The festive season is a time for overindulgence – a time to gather with family and friends for the enjoyment of great food and drink.
Barley Wine, in particular, offers much comfort during the winter months as a fireside companion, with its elevated ABV, and rich, warming flavors. Below, we have selected some of our favorite barley wines for you to enjoy over the holiday session – all of which are particularly good partners to the cheese board. With select brews from the US, UK, and Canada, you’ll be certain to find something warming to enjoy in your area this festive season.
Fullers Vintage Ale
We’ve chosen Fullers Vintage Ale as a classic and much anticipated annual Barley Wine release in the UK. It’s well worth stocking up on Vintage Ale when it materializes in store from around October onwards. Each vintage is brewed to a slightly different recipe, and while relatively unremarkable when drank young, this beer reveals its full charm when cellared for around three year’s or more. Stow a few in a dark, cool pantry or cellar to reveal mellow, warming, brandy-like flavors – the perfect after dinner Christmas treat.
Also worth noting is the climbing value of previous vintages; hold on to one long enough, and you could have a very valuable beer indeed!
If you can’t be bothered to wait a few year’s, try Fullers Golden Pride, for a similar, but non-bottle-conditioned alternative with plenty of marmalade on toast flavors.
Other great UK options: Five Points Brewing Company Old Greg’s Barley Wine, Adnams Tally Ho, Thomas Hardy’s Ale (if you can find a vintage, that is; the beer is shrouded in much legend, and sadly, no-longer made).
Central City Brewing – Thor’s Hammer
The beer is brewery matured for up to a year before release, but like a fine wine, this moreish winter warmer only gets better with age; anywhere up to ten years in a cellar will deliver festive cheer, year-on-year.
If you’re in BC, Canada Thor’s Hammer is easily obtained from their brewpub liquor store. It’s best enjoyed next to a roaring fire after dinner; this beer is like Christmas cake in a glass.
Other great Canadian options: Swans Brewery Legacy Ale Barley Wine, St. Ambroise Vintage Ale
XS Old Crustacean Barleywine
Much of the magic displayed by US craft brewers comes down to their complete apathy for the rule book. Rogue’s XS Old Crustacean is certainly no exception to this rule, as they challenge the perception of barley wine as a malt dominated brew by raising the IBU’s (that’s International Bitterness Units) to the lofty heights of 110 IBU. With such intense bitterness from generous quantities of Chinook, Perl, and Centennial hops, the beer could be crushingly bitter if it weren’t for the luscious sweet toffee and caramel malt profile.
For the best culinary experience, Old Crustacean pairs perfectly with pork. Also, try pairing with salty cheese for a delightful salted caramel effect. The unique swing-top ceramic bottle makes for a pretty cool souvenir, too.
Other great US options: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Avery Brewing Hog Heaven, Three Floyds Behemoth Blonde Barleywine
Bonus: Download our FREE 12 Beers of Christmas e-book
Check out our twelve festive treats to warm you up at the link below; consider it our gift to you.
All the best for the season and the new year ahead.