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08-20-00

DuClaw Hell on Wood Beer Review

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for barrel aged barleywines. I seriously love them. A local brewery that doesn’t get enough praise is DuClaw Brewing Company. They make some wonderful beer and when I saw Hell on Wood, I grabbed a few bottles. The bottle says that it is a barleywine style ale that is aged in bourbon barrels. It also rocks in at 10.6% ABV. A true sipper.

Hell on Wood pours a nice reddish brown color with a slight haze.  The head is light tan and thin, but doesn’t fade quickly. The nose is wonderful and full. It starts with a deep, dark, almost burnt caramel aroma. The caramel is surrounded by some “traditional sweetness” that really rounds out the malt character. A good helping of bourbon, oak, and vanilla follow though. I didn’t much if any hops which is generally how I like my barleywines.

Hell on WoodThe taste generally follows the nose. It begins with some strong caramel notes. Bourbon hits next. It’s a clean and spicy bourbon that cuts through the sweetness of the malt. A really solid, but not overpowering, oak flavor comes in next and really adds a great layer of complexity and depth. There is some heat towards the end of the taste. Surprisingly, it’s a balanced heat if there is such a thing, and it makes for a great flavor note. Hell on Wood finishes with a nice earthy/piney hop flavor that adds a touch of bitterness.

This beer stays a lightly sweet throughout but it’s enjoyable and still close to a perfect balance. It drinks thick and chewy; like I said, a sipper. I rather enjoyed this barleywine. It has a great combination of flavor, complexity, and aromas that make a barleywine an enjoyable drinking experience.

03-06-00

Beer Review #316 Blithering Idiot

03-06-03As I mentioned in my last review, I’m kind of on a barleywine kick right now. This winter is just making me crave the stuff. Today’s beer has one of the best names in all of beerdom, Blithering Idiot. I first had this beer back in college when I was first starting to get into craft beer and I loved it then, but for other reasons. At 11% you could have two of these in a night and be pretty well off. Now, I drink one of these over the course of several hours and enjoy how the beer changes as it oxidizes and warms.

Blithering Idiot is brewed by the Weyerbacher Brewing Company of Easton, PA. This beer pours a nice brown color and has a slight haze to it. There is a light tan head that quickly fades into the beer below. The nose is big and malty and filled with rich caramels. There is some roast to be found as well. I didn’t get anything on the hop or heat end of the aroma for this beer.

On the firs taste I was greeted with lots of great malt. It’s not overpowering, but you can tell that it is there and wants to be know. Unlike a lot of barelywines that can be a little sweet and simple, this beer has a lot of great malt flavors. On top of the caramels there are some nice roasted notes as well as a great biscuit flavor. The hops are there, but I would like a bit more complexity from them.

For a barelywine, I don’t think that they get more drinkable than this beer. At 11% you could easily get into trouble before you realized that the beer was this strong. The alcohol is hidden so well that you have to be careful. I really like this beer. While it’s not one of my top barelywines, it’s a good starter barelywine that provides a great introduction to the style.  (more…)

Beer Review #275 Oak Horizontal

03-01-01 I make no secret of my love for Victory Brewing Company. There are a number of outstanding breweries around the Philadelphia area, but I think that I would be most upset if Victory were to close down. Luckily, that doesn’t look to be in the cards as they are adding a second brewery. Oak Horizontal is another beer in their barrel aging series (not an official name). The bottle says a “malt beverage aged in bourbon barrels.” And this bad boy rocks in at 10.5%. Old Horizontal is Victory’s barleywine and this is a barrel aged version of it.

Oak Horizontal (I love the word play) pours a nice caramel brown color. It has an off-white head and is slightly hazy. The nose has a nice bourbon note, though not overpowering, along with some nice bits of vanilla. The maltiness of this beer is apparent in the nose but there are no hops to speak of. I’m not sure if they are washed out by the bourbon or if the additional aging knocked them out of the aroma spectrum.

