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Collaborating for a Cause | Wren House Life Barleywine

Feature Imagery for Wren House Brewing's Collaborating for a Cause Series
Eric Griffin

As this series continues to surge through the spring months of 2024, it’s amazing to note just how many of these recent installments were announced during just the first few months after Alex Kidd’s cancer diagnosis. As we continue to see outpouring of support for DDB and his family, it’s also important to continue to reflect back on some of the first breweries to release dedicated beers in an effort to raise money for the cause. This week we take a deeper look at Wren House Brewing and their Life Barleywine.

The Wren House Cause

Quality, Community, and Experimentation. These are the core values that this small Arizona brewery was built on when it opened its doors in 2015. Located in the heart of AZ’s rapidly growing craft beer community, Owners Drew Pool, Bill Hammond and Preston Thoeny combined their expansive knowledge and expertise of the industry to create a brewery with proven success for nearly nine years now. Their varied portfolio of styles have medaled countless times in various competitions, including a Gold Medal at GABF for their Big Spill Pils in 2019.

Just as quality and experimentation is important to the team in Phoenix, so too is their focus on community. Their support of local businesses hasn’t gone unnoticed, including strong conservation of water efforts in a notably arid climate. While the Wren House team has always noted the importance of raising awareness of both community and climate issues, their support of Alex Kidd has been no different. Their release of Life was not only a financial aid to the Kidd family, but it also highlighted and encouraged early screening.


Flat Label artwork, Wren House Life Barleywine
Label Courtesy of Wren House Brewing

The Release

This special barleywine was announced on July 15, 2023, part of a release with Double IPA Sandal Vandal. Noted by Wren House as a celebration of malt expression, the approach to the Barleywine style has seen countless variations since its resurgence back onto the beer scene. Although Life is considered a young Barleywine, patience was an essential ingredient to the process. In fact, the Wren House brewing team made a point to describe the the boil time as “forever.” With the goal to hone in on that ideal balance of bitterness and sweetness, this beer is a delicate expression of the style and did not see any barrel treatment.

For this release, 100% of proceeds were donated to Alex’s GoFundMe as well as the Colon Cancer Foundation (CCF). While an incredible $2,500 donation was contributed to the Kidd family, Life is still available for purchase on Wren House’s webstore, with the funds from any future purchases going toward the CCF. Drew and the team were generous enough to send some Life to PorchDrinking as part of this series. We owe a huge thank you to them for their continued support allowing us to keep sharing these special beers.

The Review

Review Image for Wren House's Life Barleywine
Photo by Eric Griffin

The coloration on the pour is excellent; deep brown with a touch of rusty orange when catching the light. Off-white carbonation buildup leads to a thin, lightly clinging head that settles slowly.

The nose has a great subtle complexity to it, featuring notes of fig, toasted walnut, and hints of anise. The underlying malt adds a roasty quality, and prior to warming we get some cola aromatics as well. As it approaches room temperature, candied oranges really come to the forefront and adds another layer to the experience.

The palate punches with sweetness initially; burnt caramel and raisin. However almost immediately, there’s an estery bitterness that pulls up stride-for-stride. At a colder temperature it’s a little overwhelming and off-putting, but with warmth it really hits its rhythm. The malt bill is truly a feature here. It’s able to both compliment the more robust notes but also offer a sort of texture and bitterness that allows subtle hints of citrus and toasted vanilla to come to the forefront.

The mouthfeel starts on the thinner side but gains great volume with time and temperature. There’s minimal coating but good weight. The esters are present but the bitterness associated dissipates with time. The present carbonation helps level out the warmth from that 14.7% hit on the finish. The goal for this beer was to find the balance between bitter and sweet. We collectively agreed that Life was successful here in doing so.

Supporting the Kidd Family

Thanks to the generosity of so many different breweries, we’ve been able to share new installments and new beers in this series weekly now for almost a month. Alex continues to fight the good fight, and a recent Brasserie Fantôme raffle conducted by DDB on social media brought a huge surge in donations that pushed the total raised for him and his family to over $404,000.

If you would like to contribute as well, you can find the link here. We will continue to provide updates on Alex’s health, as well as highlight other breweries who have provided assistance over the course of the last 10 months. Keep an eye out next week as we turn attention to Kalamazoo’s own Wax Wings Brewing Company, who released an exclusive Double Barrel Barleywine to honor the man whose praise of their beer marked a turning point in their growing program. Stay strong, Alex!

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