Wednesday, 27 December 2017
12 Beers of Christmas - Day Eight - Nils Oscar Barley Wine
Day Eight - Nils Oscar Barley Wine (Sweden, 10.4%)
The barley wine seems to have come to prominence in 2017, in seemingly direct response to Don't Drink Beer's 'barleywine is life' sloganeering. It's an interesting development; I've always considered the style as a little old fashioned, even if I like the beers, perhaps because I associate them with the dusty Michael Jackson books that first told me about the style. People like my dad, who remember drinking bottled Gold Label, adopt a slightly panicked, wide-eyed look whenever it's mentioned; "not barley wine!", this look seems to say; "not since the incident!"
Anyway, I like barley wine, but it's not a style I tend to reach for very often. If I'm in the mood for a +10% beer, it tends to be an imperial stout. As such, this poor bottle has been neglected at the back of the cupboard for the best part of a year, and the internet suggests that the brewery no longer make it.
The aroma is very, very sweet, suggesting raisins and, faintly, banana, but mostly dominated by sticky honey. That sweet honey is the dominant flavour to begin with, too, but there's more to it than straight-up sugary sweetness. It brings a massive floral, musty depth of flavour to the whole thing, propping up the more delicate wintery fig and plum notes. The finish keeps things in balance with a touch of liquorice and a gently acrid bitterness before a pleasant warm glow forms in the chest.
I'm not sure I agree that barley wine actually is life, but I should remember to at least let it be part of my life. One for my list of new year's resolutions.