Beer Review: Revolution Brewing’s Straight Jacket Barleywine

Name: Straight Jacket
Brewing Company: Revolution Brewing Company
Location: Chicago, IL
Style: Barleywine – English
ABV: 15% (2021 canning date)

A world class Barleywine, comfortably on the  proverbial Barleywine “Mount Rushmore.”

Revolution_StraightJacket

From Revolution Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

Our Barleywine Ale features American and Belgian malts which provide the base of this extraordinary ale. After 12 months in bourbon barrels the award-winning Straight Jacket® emerges with notes of stone fruit, toasted coconut, molasses, and vanilla coming in waves as you swirl the glass. Enjoy now or store cold.

Barleywines have become one of my favorite styles over the past couple of year. #BarleywineIsLife or #BiL after all. Unfortunately there aren’t that many being brewed, packaged, and made available in my market. Occasionally, some of the local breweries will brew a barleywine in small a batch, but I don’t think I need to get beyond one hand in counting how many breweries in NJ brew barleywines in batches intended for distribution or beyond small batches.

Enter Revolution Brewing out of Chicago. Unfortunately, I’ve only really seen their IPAs in stores around me here in Central Jersey. Enter the online beer reseller Tavour. Tavour is where my wife purchased all those awesome out-of-region beers for my 20th Anniversary. Revolution has supplanted Goose Island over the last few years as the local/craft brewery of Chicago and their big booze bombs are highly regarded, including Straight Jacket, a Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine which is part of Revolution’s “Deep Woods” series. When I saw this pop up on Tavour, I had to have it.

The beer pours from the 12oz can into the glass smoothly. The color is murky brown, what I’d imagine liquified caramelized sugar or toffee might resemble and as I pass the snifter in front of my nose, the bourbon elements make me smile.

The first sip brings strong burnt sugar to mind, hints of toffee, and aggressive malts. The first word that comes to mind for this beer is smooth…everything about it is delightfully, sinfully, sumptuous, and smooth.

As the beer warms, the sweet elements become more prominent as does the barrel character. The bourbon elements could easily overpower the entire beer and drown out the malt and hops, but here in Straight Jacket the name of the game is accentuation. Each flavor element (hops, malt, barrel) enhances the other elements to a wonderful and delightful degree.

I haven’t had as many Barleywines as I’ve had stouts or lagers. I’m just shy of 40 Barleywines according to untappd. That said, without hesitation I can say that the 2021 canning of Revolution Brewing’s Straight Jacket is one of the best Barleywine Ales I’ve ever had.

Highest recommended possible, link to 4.75 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Eis Maker from Jack’s Abby Craft Lager

Name: Eis Maker
Brewing Company: Jacks Abby Craft Lagers
Location: Framingham, MA
Style: Barleywine – Other (untappd) / Lager Wine (label) / Eisbock (Web site)
ABV: 13%

“A delicious, inventive interpretation of a beloved style through a new lens. A beer that truly defines Craft Brewing.”

From Jack’s Abby’s page for beers:

Eis is the German word for Ice. A former distillation process in making Eis Beer would be to freeze it, remove the ice, and collect what remained.

While today’s beer, like Eis Maker, is no longer produced this way, it is used as a connotation that the beer is very strong.

You will find this Eis Bock to be sweet, malty and boozy with notes of raisin, dark fruit and similar profile of a barley wine.

This beer is not part of the 20 Years 20 Beers series, nor it is a NJ beer. However, Jack’s Abby entered the NJ market last year and as much as I love my local breweries, I want to support the “new to the area breweries,” especially when they are independent and are known primarily for Lagers. This all brings me to a style I’ve never seen, at least as Jack’s Abby names it: Lager Wine. Because of that, and the echoes of the rarest of lagers, the Eisbock, I was very drawn to this boozy concoction.

From the bottle into the glass, this beer looks the part of a Barleywine (leaning more on the English side rather than the hoppier American variety) with the toffee-like color. The aroma is of figs and other dark fruits. So far so, good.

