Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Virginia Barleywine is for Beer and Food Lovers

The Starr Hill Brewery currently has three special beers on tap, an 8% ABV saison, a 10.3% tripel and a 10.7% barleywine. I realise I am about to commit yet another beer geek heresy, but quite often the lighter coloured Belgian style beers do nothing for me - although I have found lately that this opinion isn't as rare as I assumed, and I have been told several times in the tasting room at Starr Hill just not to mention it on Ratebeer or BeerAdvocate. Barleywine by contrast is one of my favourite styles.

The first barleywine to pass my lips was last Christmas when I had a bottle of the delightful Benedictus from the Durham Brewery. The style also features in my homebrew calendar as a beer to be brewed in November and then stored for a year in preparation of the next Thanksgiving. I, like many of our regulars coming in for a growler fill at the tasting room, was looking forward to seeing what the brewers would come with for this most venerable of styles.

The weekend when Mrs Velkyal broke her foot, trying to kick some sense into me, I bought a 1 litre bottle of barelywine home with me from work, which we duly polished off over some angel food cake with some friends. So on Saturday I refilled my bottle and decided to do a Cyclops session with the beer, as well as use a little of it in a cooking project I had been ruminating about for a while. First to the Cyclops:
  • Sight - dark copper, foamy ivory head
  • Smell - nutty, earthy, spicy hops, strongly caramel
  • Taste - very malty, toffee, nuts, alcoholic edge
  • Sweet - 4/5
  • Bitter - 3/5

This is fantastic stuff in my book, big, bold and yet so smooth and silky. Yes it is rather sweet, but the spiciness of the hops counteracts that, so it isn't cloying in my experience. There is a very noticeable alcoholic glow that hits you after about half a glass - the one in the picture is a half pint glass. As I was drinking I wanted a nice single malt to go with the beer (I wonder how it would be given the Paradox treatment?). Gorgeous, gorgeous beer.
On then to my cooking project, sticky toffee pudding with barleywine sauce, basically a study in boozy, sweet, powerful desserts. The basic cake part of the dessert was Jamie Oliver's recipe, which you can see here. The sauce though was my own little creation using:
  • a knob of unsalted butter
  • quarter pint of barleywine
  • 1 small can condensed milk
Melt the butter in a small pan, add the barleywine and bring to the boil. Once the beer has reduced by about a quarter, add the condensed milk and then stir, and stir, and stir.

Eventually you end up with a beautifully silky, rich sauce to pour over the cake, or in the case of the picture below, around the case - I was watching Hell's Kitchen while I ate my dessert last night and I could help but
think Gordon Ramsay would have beeping loved it!

How could I stop at a single serving of this delight? So I didn't and had a second!

1 comment:

  1. now that's great idea, really is. Good work - looks awesome.


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