|Barley’s 2012 Real Ale Festival
Barley's Real Ale Festival is one of the two essential beer festivals in this region (the other being the Michigan Craft Brewers Summer/Winter festivals). It
takes place before the summer heat takes control and as the name confirms, it's a REAL ALE festival and you don't see many cask ale festivals around.
Always a joy to attend this one.
For this year, we had 19 cask ales with 10 from Ohio breweries, 8 from the rest of the US and 1 from the UK. Accompanied by Lady Holly of Northern
Kentucky who contributed to these tasting notes, we made our rounds and this, lads and lassies is where we begin....
1) Four String Brewing Co, Columbus, Ohio.
Backstage Blonde - infused with cherries - (5%)
There's a bit of a brewing "thing" going on in the Columbus region right now, with all these little breweries showing up. Four String is a new kid on the block,
so it seemed only appropriate to give a new Columbus brewery the first crack of the whip.
Starting with a cherry aroma, this Belgian Blonde Ale gave a smooth texture and soft carbonation with flavours of mildly tart cherries, malt and yeast, leading
to a freshly harvested hay and fruity finish. A very refreshing beer at a not-over-the-top ABV as well. Perfect for sitting on the deck during a summer
evening, while reading "Mud, Sweat and Tears", Bear Grylls entertaining autography. 9/10
2) Lagerheads Brewing Co, Medina, Ohio.
Cocoa Raspberry Stout (6.4%)
It's fair to say that we at The Manor are very keen on our bars of dark chocolate raspberry chocolate. One of our housemaids - Dora Sprigett - regularly
takes the horse & cart down to the village to pick up our monthly supply of Ghirardelli chocolate. Thus, the Cocoa Raspberry Stout looked like an enticing
And, a fine choice indeed. This delightful beer gave forth flavours of mild raspberry, dark cherries and chocolate malt with a hoppy underbelly. The finish
was on the sweet side, fruity, with a raspberry-cola blended with Bournvita aftertaste. Very, very impressed. 9/10
3) Elevator Brewing Co, Columbus, Ohio.
Raspberry Frogs IPA (8%)
With raspberries working brilliantly in the previous ale, I decided to give Elevator's Raspberry Frogs IPA a tasting. As Elevator beers never seem to work for
my Royal self, I approached this beer with caution being the watchword.
The first word in my tasting notes said "VILE", so this was not a promising start. Indeed, in classic Elevator fashion, we had a confused mess of raspberries
that tasted like they had just been unfrozen, intensely bitter and slightly decaying grapefruits and a grassy raspberry finish with the grass being a wee bit
too close to the pig pen. An altogether hideous beer. 0/10
4) Thirsty Dog Brewing Co, Akron, Ohio.
Twisted Kilt (5%)
Described as a Scottish Export Ale, my taste buds needed something less alarming after the previous disaster - and the thought of some sweet malty
flavours sounded somewhat appealing. After a worrying aroma of wet dog, the tastes were also worrying. It was waaaay too sweet and over the top with the
malt. Elsewhere on the palate it was a little spicy, bready, caramel-like with a very subtle bitter coffee finish. Nasty. Thirsty Dog were right off track with this
one. 2/10 I overheard someone say that their glass of Twisted Kilt had "chunks" in it (whatever that means).
5) Southern Tier Brewing Co, Lakewood, New York.
Back to more familiar and trusted territory on this next one. You can rarely go wrong with Southern Tier and their Old Man Winter Ale remains a winter
classic at The Manor. This was the first time I'd tasted the 2XIPA (double IPA) and I have to say that on cask - at least - this was bloody incredible. With a
gorgeous hoppy and citrus aroma, this brought you into sticky, intense hoppy flavours of grapefruit, melon, pear and apricot.
The citrus hops remained powerful throughout the taste but there was some balancing malt sweetness in the middle and finish, with the hop bitterness being
more palpable. With a lingering hoppy finish, this was a dream DIPA. A simply beautiful beer. 11/10
6) Weasel Boy Brewing Co, Zanesville, Ohio.
Brown Stoat Stout - barrel aged with cherries - (6.2%)
Not for the first time, I just have to mention that Weasel Boy's Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels is the finest beer on the planet, with
the roasted malts providing a perfect marriage for the sweet and warming bourbon.
Right, having said that, here's their Brown Stoat Stout, barrel aged with both sweet and sour cherries: Immediately, you were hit with a delicious tart cherry
flavour with notes of oak and dark malts in the background, aided and abetted by subdued bourbon flavours. As the tastes developed, some chocolate and
oaky vanilla kicked in with some roasty and tart cherry flavours in the deliciously lingering finish. Once again, a first-class example of Jay Wince from
Weasel Boy doing what he does best...barrel aged beers. 12/10
7) Thornbridge Brewing Co, Ashford-in-the-Water, Derbyshire, England.
