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Nine Years Later, Burly Gets Mellow

I have a fairly extensive beer cellar. I am pretty good at stocking beer good for aging, keeping an eclectic selection of beer I enjoy or think I will appreciate once it sits for a couple years.

My track record of drinking those cellared beer? Not so good.

However, the other night I did talk myself into opening a bottle of Half Pints Burly Wine. It dated back to 2008, meaning it goes back to their original branding. Quaint.

My memory is that when younger it is an assertive, bold barley wine with some noted hop character. I have a recollection of appreciating how complex and full it was. I put a couple bottles of each vintage away, drinking some at various intervals. I didn’t intend to keep this one nine years; it just worked out that way. But I am glad I did.

They dipped the neck in wax, which likely helped its longevity by slowing down the oxygen ingress. I was very curious to see how the beer stood up over time.

It has a rich, deep amber appearance, more like a light brown than amber. It has bright clarity and only a thin wisp for head. The aroma immediately hits as  raisin, plum, treacle, light scotch caramel and a complex fruitiness. I find the aroma to be quite soft and inviting overall. No negative characteristics of oxidation present at all.

The front of the sip is gentle brown sugar as well as dark fruit of plum and blackberry accented by treacle. The middle is surprisingly quiet, just adding some toffee and caramel notes with just a hint of rounded graininess. The finish is fruity and moderately sweet. Only in the finish do I pick up a tiny hint of alcohol warming giving away its potency (10.5%).

My sense is that the beer has lost some of its more assertive edges, in particular the hops (not surprisingly) but it has matured into a quiet, complex sipper. Actually I feel it is a bit dangerous as the alcohol is SO smooth as to be almost not noticeable.

This beer has aged quite gracefully. Like many of us  it has lost some of its youthful exuberance (which we all appreciate but know can be exhausting) and has mellowed into a smooth, gentle, easy-to-like but substantial beer. A beer that has proven it can stand the test of time – always a key quality in a barley wine.

I was quite pleased with this particular selection. Maybe it is a good thing I suck at pulling beer out of my cellar. At least this time it was.

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