Barley Wine - 11.2% ABV
A Maiden Voyage into the World of Blended Barley Wine...
And so she returns...
The Maiden is back for 2017 and this offering certainly doesn't look like it's going to disappoint.
Maiden was actually the first beer that Siren brewed and around this time each year they release a new limited, experimental batch. Annually the recipe changes and this makes for a very interesting prospect to look forward to.
As always, this years edition is an American Style Barrel Aged Barley Wine but with a varied and exciting blend of beer from numerous aged barrels.
Without getting into too much detail, this Brew is comprised of 5 separate barrel aged beers including, Armagnac, Banyuls, Heaven Hill, Red Wine and Rum. With it's ABV in double figures, it packs quite a punch but I for one, can't wait to taste how this cacophony of flavours combine.
It's a quiet Easter Sunday evening as I write this. The pubs are all closed (as is the case throughout Ireland) and the fire is blazing in the background so what better time to crack open this impressive wax sealed bottle of beer.
In The Glass:
Dark Red with a sturdy white head and good lacing around the sides. This looks thick bodied and full of flavour.
On The Nose:
No doubt about the ABV, this has a strong and fortified smell of alcohol. Whiskey, Port, dark fruits and molasses drift out from the glass taking no prisoners. This is going to be a big hitter and as I cup the beer in my hands like a measure of aged vintage Brandy, I can hear the quiet yet distinct voice of a Maiden beckoning me to drink.
A lovely smooth mouthfeel with a strong Port like flavour.
What's very clear from the outset is that this is an incredibly complex blend of beers and it's combination of tastes and styles are evident from the moment it touches your lips.
Obtaining to the fact that it's 11.2% ABV, it has a warming although slightly harsh alcohol burn as it slides down to your stomach. No doubt this will mellow with age and indeed, it cries out to be cellared. It's a good job I have another bottle saved just for that very reason.
Ageing aside though, it's clear to see that this is a very special beer and it's rare to come across something as unique in character and taste.
The mouthfeel is thick and syrupy just as if it was a glass of Malbec and the deep red grape and dark berry signature of the brew mirrors that comparison in taste as well as body. The sweet hints of caramel, bourbon and even liquorice disguise themselves deep in the DNA of this beer and like old friends at a party, they all take turns to greet you as the beer rolls around the inside of your mouth.
Make no mistake, this Barley Wine is a sipper and is best enjoyed in comfortable surroundings at the end of a relaxed evening. So give the fire a final poke, sit back in your favourite chair, turn up the music an extra notch or two. Stage set, now clutch your brandy glass in hand and enjoy this beer with a smile on your face and a deep satisfaction that you are partaking in something special.
Overall, this beer is fantastic and nears a perfect score, if it was just a little less harsh with the alcohol burn. I look forward to drinking my cellared bottle a year or two down the line however to see how age will effect the already excellent and complex flavours.
The challenge will be not giving into this Maiden's temptation, and drinking it before then.
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