Raven Black IPA (6.6%)
Well, honestly, folks, I HAD to try this one being as it was the only beer from the mother country, plus I'm a huge fan of their Jaipar IPA which I also had on
cask at the Dandelion Pub in Philadelphia.
That said, I don't normally like Black IPAs, finding the roasty Porter-like flavours quite a horrid mix with the hoppy bitterness. Anyway, in for a penny...so with
Maris Otter, Black Patent and Chocolate malt along with Nelson Sauvin, Centennial and Sorachi hops, we had a much more mellow Black IPA than I had
feared. The Raven gave citrus and piney hop flavours alongside some bitterness and a not-too-overbearing sweet malt taste. Later in the mix some darker
malts made an appearance which was well balanced by some grapefruit, with a bitter finish of light chocolate and toasted malts. A very commendable Black
IPA which probably benefited from being a cask ale. 8/10
8) Lagunitas Brewing Co, Petaluma, California.
Imperial Red Ale (7.8%)
It might have been an Imperial Red, but there were plenty of hops hanging around - bitter and resinous hops were right there upfront and the mild bitterness
lingered from start to finish. There was a mild sweetness from the malts that came into play during the middle, with them hops coming back in the finish in a
grassy and very mild citrus style. A solid caramel malt backbone kept the whole show afloat throughout, giving a nice contrast to the hops.
By far and away, the best Imperial Red I've ever tasted. Just beautifully balanced. 9/10
9) Flying Dog Brewing Co, Frederick, Maryland.
Gonzo Imperial Porter (9.2%)
You know, I've seen this beer time and time again at beer festivals and in beer stores and I've never quite had the courage to give it a go. But, this was
Barley's and it was a cask ale. Surely, being cask would propel it into something brilliant...wouldn't it? Well, here's the commercial blurb: "This turbo
charged version of the Road Dog Porter is mysteriously dark with a rich malty body, intense roasted flavors, and a surprisingly unique hop kick. With Gonzo
weighing in at 9.2% ABV, it will bite you in the ass if you don’t show it the proper respect".
Consequently, I was bit in the arse as Gonzo was a total nightmare. It was big, solid, mighty and packed full of malt, vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, traces of
leather and dark chocolate with a pretty solid hop presence. The robust and heavy finish was of expresso coffee, rotting beetroots and bitter charcoal, with
hops bouncing off the walls, which left me dazed and confused. Absolutely ghastly. -5/10
10) Columbus Brewing Co, Columbus, Ohio.
Oaked Bodhi DIPA (8%)
Columbus Brewing Co are an unusual lot. Their downtown Columbus HQ always features their basic beers (Pale Ale, IPA etc) on tap, yet they produce
incredible beers which are only tapped at neighbourhood pubs and festivals, Oaked Bodhi Double IPA being an example. You get an aroma of oak, citrus
and hops before this double-dry hopped DIPA assaults your palate (in a good way) with massive grapefruit flavours and a well-worked oak character with
notes of citrusy hops, plus light mangoes and pineapple - all counter-balanced by a biscuity malt body. With a hoppy bitterness in the finish, this was
another classic from Columbus Brewing Co. An easy 10/10
11) Green Flash Brewing Co, San Diego, California.
Palate Wrecker (9.5%)
And finally...what better way to finish the festival than with the aptly named Palate Wrecker from San Diego's Green Flash?! At 9.5% this American Imperial
IPA (brewed with massive amounts of Columbus and Centennial hops) was right off the cricket bat intense, syrupy and rich - yet surprisingly soft in this cask
form - with tons of grapefruit, ripe peach, apricot, tropical fruits with an underbelly of caramel malt flavours. In fact, very similar to the Oaked Bodhi DIPA,
except Palate Wrecker saved its counter-punch for the finish: an avalanche of hop bitterness that left you quite speechless.
This beer has an IBU of 149, which outdoes Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA by 29 IBUs, so you can see where that bitterness came from. I heard several
folks complaining about the bitterness, which lingered on for a long, long time afterwards. I could still taste it when I woke up the next morning. If you started
the festival with Palate Wrecker, then you were well and truly jacked. Having said that, someone had to make an over-the-top IPA, it just happened to be
Green Flash. And, to be honest, I liked it. 9/10
And on that palate wrecking note, Barley's Ninth Real Ale Festival came to a close. I had just got back from Memphis the previous evening, so I was ready
for some good bevvies - and as usual, Barley's delivered!
|Here's a reprise of the delightful young server from last year - this time she's working Thornbridge Raven Black IPA.
|Lagerheads Cocoa Raspberry Stout, which got the Royal approval.
|Speaking of "knackered", here's Angelo "I'm not drunk I'm Awesome" Signorino, head brewer at Barley's.
Behind him, in the light green shirt is Jay Wince, the most excellent head brewer at Weasel Boy Brewing Co.