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Revolution’s Midlife Crisis Barleywine Brings the Heat

revolution midlife crisis
Taylor Laabs

Hot or cold, Revolution Brewing sure knows how to throw a release party. Hundreds of barrel-aged fanatics, myself included, made their seasonal pilgrimage to Revolution’s Kedzie taproom for the latest Deep Wood release. This series has quickly grown to national acclaim thanks to its bold portfolio of Barleywines, Barrel-Aged Stouts and adventurously-boozy experiments like last year’s Code Switch, a Barrel-Aged Imperial Ale made with blackberries.

Many people associate Deep Wood beers with huge parkas, plunging temperatures and bitter Chicago winters given its annual winter release cadence. Boozy beers that push ABV limits typically go well with sub-zero winter nights. But Revolution’s Midlife Crisis Barleywine release had none of the expected barrel-aged beer release trimmings. Coats were swapped for tanktops, boots for flip flops, and freezing temps for 100 degrees and brutal humidity. 

Throwing a Barleywine bash in the middle of summer definitely has its challenges, most notably in the need for added ventilation and hydration. That said, Revolution seemed well prepared as hundreds of Barleywine and barrel-aged beer fans teemed throughout the taproom to pick up Revolution’s latest creations: Honey Jacket and Strawberry Jacket. The canned versions of both sold out within three hours.

Honey and Strawberry Jacket are variants of Revolution’s popular barrel-aged Barleywine Straight Jacket, a strong beer that serves as an inviting foundation for fruit and flavor-based creativity. True to form, each beer is packed with the qualities that pay homage to its namesake. Honey Jacket is filled with honey harvested from Revolution’s bee colonies, conveniently located on the roof of their Kedzie facility. To get the true essence of the fruit when making Strawberry Jacket, this Barleywine was pumped full with over two tons of strawberry puree. Two tons. 

The PorchDrinking team (myself, Mike Zoller and Eric Oliver) were lucky enough to get samples of each beer from Revolution. Here were our thoughts:

Honey Jacket – 14.6% ABV

Taylor: “It has a wonderfully rich and glossy texture, almost the perfect midpoint between silky and syrupy. Starts sweet with that expected hit of honey and then you get the barrel booziness at the back end that helps balance it out. As is warms, it gets even silkier and adds more honey notes throughout the later part of the tasting, not just in the beginning.” 

Mike: “Honey Jacket is very good. It is more of a standard Barleywine with just a touch of sweetness [from the honey].”

Eric: “Rich notes of honey that mellow as the beer warms, a delightful light variation on a barleywine.” 

Honey has a way darker color than Strawberry. Photo Credit: Taylor Laabs

Strawberry Jacket – 13% ABV

Taylor: “Drinks much lighter than Honey, which is dangerous, mainly because Honey is quite drinkable on its own. You get the sweet berry flavors immediately, both in the aromatics and then on first sip. The fruitiness stays with you through most of the sip and then finishes with bite from the barrel that closes it out well.

Strawberry Jacket almost drinks like a barrel-aged berry cocktail, in a good way. As it settles in the glass and mellows out, the flavors almost get thicker and even jammier, which tastes fantastic. This is probably the most memorable of the two for me but I am most interested to see how Honey ages and how that flavor between honey and bourbon continues to blend.”

Mike: “Strawberry Jacket tastes amazing. It doesn’t have your typical Barleywine notes as the flavor from the fruit takes over, but the late barrel presence brings it back.” 

Eric: “If Honey Jacket is a light variation, Strawberry Jacket is a complete 180. The strawberry overwhelms and remains strong throughout the drinking experience, and as it warms hints of Straight Jacket punch through. A truly refreshing experience.” 

After the craziness of a summer Barleywine release, it would be safe to assume that Revolution doesn’t have any additional summer tricks up its sleeve. Well, think again. 

The Chicago beer hype train keeps rolling. Cheers!

*Feature image courtesy of Revolution Brewing

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