Beer Profile: Sierra Nevada’s 30 Anniversary Black Barley Wine Ale

Profiled by Ken Carman

To start: what an interesting concept. A black barleywine ale? Way too much head. More head than glass. Very black with just a hint of light. Creamy rocky bubble head mix: deep tan. The head fades slowly but always hangs around.

Nose: darker malt, some Munich perhaps. A bit of Cascade like nose.

Sweet malt mouthfeel with darker roast sense. Fills the mouth. A little bit of Black Patent ash in the best of sense.

Cascade sweet with a bit of caramel notes

One cannot explain this in typical beer terms. It’s a pleasure. It’s sweet, but not the same barley wine sticky sweet I love, but something different is always appreciated. This is. The hops make themselves known and never go away. I swear I can taste the cone, the leaf, but again… not in that seedy, almost spoiled, way when fresh leaf hops slam a recipe into annoying. The darker malts, a mix of (perhaps) Munich, a bit of Chocolate, just a smidge of Caramel and a lot of pale (I’m guessing). The balance is perfect: dark malt to significant hop presence.

10.2%. You’d never know.

In many ways this is an emergence of a new style. And a damn good one.