Beer of The Night
A cry came across a million years of water and mist. A cry so anguished and alone it shuddered in my head and my body. The monster cried out at the tower. The Fog Horn blew. The monster roared again. The Fog Horn blew. The monster opened its great toothed mouth and the sound that came from it was the sound of the Fog Horn itself. Lonely and vast and far away. The sound of isolation, a viewless sea, a cold night, apartness. That was the sound.
Brewed by Anchor steam since 1975, Old Foghorn is considered America’s first commercially produced barleywine. Originally served in 7-ounce bottles due to its relatively strength in a country ruled by the weak macro brews, it–like many pioneers–immediately ran afoul of the authorities, in this case, the ATF.
Look closely at a bottle of Old Foghorn. It says “barleywine.” One word. When Maytag first sought label approval for his barley wine from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, it balked at the use of the word “wine” on something not made from grapes. Recalling a bit of legal arcana, Maytag knew that if the beer was sold only in California, the state would allow him to use a label that hadn’t been approved by the feds. To increase his chances with Sacramento regulators, Maytag called his brew “barleywine,” running the two words together to hide the offending term. The label read: “Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale.”
“They bought it,” says Maytag. “It worked.”
Anchor released its barley wine well before the microbrew revolution of the 1980s. . In the ensuing years, other California breweries introduced their own barley wines, following Anchor’s lead and labeling them barleywine. But Maytag noticed these other barley wines were being shipped out of the state. Somehow it became OK to sell outside of California and barley wine began to spread.
And, like the beast in Bradbury’s short story, those who encounter the Foghorn find it calling out to them in a rather personal way. How else does one explain the staggering variety of experiences the brew engenders?
From the article above–Hoppy nose and flavors. Lightly carbonated with a rich, reddish whiskey color. Rich and viscous with an off-dry, subtle licorice-root finish
Rich malty aroma, fruits galore, plums, cherries, raisins, and I kept smelling concord grapes, like the ones in Welches grape juice….
…I can detect a flavor almost like a soy sauce, in addition to the dark-fruit taste that dominate. Some alcohol warmth on the way down. By the end of the glass, it tastes almost like a tawny port…
…Huge malt flavor-syrupy, treacle like. Reminds me of a liquid toasted almond flavor….
….alcohol, rum raisin, and cherries. There’s also a fairly assertive citrus hop presence along with a little bitter citrus peel…
…Taste is on the malty side for sure, with flavors of cherry, vanilla, maple, wood and a bit of hoppy pine resin on the finish….
…This has a luscious flavor of dark fruits and buttery toffee on the finish. Clearly the hops are an afterthought in this brew, but they do provide some modicum of bitterness at the end….
Some of the above may be caused by differences in the brew over the years, but for a genre as complex as barleywine is much of the variety comes with the territory. For myself, I found the Old Foghorn much less sweet of a brew than other Barleywines, with a thinner body and mouthfeel and, at 8.8% abv, packing less of a punch. I need to compare it to another American Barleywine to see how well it fits into that genre; my default barleywine, Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot, is of the English style. The OF does get a gets a bit sweeter–and even lighter–as it warms up, with hints of dates, oranges, and burnt or perhaps toasted sugar at the end. It’s a good fit for the winter night; Barleywine in the glass, fire in the fireplace, and wifey reclining romantically on the sofa.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad. I wonder what’s on the DVR?
“It’s gone away,” said McDunn. “It’s gone back to the Deeps. It’s learned you can’t love anything too much in this world. It’s gone into the deepest Deeps to wait another million years. Ah, the poor thing!”