Souther Tier – Back Burner

Tasting: May 16, 2012
Style: Barleywine

Southern Tier Back Burner

I have a friend whose family immigrated to the United States when he was a young child. He tells some pretty funny stories about his family and their adjustments to the culture and the language. He describes their greatest language challenge as our “idioms”. Idioms are those funny statements that mean something totally different. Imagine his family being told that something cost “an arm and a leg” or that someone was a “back seat driver”. We use them all the time and don’t think twice about their literal interpretation. It “cracks me up”.

This beer is called “back burner” and as you know, the phrase “put it on the back burner” means that you’ll get back to it at a later time. In this case, this beer is “conceived” in three small batches and then aged in oak barrels. I’ll guess it’s the wait time on the barrel — or the wait time for all three batches to be complete.

This is an annual release that has been hitting shelves sometime in the late winter since 2007. It’s available only in 22 oz “bomber” and sixtle (1/6th keg). Barelywine should boast a high alcohol content — and this one checks in at a respectable 9.6%.

Some label notes:

COLOR: Deep copper with hints of ruby
EFFERVESCENCE: Soft carbonation
NOSE: Warm caramel, dried fruit, sugar
FLAVOR: Brown sugar, raisins, caramel malts, molasses, balanced hops
BITTERNESS: Medium-high
BODY: Medium-full, creamy
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 48°F

I’ll agree with the color, effervescence, nose and the flavor. I’ll have to part ways with the bitterness and the body. Really nice subtle dark fruit (raisins, dates and prunes), as well as brown sugar. I like the still carbonation — but the hop bitterness and the body must have taken the night off. I was really expecting a big hoppy American-style barley wine. This one reminds me more of an English-style barley wine. It’s a little boozy and underwhelming in flavor. All in the pluses outweigh the negatives — but far from a classic. I’ll give it 86 points

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