Black Bridge Brewing Barley Wine (Barrel Aged)

The majority of the craft beer industry is moving towards aluminum cans over glass bottles to cut down on shipping costs and to be able to provide fresher beer for longer periods of time by not getting oxidized by the light like you see in glass bottles. It certainly helps keep an IPA or a Pilsner fresher tasting for a much longer period of time, but some styles don't make sense to be canned - Belgian style ales, high % Imperial Stouts and Barley Wines. For Belgians and most higher ABV products, I'm biased but I find that they're best sold in glass bottles as these styles don't deal with the same oxidizing issues as many of these beers are constantly getting better with age. Cans are great for fresh, but the plastic lining in the cans breaks down over time so beer isn't supposed to be sitting in a can for possibly up to 10 years.

So, it was a bit weird to see Black Bridge Brewing's Barrel Aged Barley Wine available in 355mL cans. The brewery makes some of the best beer in all of Canada, and when they make a stronger release (barrel aged or not), usually they have them in painted and waxed 750mL bottles.

So, I'm wondering if this Barley Wine is meant to be savoured fresh out of the can and not aged for a few years. The beer itself is barrel aged for 10 months in red wine barrels. Well, at this point - this can was produced on July 14, 2017.. so it's been aging in my hoard since September. How did Black Bridge's Barley Wine turn out?

Appearance: Pours a murky, muddy brown with a bit of a mahogany hue to it. There's a light amount of sediment floating around in the glass, and there's a half a finger's worth of yellow-beige foam on top. The minimal sipping I've been doing so far has been leaving behind a light yet pattern-like lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Incredibly sweet Barley Wine with notes of dark fruit (raisins, figs), a hefty dose of caramel/toffee, a bit of a port aroma to it from the barrels, a hint of oak, vanilla. Very heavy and sweet, some plum in there. At this point, the Barley Wine has warmed up in my hot room to the point that I should probably chill it for a few more minutes again.

Taste: The first impression I get is the taste of raisins, followed up by a very sweet, syrupy caramel and boozey flavour. There's notes of oak popping up from the red wine barrels, a hint of vanilla. The flavour of Port and Brandy pop out big time in this brew. Very sweet, syrupy and boozey. This may only be 355mL serving (thank goodness) but the booze is really quickly creeping up on me here.

Overall Thoughts: Going back to the whole can thing.. did it age well after a year? Yes it did, I've seen one or two Barley Wines that were oxidized in less than a year after being released while this one retained that boozey goodness I expected in a typical Barley Wine. How would it turn out in 2-3 years time? I couldn't tell you unfortunately. If I had a 750mL waxed bottle of this, I probably would have one aging for a few years.

This is an incredibly solid Barley Wine - it has the booziness that I'm familiar with, the rich over the top sweetness, dark fruits, and the addition of red wine barrel all made it a great pick. Seeing that this was in a more reasonable 355mL portion rather than the usual 650-750mL sizes we generally see for a Barley Wine, this is a perfect size for one person to savour while 650mL+ bottles are meant to be shared and sometimes there's nobody around to sample with you.. which leads to over consumption of 10.5% beer! Eep!

10.5% ABV, 35 IBU

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