Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Closest I'll Come to Wine.

So I paid a visit to the Central City Brew Pub in Surrey on Wednesday, and saw an interesting feature under their seasonal brews.

A brew so uncommon in mainstream liquor outlets, that I relied on the server going into the brewery to ask my question, and I relied on Google for my question "What kind of beer is it?"

"Thor's Hammer" American-style Barley Wine from Central City Brewing Co. in Surrey, B.C.
Alcohol content: estimated between 8.0 to 13%

An "American-style Barley Wine", which I'm learning for the first time, is a very strong, very alcoholic beer. It is by no means a wine, and can be anywhere from dark amber to extremely dark in colour. However, American styled barley wines have a much richer hops taste than a traditional English barley wine.

Nonetheless, lessons aside, this beer had a very dark amber colour. Seeing as it was only served in a 10oz glass, I felt a little frilly as it arrived in a wine glass (as pictured below).

As I dove into this beer, I was a little skeptical as to what it would be. The server told me it would be strong, but have a bit of a creamy taste to it. Google told me it would be strong as a kick to the tongue.

So I took a sniff, and actually couldn't smell much.  I took a tiny sip to see if I would flinch in disgust, but I didn't!

Surprisingly, it tasted like an IPA had a baby with an Altbier mutt, having 1/4 Cream Ale in it. That would make this barley wine 4/8 IPA, 3/8 Altbier, and 1/8 Cream Ale. It has all the harshness that I expected, but was really smooth going down.

It had a very intense front taste, loaded with hops. The middle taste was similar but not as intense, as you can actually taste a slight hint of barley like from a barley soup. The end taste was crisp and to the point.  Likewise, I dove in for another sip, and another, and as it ends up, I was down for another beer!

Food pairings?
This beer was definitely released in time for American Thanksgiving -- it would go really well with dark meat poultry as Turkey or Chicken. As I said, this particular barley wine is a very dark amber-like ale texture. I would go for chicken as the base "meat", and add kicks to it with flavour or sauce (like spices or a BBQ sauce) in order to not overpower on either end. This beer would overpower honey-garlic wings, but may be suitable for a very salty meal (hence the American Thanksgiving timing).

What would I rate it?
It's solidly brewed, meaning that it has all the flavours that I expected something like this to have, but it didn't have the flow that I have had in other beers. It is a unique brew for sure. I didn't end up getting anything when I smelled it initially, aside from hops...and more like dank hops than anything else. Most noticeably, it had a smooth finish. If this beer did not have the creamy texture that it does, I think I would have just pushed it aside.

Would I recommend this to anyone else?
Definitely. It's a must-try in a category that rarely presents itself.

Would I order another one?
Maybe, depending on what I'm eating.

The Red Racer "Thor's Hammer" American-Style Barley Wine gets a good 7.0 out of 10.


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