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Barley Wine Revelation

Tall Ship: Legacy Lives on Through No. 1 Barley Wine Ale


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'Barley Wine' is a name given to extra strong (typically 8-15% alcohol), robust ales that can often improve with age, similar to wine. They are a rare commodity and, so far as I know, none are being produced in BC at this time. But... 

...A few weeks back my buddy Peter Glockner reached way into his cellar and pulled out a bottle of 'No. 1 Barley Wine Ale' brewed by Tall Ship Ale Co. of Squamish before they went under around 1998. Wow! I had a vague memory of a high-potency, port-like ale a bit rough around the edges, but the ol' No. 1 has matured into a truly special beverage with an amazingly rich and complex array of flavours.  A deep, red-amber color, big inviting aroma of malt with hints of toffee and berries, followed by huge mouthfeel containing flavours that include caramel-toffee and chocolatety mocha notes, some nicely balanced berry fruit character and a smooth finish that goes on forever and leaves a very favourable impression.

Naturally, a beverage such as this is brewed using some extraordinary methods: according to the label, the beer was double-mashed and boiled for 6 hours.  It was then cold-conditioned and dry hopped for over a year.  Ingredients are Maris Otter Pale malt, East Kent Goldings hops, and natural honey.  Bottle-conditioned to ensure that it will keep (and hopefully improve) for many years.

Tall Ship in many ways epitomized what craft brewing is all about and tasting this beer that has sat quietly maturing over the years really highlights how much they are missed on the B.C. brewing scene.  But what a legacy!

So if you have any of this old ale stashed away, you can break into it with confidence that you will be enjoying a fine drink.  On the other hand, if you prefer to keep it a bit longer, that probably won't hurt either.

And if you have any bottles of the superb Russian Imperial Stout that Tall Ship produced (also a high alcohol, bottle conditioned beer) you can most likely count yourself double-lucky.  Or double-smart!

More info:


jask  Kamloops B.C.  02/02/2012
Back around 1996 or 97 I tried this and was impressed, I had made some barley wines and imperial stouts and this had that young but promising quality, with way more authority than what I was brewing... so I tucked a few away and enjoyed them over the next 4 or 5 years. The last bottle I tried was so impressive that I decided to keep my final bottle and it is still in my cellar.

Mike  Surrey  10/10/2010
Central City Brewing also has a barley wine called Thor's Hammer...

ron Jones  burnaby  08/02/2007
I really enjoy Doppelbock., as do many of my friends. I would like to be able to get hold of this all year round.

Rob Trent  Kelowna, BC  22/01/2007
Phillips Brewing from Victoria also produces a Barley Wine. I picked up a bottle last week in Victoria, but have yet to try it. It's called "Burley Wine".


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