.

If you'd rather explore your snifter or wine glass (traditional Bareleywine serving vessels) while ruminating about good times with old pals, a fair percentage of beer bars and brewpubs offer Barleywines and strong ales, either on draft or bottled. As in the retail sphere, a little detective work may be required; suspect taps may be labeled as Old Ales, Old Strong Ales, Old Stock Ales, or Vintage Ales. Relative to most other available beers, Barleywines are OLD! Their names almost always indicate this, they're helping you find them.

I have to emphasize that for the rare and adventurous beer drinker, consultations with bartenders and establishment proprietor are extremely worthwhile.If you are willing to ask someone who knows more about their beer selection you will drink better beer, always.

If you've made it to the end of this article you are probably considerably weaker and prone to collapse than before you began. Get out there and drink that Barleywine, nothing else can help you now.


  1. Excellent, Ladyboy. I see you took notes upon your visit to me. I saw you eyeing Marcus, my prized cheetah.

    Puts me in the mood to have a fine glass right this minute, it does.

  2. I'm curious if you know what a ladyboy is, and if in fact you are so.

  3. Stephen,

    I'll leave you to consider the likelihood of Ladyboy being a coincidental nickname verses the possibility of me being an honest to goodness definitional ladyboy.

    Thanks for your interest, I hope the rest of your ladyboy Google searches return more satisfactory results.

  4. I didn't discount that it could have been a nickname, I've just only known it for the orientation, or derogatory terms.

    Since that's neither the case, or if you're "taking it back" then more power to you and those of whom you share your personal meaning with.

    It's a not uncommon term that is bandied about in the military, I didn't need the services of google to know.