Southern Tier Brewing Co. | Back Burner Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale
ABV: 9.6% | IBU: 53
Southern Tier calls Back Burner an “imperial barley wine style ale.” As it turns out, barley wine is not something hobbits drink. I know, I feel completely betrayed too. It took me, like, a half an hour to get my Frodo costume together. It is, however, a super tasty beer with a respectable alcohol content.
Full disclosure: I’ve been taking tasting notes on this ale for about 20 minutes now and I’m half in the bag. That 9.6% alcohol content is nothing to scoff at. Better yet, the delicious caramel malts and syrupy texture completely mask the booze. But I’m getting ahead of myself—let’s back up.
I started this little adventure by pouring about a third of the 22 oz. bottle of Back Burner into a wine glass. The bottle recommends using a snifter, but, since the only snifters I have are goofy “Cointreau Noir” snifters I got free from some promotion, I opted for the second “douchiest ” way to drink beer—out of a wine glass.
Anyway, this guy has a pretty nice look about it. Back Burner has a deep red amber color with a bubbly pale head. The head is easily produced with a pretty typical pour but disappears rather quickly.
Wave your nose over the glass and enjoy a very nice sniff of fruity hops and a little bit of the caramel malt. Based on smell alone, you get the impression that Back Burner is going to have a substantial hop presence and perhaps even a sour twist. The tasting, however, will totally betray that assumption.
Where the fruity, floral hoppy thing ruled the nose, the caramel malts kick into full gear once you swish it around. The syrupy ale has a very nice sweetness, but also a just-barely savory side to it that will really go great with some rich, meaty food. After a big gulp, you’ll definitely notice the malty finish sticking around. It just sort of sits on the back of your tongue, begging you to take another sip.
Drink this bottle with a friend you really like. Or, if you’re with friends you don’t like, drink it by yourself. At $14 a pop, it’s hardly a bargain, but if you’re in the mood for something a bit different, this barley wine is still a lot cheaper than a comparable bottle of the grape stuff.
 Drinking beer out of a wine glass or a snifter is actually pretty awesome because you get to concentrate the aromatic qualities. The downside is you look like a jackass. Especially if you say “aromatic qualities.”