BY LIZ MURPHY
Call me old-fashioned, but I have a soft spot for barley wines. And as fewer brewers in recent years are investing the time and energy it takes to produce this contrarily-named beverage, absence has only made my beer-soaked heart grow fonder.
Though not as mainstream as its IPA brethren, the barley wine sparkles through the sheer diversity of modern interpretations. Some boast rich, chewy flavors of orange marmalade or a more traditional, balanced, malt-forward profile, while others treat the barley wine as a gateway to quadruple IPA glory.
And, depending on the quality, most barley wines are ideal for aging due to their higher alcohol content. As the months (or years) pass — depending on your patience — sharper flavors will soften and mature, yielding a more polished and mellow drinking experience.
Hysteria Brewing Company in Columbia, Maryland, demonstrated its appreciation for the barley wine with the early 2018 release of Life.
Ty Kries, Hysteria’s director of sales, said they know barley wines are not a conventional choice for most breweries looking to stay on-trend. In fact, that was the point when they released it.
“Beyond the haze craze, we know there’s also a need for all these beers like barley wines that are considered under-appreciated,” Kries said. “And for me, personally? It was a barley wine that was one of the first beers I had that made me stop and say, ‘Wow! This is amazing! So much flavor and so boozy!’ It’s a sexy style of beer that no one makes anymore, and that’s a shame.”
Instead of going the more modern route, the Hysteria team wanted to take beer drinkers on a trip down memory lane with Life, which was designed as a tip of the hat to the old-school, malt-forward English barley wines of yesteryear and released with the slogan, “Wine is life.”
“We hope that people see, after trying Life, that not everything has to be an IPA,” Kries said. “There is so much more out there. Craft beer is about pushing limits, right? Well, barley wine is a perfect example of exactly that.”