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Beer Styles

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British-Style Barley Wine Ale

The name “British-style barley wine” represents a group of strong ales that rival the strength and complexity of some of the world’s most celebrated beverages. This brawny, malt-forward beer style is often one of the strongest beer styles on any given beer menu, and showcases a complex melange of toffee and fruit flavors counterbalanced by warming alcohol and sturdy hop bitterness. The barley wine beer style is a sipper, enjoyed responsibly, stylishly — preferably in front of a fire in a comfy chair amongst a plethora of leather-bound books.

British-Style Barley Wine Ale

Barley wine beer is a strong ale that leans heavily on malt characteristics for flavor. With a wide color range and characteristically high in alcohol content, this is a style that is often aged, as it evolves well over time. As barley wine beers advance in age, they develop oxidative characteristics, including honey and toffee flavors as well as aromas, darker colors, lessened bitterness and more.

Deconstructing Barley Wine

The origin of the barley wine name brings confusion and its exact origin remains unclear. Strong, wine-strength beers have been around before the name barley wine was first used, but it is often said that barley wine does refer to a wine-strengthened beer. In history, few things are that simple, but regardless of origin, barley wine remains a strong ale with complex malts flavors and sturdy hop bitterness. While no grapes are harmed in the making of this ale, barley wines share wine’s compatibility with food, favoring rich dishes, desserts, the strongest of cheeses and even make for a great after meal digestif.

Tracking Down Your Next Barley Wine Beer

Many craft breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs in the United States brew barley wines for beer lovers to hunt down, and we want to help you find the places to try them. Our “Find a Brewery” map is designed to help you find a location near you to try your first, or next, barley wine beer, and it might be closer to you than you think.

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Category: Strong Ales

Food Pairings

  • Moroccan Duck
  • English Stilton
  • Dark Chocolate

Glassware & Serving Temperature

Snifter
50-55 °F

Commercial Examples

Commercial Examples

Appearance

Color

Tawny Copper to Deep Red or Copper-Garnet

Clarity

Brilliant to Slight Haze

Carbonation (Visual)

Slow to Medium Rising Bubbles

Flavor/Aroma

Alcohol

Noticeable to Hot

Hop

Hop flavor and aroma are very low to medium. Hop bitterness is low to medium. English-type hops are often used, but not necessary for this style

Malt

Nutty, Caramel, Biscuit

Esters

Fruity-ester characters are often high and balanced with the high alcohol content

Phenols

Not common to style

Fermentation By-Products

Low levels of diacetyl may be acceptable

Sensations

Body

Mouth-Coating

Carbonation

Low to Medium

Finish Length

Varies

Attenuation

Medium

Ingredients

Hops

Kent Goldings, Horizon

Malt

English Pale, CaraMunich, Crystal

Water

Varies

Yeast

Ale

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