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Colorado’s Best Barleywines Blind Tasting Presented by On Tap Credit Union

Colorado Barleywines Blind Tasting
Brian Phipps

As we head into the coldest months of the calendar, a great-tasting Barleywine can be the perfect warmer. Which one though? Well, we are back with another Blind Tasting putting some of Colorado’s best Barleywines against one another. As it turned out, the Barleywine Blind Tasting ended up being one of our most competitive Blind Tastings as a high percentage of our submitted beers ended up winning recognition of Honorable Mention, Top Marks, or Best In Show.

Similar to the Coffee Stout Blind Tasting conducted in 2022, we conducted two Blind Tastings – one for Non-Barrel-Aged Barleywines and one for Barrel-Aged Barleywines. How the Blind Tastings were conducted, the number of entries and the beers that won are listed below. In addition, the list of styles for the 2024 Blind Tasting Series is listed at the very end.

On Tap Credit Union
The article was supported by On Tap Credit Union. Enjoy a $150 bonus when you sign up for a checking account with the promo code “PORCH”

PorchDrinking’s Blind Tasting Series is presented by our incredible sponsor, On Tap Credit Union, which provides banking solutions for Colorado, breweries and beer lovers alike.

The Barleywine Blind Tasting is also supported by our hosts, Novo Coffee.

Barleywine Blind Tasting

Objective and Method of the Barleywine Blind Tasting

The primary goal of our Blind Tasting Series is to find the best style of beer made by a Colorado brewery. By conducting a blind tasting, the judges are removed from personal biases and preconceived notions about breweries as well as not influenced by marketing.

All breweries in Colorado, regardless of size, were invited to submit a Barleywine for the tasting.

While judges were given the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines for Barleywines, judges were told to look for the best tasting Barleywine.

Barrel-Aged and Non-Barrel-Aged

For our Barleywine Blind Tasting, we conducted two blind tastings: one of solely Non-Barrel-Aged Barleywines and another of Barrel-Aged Barleywines, in that order. Breweries were allowed to submit one beer for Barrel-Aged and one for Non-Barrel-Aged.

For Non-Barrel-Aged Barleywines, nine beers were entered.

For Barrel-Aged Barleywines, 14 beers were submitted.

English Barleywines v. American Barleywines

While the Barrel-Aged and Non-Barrel-Aged Barleywines did not compete against each other, English Barleywines did go against American Barleywines. Judges were informed if they were tasting an English Barleywine or an American Barleywine. Typically, American Barleywines are hoppier than the English style. In the first round for both Barrel-Aged and Non-Barrel-Aged, English Barleywines were served together, and likewise for the American Barleywines.

In addition, two submitted entries varied from theaw standard Barleywine styles. One was an adjunct American Barleywine and another was a Wheat Wine, which is a type of Barleywine.

Format

Each Blind Tasting consisted of three rounds:

Round 1

Our ten judges were split into groups where they tried at least half of the beers. Beers were given a random number and judges rated the beer and gave tasting notes about appearance, aroma, taste, and overall. Judges also gave a yes or no vote if the beer should advance to the second round.

Beers could advance to the second round if they received a majority of the judging group’s yes or no vote or if the beer scored greater than one standard deviation from the group’s overall score average.

For the Non-Barrel-Aged Barleywines, five of the nine beers advanced to the second round. In the Barrel-Aged Barleywines, six of the 14 beers elevated to the second round.

All of the beers that advanced were awarded with at least an Honorable Mention award.

Round 2

In the second round, judges remained in their separate groups and tried all of the beers that advanced. Judges wrote a general tasting note about the beer and repeated another yes or no vote regarding the beer going to the final round.

For the beer to move to the last round, beers needed to receive at least 50 percent of yes votes.

In the Non-Barrel-Aged Barleywines style, three of the five beers moved to the last round. For Barrel-Aged Barleywines, four of the six beers advanced.

Round 3

In our final round, all remaining beers were served at the same time to all of the judges. The judges tasted the Barleywines and then debated out loud which beer(s) deserved to be awarded Best In Show. After a debate. Finally, a hand vote was conducted on each beer to see if it should be awarded Best In Show.

For Non-Barrel-Aged Barleywines, two beers were awarded Best In Show, one American Barleywine and one English Barleywine.

As for Barrel-Aged, two English Barleywines were awarded Best In Show.

