5 Best Barleywines of 2021
One of the biggest, boldest styles of beer out there, barleywines intrigue us for their intricacy of strength and flavor. A bit of a misnomer, barleywines earn their moniker for a heavy helping of barley and an alcohol strength that often rivals those of wine, reaching 12 percent ABV or higher.
But don't get it twisted. This style isn't actually made from fermented juice like wine. Instead, barleywines are 100 percent beer. Brewers achieve a high ABV by packing the base with barley (or sometimes another kind of malt) to kick up the original gravity or fermentable sugars. All the extra malt contributes to a higher alcohol level and sweetness, meaning brewers also often balance these beers with a high dose of hops. Dark and malty barleywines are described by The Brewers Associations as featuring "flavors of bread, caramel, honey, molasses, and toffee."
Even better, the intense alcohol content means these beers are perfect for barrel-aging. All these attributes lead to a style that is inherently robust and complex.
Traditionally, barleywines are broken down into two separate categories: a hoppier American-style and a more malty English-style. Here in the States, Sierra Nevada has been a paragon of the style since 1983, when Bigfoot Barleywine made its debut. And of course, Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine is a classic aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels.
Today, brewers have become even more inventive, using everything from Cognac, whiskey, and rum barrels to rye whiskey and Madeira wine casks to age their barleywines. So strap in, grab your snifter, and dip into the liquor cabinet for Untappd's 5 Highest-Rated American Barleywines of 2021.
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If you think these barleywines are big, you should check out the crazy beers the Hop Culture team and our friends try each week. On each episode of The Craziest Beer I Had This Week, we drop a new crazy beer we've cracked. Watch the latest episode and don't forget to subscribe to Hop Culture's YouTube channel so you never miss a beat on the wild beer we drinks next!