The first sip is….wow. Just wow. The aroma of the aforementioned fruits is strong in the profile at the outset. While this is 13%, I took a couple of big sips because it was so tasty. Once I get beyond the initial sip, the complexity of this beer unfolds. The barrel notes are not overpowering to the overall flavor, but I’m sure they add to the overall booziness. On the other hand, as noted above and in my Bock overview, traditional Eisbocks are partially distilled – the frozen water is removed from the process, leaving more alcohol in the final liquid. Thus we have a beer at 13%…but it isn’t overpowering. The beer isn’t too hot or strong with alcohol or the barrel element, but both the barrel and high alcohol are noticeable elements in the overall taste profile. In other words, pleasant components of the overall taste of the beer.

The barrel notes blend fabulously with the raisin/date/fig elements in Eis Maker. I’ve had only two Eisbocks (at least since joining untappd 6 years ago) and a handful of traditional Barleywines over the years. This beer marries the best elements of both styles (and frankly, both styles are wonderful on their own), into a delightful and unique beer. What makes this beer so special is how even in sticking to a Lager yeast/Lager style, Jack’s Abby managed to craft a beer so evocative of a style not typically brewed as a Lager. Jacks’ Abby has a series of Barrel-Aged beers, many of which are their “Framinghammer” Baltic Porters (yes, Baltic Porters are traditionally Lagers) and other beers that are Lager interpretations of beers that are traditionally in the dark range of the Ale family of beers. Eis Maker is the second in this barrel-aged series I’ve had, but it only has me eager to try more. This beer is the definition of delicious, inventive, out-of-the-box thinking that once defined Craft Brewing and from what I’ve had from the fine folks at Jack’s Abby, defines them.

Highly recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Cameron’s Brewing Early Bird Breakfast Barley Wine

Name: Early Bird Breakfast Barley Wine
Brewing Company: Cameron’s Brewiing Company
Location: Oakville, ON Canada
Style: Barleywine – Other
ABV: 11.8%

From Cameron’s beer landing page:

This barley wine style ale has been aged in a foeder with two classic Canadian ingredients – Ontario maple syrup and cold steeped coffee. The result is an amalgamation of flavours that include molasses, caramelized sugar, toffee, white chocolate and dark fruits that give our barley wine a long finish that is a perfect addition to your favourite breakfast.

It is always fun to try a new style or revisit a beer style you don’t often have. Case in point: one of the “biggest” of all beer styles, the Barleywine. So named because of the typically high alcohol content, often above the 10% range, an ABV typically associated with actual wine. Initially called Barleywine because of that high ABV, the liquid is most definitely a beer since it is fermented from grain and not fruit. Anyway, I’ve only had a few distinct barley wines (and a couple those were vintages of Bigfoot and Bourbon County) over the years and mostly enjoyed them but wanted to delve into the style again.

Finding different barleywines isn’t all that easy, outside of a couple of the larger breweries who distribute to my area (Weyerbacher and Sierra Nevada) brewing well-known varieties. But then I saw this can on the shelf, I knew this would be the one to try, especially given the description above which adorned the can.

After popping open the can and pouring the contents, my glass was filled with an aromatic brownish amber liquid which was very inviting. Of the flavor components called out in the description above, the toffee stands out the most on the nose. A very pleasing smelling beer indeed.

The toffee is there on the first sip, but a welcome wave of coffee accompanies the toffee, too. The subsequent sips and hits of flavor are really pleasing, sweet coffee and more of an after-dinner/dessert feel than breakfast. The beer finishes with a really aggressive hop bite. Considering the IBU on this is 80, that isn’t too surprising. This is a barleywine more aligned with the American style, given the extremely potent hop flavor component.

This is a long-sipper. A flavorful, high-ABV big beer that you should enjoy over the course of an hour or so. Let the beer sit in the glass a bit, let those flavors expand. Hell, this was a 16oz can so if you find one at your local shop (I haven’t seen too many brews from Cameron in my area), it might be worth splitting with a friend.

I liked the beer, would have liked a little more if the hop bite at the end was slightly less potent/aggressive, but that’s not a knock on the style. For the most part, the beer does just what it should for the style. I simply think I’ve come to enjoy the English/less hop forward barleywines, but would absolutely have this one again.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75 Bottle Cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Wine of Beers (Level 2)

Wine of Beers (Level 2)

Strong, bold flavors really suit you. The barleywine brings with it a long history dating all the way back to ancient Greece. That’s 10 different Barleywine, Wheat Wine Beers or Rye Wine!