Judges

  • Stephen Adams, Colorado Brewery List & Colorado Beer Geek
  • Shawnee Adelson, Executive Director for the Colorado Brewers Guild
  • Britt Antley, PorchDrinking Colorado Co-Editor
  • Scott Grossman, PorchDrinking Writer
  • Pat and Ruth Malone, known as “Brewery Masters,” are the first couple to visit every Colorado Brewery
  • Andy Parker, former Director of Innovation for Denver Beer Co.
  • Ken Pishna, Co-Creator of the Craft Beer Travel & Adventure Podcast
  • Jonathan Shikes, Entertainment Editor at The Denver Post and author of Denver Beer: A History of Mile High Brewing
  • Katie Strain, Lecturer and Lab Manager of Brewery Operations at Metropolitan State University of Denver’s School of Hospitality

Results: Non-Barrel-Aged Barleywine Blind Tasting

Honorable Mentions

Top Marks

River North Brewery Father Time

Father Time is one River North’s long-running Barleywine series. They currently have eight Barleywines available. Father Time is 15.1 percent ABV. The judges really loved its clear and mahogany color as well as the caramel flavors and aromas. One judge said, “I really liked it; nice balance, smooth, nice color and lacing.”

Best In Show

Barleywine Blind Tasting

Taking one of our two Best In Show places for Best Non-Barrel-Aged Barleywine is Verboten’s Grow Old With You. Here are some of the judge’s tasting notes:

  • YUMMY aroma- dark fruity aromas, lots of caramel.
  • Great balance of sweet and hops. Definition of a barleywine.
  • Nice notes, balanced, nice flavor, perfect barleywine – my favorite of the tasting

While Verboten has earned Honorable Mentions in previous Blind Tastings for its Bohemian-style Pilsner and its Others in Darkness Barrel-Aged Stout, this is the first time they earned a Best In Show award.

Not to be outdone is Strange Craft Beer’s Dr. Strangelove. A 2012 GABF Bronze Medal winner and a 2016 World Beer Cup Bronze winner in Barleywines, this beer hit a lot of great marks by our judges.

  • Hoppy! After so many English Barleywines, it’s strong and I like it.
  • Crystal clear, dark amber color.
  • Nice blend of sweetness and bitterness.
  • Great tasting American BW. A great example of the style.

Previously, Strange Craft’s Fresh Hop Heather’s Ale earned an Honorable Mention in our 2022 Blind Tasting. This is the first time they have earned a Best In Show honor in our Blind Tasting Series.

On Tap Credit Union
The article was supported by On Tap Credit Union. Enjoy a $150 bonus when you sign up for a checking account with the promo code “PORCH”

Results: Barrel-Aged Barleywine Blind Tasting

Honorable Mentions

Top Marks

Colorado Barleywines Blind Tasting Top Marks Barrel-Aged New Image Brewing River North Brewing
Photo Credit: Brian Phipps
  • New Image Brewing (Wheat Ridge, CO) | Intent (English Barleywine)
  • River North Brewery (Denver, CO) | Father Time: Vicennial (English Barleywine)

Best In Show

Colorado Barleywine Blind Tasting Best In Show
Photo Credit: Brian Phipps

Nestled along US-40 on Main St in Winter Park is Hideaway Park Brewery. Starting in 2014, the brewery barrels several of its beers with this Best In Show winner aging in Buffalo Trace barrels. Judges described Ephemera as:

  • “Hits every note. Rich and fantastic.”
  • “Lots of vanilla/oaky character, dark and complex.”
  • “Wow! Fabulous Barleywine!

This is the first time Hideaway Park Brewing has received an accolade in our Blind Tasting Series.

During the final round where the judges debated aloud, a high number of the judges agreed that Louie by Westbound & Down (before they knew who made it) was the “Best pure aged traditional Barleywine.” Westbound & Down has had a big 2023 winning three GABF medals, acquiring Aspen and Capitol Creek Brewing, and now claiming a Best In Show in our Barleywine Blind Tasting. Judges described Louie as having a great nose, nice even flavor, a clear molasses color, and a solid beer.

Overall, Westbound & Down has won Best In Show for its Barrel-Aged Stout Western Justice.

Coming Up in 2024!

As the calendar changes, 2024 presents an exciting lineup of new styles for PorchDrinking’s Blind Tasting Series:

  • February 2024: Traditional Saisons (non-wild/sour)
  • May 2024: Kolsch
  • August 2024: West Coast Pils
  • November 2024: Dark Lagers

Previous Blind Tasting Results

On Tap Credit Union
The article was supported by On Tap Credit Union. Enjoy a $150 bonus when you sign up for a checking account with the promo code “PORCH”

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