Style: English Barleywine
Appearance: The color in an English barleywine can range widely; deep gold to dark amber and can even be a mahogany brown, but shouldn’t be opaque. Color often exhibits a great depth and richness, splashed through with ruby highlights. Head will be low to moderate, often with poor retention due to the high alcohol. It may form “legs” when the glass is swirled due to the viscosity and high alcohol presence within.
Aroma: Aroma is rich, complex, and varied with characters including strong malt backbones expressing as caramel in darker versions and toffee in the pale versions. Other notes can include bready, toasty, and/or molasses or muted malt aromas along with a sherry-like, vinous, and/or port-like in aged versions.
Often has moderate to strong fruitiness with a bend toward dark, dried fruit, especially in darker examples. Hop aromas are generally earthy, floral, or marmalade-like and can be mild to medium in strength. May be some low to medium, round and soft alcohol notes. The alcohol, hops, even the malt aromatics will tend to change and become less intense with age.
Flavor: Moderate bready, biscuity, and toasty malt flavor includes a mild to moderate roastiness (frequently with a chocolate character) and often a significant caramel, nutty, and/or toffee character. May have other secondary flavors such as coffee, licorice, biscuits or toast in support. Should not have a significant burnt or harsh roasted flavor, although small amounts may contribute a bitter chocolate complexity. Earthy or floral hop flavor moderate to none. Medium-low to medium hop bitterness will vary the balance from slightly malty to slightly bitter. Usually fairly well-attenuated, although can be somewhat sweet. Diacetyl moderately-low to none. Moderate to low fruity esters.
Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel depends on the beers conditioning. It can be full-bodied, even chewy, with a smoothly pleasant texture, though this will likely decline slowly with long aging. There should be the low smooth warmth of alcohol. Carbonation is often low, but can sometimes climb into the moderate range. Carbonation also, will decrease with longer aging.
Taste: It presents a rich and complex tapestry of flavors. Malt character is often strong bordering on intense, showing notes of dark caramel, molasses, nut, and dark toast in the darker versions, while the lighter examples bring notes of biscuit, bread, and toffee. Sweetness may be moderate to high across the palate.
Finish can be either moderately sweet or transitioning to a moderately dry. A dark or dried fruit character is frequently present and can range from medium to high. Flavor will likely have complex alcohol notes with possible oxidative or vinous undertones (depending on the beers age).
Balance can be either malty or somewhat bitter with hop bitterness ranging from, just enough to achieve balance, to a more assertive showing. Hop flavors usually are low to medium with a marmalade-like, floral, and/or earthy character. Pale versions are more likely to fall on the side of higher bitterness and higher hop character, along with higher attenuation when compared to darker versions.
Game meats, lamb chops, duck & wild poultry, aged cheddar, goat cheeses, crème brûlée, caramel desserts.