Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Young's Old Nick Barley Wine

I have always been interested in having my share of barley wines, so I decided to choose one for the number 2 spot on the "Clean Out the Fridge Countdown:" Young's Old Nick Barley Wine. This beer comes from across the pond, which is most apparent in the moniker "Old Nick," what the Brits have nicknamed Satan, The Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, or The Devil. (When I first heard of Old Nick, I thought they meant Santa, but I guess I just needed to rearrange some letters.)

Barley wine (alternately spelled barleywine) is a style of strong ale dating back to 18th or 19th century Britain. It actually originated out of Britain's constant wars against France, where true patriots always drank British ale over French wine. Therefore, to compete with France's high ABV wines, the Brits created a new beer style that had between 10 and 12% ABV. Apparently, the style wasn't called barley wine until 1903, when Bass created the name to describe their No. 1 Ale (I don't know what the style was called before). Since then, the style has become popular worldwide, with many US craft brewers, including Full Sail, Rogue, and Sierra Nevada, brewing their interpretation, usually naming it something beginning with "Old." (CAMRA - Barley Wine, Behemoth Brews: Barley Wine)

Young's was borne out of an inn in Wandsworth, The Ram, that was started in 1533 and added brewing in 1581. It changed hands a couple of times over the next three centuries until it was bought out by Charles Allen Young and Anthony Fothergill in 1831, establishing the Young's brand at The Ram and 80 other taverns. The Ram (a Dorset horned ram, to be exact) was registered as Young's trademark in 1893. When the brewery celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1981, Queen Elizabeth II showed up for the celebration. In 2006, Young's partnered with fellow brewer Charles Wells to create Wells & Young's Brewing Company Ltd. Under the agreement, The Ram brewery was sold and brewing of Young's was moved out of Wandsworth. (Young's History: 1533-1581, 1582-1831, 1832-1890, 1891-1981, and 2006)

Before we continue, I should note that this beer review may not be that accurate due to the fact that it expired in November 2006. It originally wasn't my beer; it is one of my wife's brother's beers he left over at his parents' house. I acquired it at some point a couple of months ago.

Here are the stats:

Young's Old Nick Barley Wine
BREWERY: Young & Co.'s Brewery PLC, London, England
CALORIES/SERVING: per 500 mL bottle
ABV: 7.2%
MALTS: Pale, Crystal
HOPS: Fuggle, Goldings

This information came from the bottle (ABV) and US importer Belukus Marketing's Young's Old Nick webpage (malts and hops). I may call them for additional info.

This beer poured a dark brown that was translucent if you looked hard enough through the glass (it's hard to tell because it's so dark). The head was an off-white tan-ish color that was foamy and light in appearance. I could detect a faint hint of dark chocolate in the beer's aroma. This trace was a lot more pronounced in the taste, which was a smooth mix of chocolate and alcohol. After a few more sips, a sweetness could be detected. The only problem is that I felt the alcohol was starting to settle, but I don't know if it was because the beer was expired or not. The aftertaste was creamy and not stale at all, even as I drank down to the higher alcohol parts. Like the Alaskan Smoked Porter, I began to feel warm inside while I was drinking this beer, probably because of the high alcohol content.

This is a pretty good beer. Like I said, it may not be a perfect review because of the expiration date, but the fact that it's still drinkable means that it can be kept well past it's Best By date like a fine wine. It has a Hell of a taste.


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