Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Warlock 2010 (Flat Earth Brewing, St. Paul, MN)

On my first visit to Flat Earth recently, I picked  up a growler of 2010 Winter Warlock.  While a sample of WW at Winterfest in 2008 didn't impress, I found it hard to resist an aged barleywine.

Stark white head bubbles up nicely with a hard pour down the center and lingers for a fair bit until it falls to a light film.  Old gold beer sets one off immediately from the name barleywine.  I remember my first sample of WW and being surprised at how light it was in the glass.  Holding up the beer, the effervescent bubbles flow long after the beer is poured, and very captivating to watch.  The nose departs from expectations as well. No dark fruits, no heavy alcohol, no barleywine.  Initially, especially when cold, I smell creamed corn.  I suspect that this smell, associated with American lagers, turns off some beer geeks.  With a bit of warmth and focus, it's more of an heavy caramel and underdone biscuit with a floral and earthy hop.  Description on Flat Earth says a two hour boil to caramelize the sugars, which is apparent in the taste with an earthy yet spicey bite from yeast and/or hops. Sweet lingering finish.   9% ABV is present but not pushy  in nose or taste, but hits rather hard and quick in spite of the small glass I'm using tonight.  Watch out--this one is sneaky!

In short, I like the beer.  But I can understand some of the mixed reviews on BeerAdvocate.  First, there are issues with the expectation as a barleywine.  Compared to an Old Crustacean, Old Guardian, Old Foghorn, Horn Dog, Blithering Idiot or even a J.W. Lees, it is an incredibility light beer and defies the category while being fun to drink.  Warming more now, and cream corn (not a pleasant memory from my childhood) changes to a heavy earthiness and Dutch apple pie.  Again, if reviewers are drinking too fast or too warm, I think the impression of this beer will be hurt.  Next glass of this beer I'm going to set the beer out for a bit to warm significantly before drinking it.  Good beer, but not a favorite.

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