Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fathead Barley Wine (Nebraska Brewing, Papillion, NE)

Picked up this bottle of Fathead while at Nebraska Brewing on my road trip to Denver.  I hadn't heard of it before, but it's hard to turn down a rare chance of drinking barleywine on a summer trip.  One of the disadvantages to be a teacher-beer hunter is that I don't travel during the winter when some of my favorite dark beers are available.  

Beautiful ruby barleywine in the glass that only reluctantly gives up its off white head in spite of a hard pour from the second half of the bottle for encouragement.  Light legs when tilted, showing the nearly 11% ABV that's apparent, but not overwhelming, in the nose.  It's followed with cherry, molasses, oakiness and a clear, bright hop or yeast spiciness.  Elegant nose leads to a lightbodied, fruity ale with a slight oiliness.  Spice continues but doesn't live up to the promise in the nose.

As it warms, the 6 months in fresh whiskey barrels seeps out.  I missed the vanilla, initially, but it's clearly there.  The brown sugar in the description can be imagined when going back, but looks to be a bit of marketing to me.  It's definitely sweet, to the brink of cloying.   Drink this one slow, or leave it out for a while before tasting, to get to these flavors soon.  My beer fridge sits at about 42 degrees and that's too cold for this one.

The description on the website is enlightening as well.  The "fresh whiskey" barrels vaguely listed on the bottle are noted online as Stranahan's Whiskey.  When on the tour of Stranahan's just a day after visiting Nebraska Brewing, the tour guide said their barrels are used by breweries for aging beer on the strict condition that the Stranahan's name not be used.  This is quickly becoming my biggest mistake in that I didn't ask why they prohibit the use of the name since it seems to be good advertising.  Plus, had I known, I would've liked drinking this next to the Stranahan's bottle while in Denver rather than save it for later.  Oh well.

Overall, a very nice barleywine with little to complain about.  I'm enjoying it, slowly, as a celebration for finishing the last assignment of my very last class to top out on the salary scale. In theory, I'm done with required formal schooling as soon as I click send to turn in the assignment via email.

Tonight is not a moment that I could have imagined in 1989 when I started college at Purdue.  When I started college, I was a teetotaler who thought he'd teach physics and math while coaching wrestling and track.   While that would have been a perfectly acceptable path, I'm happy to be an English teacher and speech coach who hunts beer on the side.  Such is the amazingly capricious nature of life.  

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