Craft Beer: Enjoying the taste of indulgence with 8 Degrees Irish Oak-Aged Barleywine
CELEBRATING has been hard to do in the last couple of years, but the festive season gives us plenty of excuse to raise a glass and toast whatever it is we feel like at any given time.
For that you need something suitably indulgent in your glass and, at this time of year, barleywines are fast usurping imperial stouts as my own personal indulgent beer of choice.
I wrote recently about the history and current state of barleywines, so let's not go over old ground here.
Instead, I want to point you in the direction of a thoroughly decadent ale which will wash down a plethora of festive grub.
Cork-based 8 Degrees are celebrating (raise that glass) 10 years in brewing and have marked the occasion by releasing their Original Gravity series and they very kindly sent a few my way.
As well as brewing a set of limited edition brews, they also ran a competition to design artwork for the cans, with the brief that they "reflected our naturally adventurous values, expressing our desire to explore and roam again".
Quite how much roaming around you can do after polishing off a 440ml can of a 12.2 per cent barleywine is up for debate - perhaps save this one as a post-roaming refreshment.
The beer in question is Irish Oak-Aged Barleywine, which has enjoyed a fair bit of time cosying up to the inside of Irish whiskey barrels. These give it a smooth, woody and malty vibe.
The beer pours a mahogany colour in the glass with slight sliver of head. The aromas are of dried fruit and vanilla and gives a good indication of the richness which lies ahead.
Of course, as with most barleywines, this is a sipper. Mostly due to the high ABV, but this one also delivers a fair bit of sweetness which needs to enjoyed at a slower pace.
Not only does the ageing give it a nice smoothness, it also lends it a good depth of flavour. You have vanilla, raisins, caramel and dark cherries in there.
Together with all the sweet flavours, the pronounced malt profile helped give it all the feel of a boozy sticky toffee pudding.
It's certainly a beer worth swirling in the glass before raising a toast with, or simply enjoying with a nice bit of blue cheese and some crackers.