Class of 1988 Barley Wine – North Coast/Rogue/Deshutes
Tasting: October 18, 2013
Style: Barley Wine
Beer #: 496
Just the name alone gives me reason to reflect on what I would consider a banner year in my life. In 1988, I started dating my wife of (now) twenty-one years; I bought my first brand new car and I began working for my current company. The year 1988 was also a big year for craft brewers, as a number of landmark breweries opened their doors in what was the onset of the second wave of craft brewers.
The Class of ’88 Barley Wine is a collaborative project spearheaded by Deschutes Brewing of Oregon. Class of 1988 Barley Wine is the first installment of collaborations planned by Deschutes with breweries that started twenty-five years ago. Each of the three breweries involved in this project interpreted the barley wine style as defined in “The Essentials of Beer Style” – which coincidentally published in 1988. All three brewers teamed up at each location to release three variations of the beer. This one in front of me is the Class of 1988 Barley Wine from California’s North Coast. Future planned installments involve Chicago’s Goose Island and Great Lakes Brewing of Cleveland.
To some, barley wine is a confusing style. Is it a beer or a wine? The answer is simple – it’s a beer with a alcohol by volume (ABV) that rivals wine. Class of 1988 barley wine is 10% ABV and it pours a cloudy fleshy peach color. First impressions are that Class of 1988 is a bit too fizzy, not sweet enough for my liking and a bit over hopped as the bitterness is fairly strong. Thankfully, with a few swirls of my oversized brandy snifter, it does open up quite a bit. The brown sugar sweetness builds a bit and the fizziness and bitterness subside. I get some figs and some woodsy finish but there really isn’t enough here. It’s a basic example of the style but I’d aim higher – 84 points.