This beer begins surprisingly with a light malt flavor. I was expecting big bold malt, but not so. There are bits of caramel and toffee mixed in but not to the same extent as the non-barrel aged version of this beer. The light malt folds into a bourbon malt flavor. The bourbon is very smooth and enjoyable. An aged hops flavor can be tasted on the back-end with some slight spiciness.

Victory produced a wonderfully smooth barrel aged beer with Oak Horizontal. It is very drinkable and bourbon and barleywine go perfectly together. This is a perfect cigar beer and a sipper. I drank this over the course of two hours and enjoyed every bit of it. The $15 price tag was a bit high, but it did live up to my expectations. (more…)

Beer Review #225 Skull Splitter

I meant to post this review before I left for my trip but life got in the way for a bit, but I’m ready to post it now. Skull Splitter was first introduced to my by my cousin who was introduced to it by a coworker. His coworker is from Scotland and highly recommended the beer to my cousin saying, “at beer festivals this beer always goes first because it packs a punch and tastes great.” Know that I am a beer guy, my cousin called me up and let me know to keep an eye out for it. And honestly, how can you not try a beer named Skull Splitter?

Skull Splitter is brewed by the Orkney Brewery of Stromness Orkney, Scotland. I had to Google Map that one. This beer comes in at a solid 8.5% but that’s all the bottle has to hint at what is inside. It pours a nice clear brown color that has a light tan head. The nose has a fair amount of heat (especially when warmed up a bit) and some peppery spices. If I had to guess a style without looking up anything I would guess that this one sits somewhere on the Belgian spectrum. Upon actual more investigation this beer doesn’t have a specific style. I saw everything from barleywine to Wee Heavy. I tend to agree with the Wee Heavy classification, but then again, beer styles don’t really matter all that much.

On the first taste I was surprised about the amount of malt flavor happening. I figured that this one was going to be a thin, high alcohol, peppery beer, but I was wrong. The malt is packed with some dark fruits and a nice plum and raisin flavor comes through. There is a spice in there towards the end which I associated with clove. I didn’t get much heat out of it except on the last few sips when it had warmed for a half hour or so. There is a really nice sweetness that carries through this beer that balances everything nicely.

I really, really liked this one. I need to get secondhand suggestions from Scotsmen more often. I really liked how tasty this on was while being balanced. This beer is on my buy again list. (more…)

Beer Review #187 Devil’s Milk

Devil’s Milk was on display at the front of the beer store the last time I stopped in so I obviously picked up a bottle. I’m such a sucker for product placement. Also, how could you not want to try a barelywine named Devil’s Milk? This beer is brewed by the DuClaw Brewing Company of Abingdon, MD. I can’t really tell what type of brewery DuClaw is. They have four different brewpub locations including on inside of BWI. I do not know if they own a production facility or if they contract brew with someone. Any help or information would be appreciated.

Anyway, Devil’s Milk is “barelywine style ale” according to the bottle and it comes in at a rocking 10.6% ABV. This ale pours a nice ruby color and it is crystal clear. I generally find barelywines to be a bit hazy, but not this one. There is a thin white head as well, but it quickly fades into the beer. The nose is loaded with tons of different aromas. I first smelled some deep malt with some dull hop bitterness in the background. There was a bit of heat, but it was pretty low for a beer of this percentage. Finally, there were some dark fruits buried in there behind all of the other activity.

The first thing that grabbed by attention in this beer is the nice piney hops that come in right after the malt. The malt has some nice burnt caramel flavors along with some grape. There are some dark and dried fruits mixed in as well which I can assume comes from the yeast esters. As with the nose there is some heat, but not a ton. As the beer warms, the flavors really intensify. About halfway through the beer the hops stopped being as prominent as they were at the beginning and the malt and fruits start to take over.

This is a pretty decent barleywine. There is a nice balance between the hops and the malt which I really enjoyed. I would describe the flavor as complete. This beer did not leave me wanting for anything other than something unique to set it apart from other barleywines. If you have the chance you might want to check this one out. (more…)