A monstrous amalgamation of caramelized malt flavors
Barleywine has earned its keep as one of the most decadent and esteemed styles that exist in the beer world. Our double offering to the barleywine gods, Manticore, is a prime example of the intense and lovely intricacies one (or two) of these brews can possess.
MAGNIFICENT, STRANGE AND UNCONQUERABLE
Despite what the name suggests, wine is not involved in the slightest. A barleywine is bold in style and high in alcohol percentage– characteristics they do share with their lovely, fruit-forward namesake. Very much unlike a wine, there is no juice involved in the production of a barleywine. It’s all grain (i.e. beer) here.
Barleywines do age well…um…for lack of a better idiom, like fine wine. Manticore– our tandem barrel-aged barleywine release– was aged in New American Oak bourbon barrels and in one Jamaican rum barrel. The resulting two barleywines take on the rich characteristics of their respective barrels to create a caramelly, malty, toffee beast. A couple of heavy-hitters that are somehow still super smooth.
The origins of the style date back to 18th century England. King of the strong ales, barleywines are the booziest of beers. Bountiful malt creates the roasty toasty flavor that is so coveted in a barleywine. Hops pull their weight in the way of bittering and aroma (as per usual).
Our brewers began concocting Manticore over a year ago. All three of them have been longtime lovers of barleywines. According to Director of Brewing Operations, Greg Winget, that admiration for the style has influenced them to brew at least one barleywine a year.
“A lot of brewers are very into barleywine, because it is kind of one of those upper-echelon styles,” Greg said. “It’s a prestige brew, like an imperial stout.”
UNLEASHING THE BEAST
The name Manticore is a nod to the mythical two-headed beast– also a reference to the two barrel styles that the beer was born from. Each barrel lends its characteristics to a barleywine. In this case, they used a Jamaican rum barrel from Appleton Estate, and a Knob Creek and Basil Hayden bourbon barrel (results from each bourbon barrel were blended together).
Upon receiving the barrels, the brewers could immediately smell the beautiful qualities of each. These qualities would eventually be adopted by the barleywines contained within them. The rum barrel yielded wonderful tropical flavors of pineapple, coconut and mango. The bourbon barrels produced a big, rich and vanilla/caramelly beer, whose robustness was mellowed and smoothed out by time. Although they were both aged in these barrels for an equal 13 months, the result was different for each.
“The two versions taste pretty different, so you can really see where the one base goes in two different directions, just depending on the wood,” Greg said.
The brewers tasted each beer periodically throughout the year, putting stainless steel nails into the wood and removing them when they wanted to sample the progress. In the brewing process that preceded the barrel aging, our brewers overclocked the brewing system by boiling the wort for a really really long time to get as much sugar out of the grain as possible– very similar to a caramelization.
“It creates this really rich, caramelly toffee flavor, and the beer itself is very thick, so the body is very thick and rich as well,” Greg said. “Then, you take that thick, caramelly mess and put it in a barrel for a really long time, and it just rounds out all the edges and adds wood notes like vanilla and coconut.”
Bursting out of the barrels with an ABV over 12%, Manticore is a perfectly intricate sipper to polish off the winter at Wye. And it’s just as magnificent as mythical lore suggests. Unconquerable? We’ll let you be the judge.