Big Bob’s Barley Wine Bash 2011

Reported by Ken Carman for Professor Goodales

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There’s Big Bob, and yes, Gang, it’s time to talk about Big Bob’s Barley Wine Bash again! Pictures courtesy of Keith Conley, a great photographer who did our pictures this year for Escambia Bay Brewer’s Emerald Coast Beer Festival. This event is always a little chaotic, but we like it that way. A hell of a lot of big beer at over 10% and it gets “a bit chaotic?” Who would have thunk it?
 
Bob pours…
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…and the brew-venture begins.

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I’m guessing there were about 40, more or less, in the room, and to get in free we had to bring beer. One year I brought a locker full, but quickly learned we wouldn’t get through even half of it. There are a lot of presenters here, bringing what they have discovered over the year…
 
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…including yours truly, at Big Bob’s Barleywine Bash, last Saturday out on Pensacola Beach. I started out my introduction to a 11.5% Flanders Sour ($36!) with, “Hey, Honkeys! You think YOU funky…” Melanie Knepp of NOLA, thankfully, provided a lot of the technical information on this beer I was unaware of, like fermented with a champagne yeast. Honestly, Melanie? That was a few beers ago, so I had to look it up. 
    Hail Wiki!
 

“DeuS (Brut Des Flandres) is a premium Belgian beer manufactured in Buggenhout, Belgium. Brewed by Bosteels, it is 11.5% ABV and served in 75cl bottles.[1]

“During the brewing process, it is fermented over a month with two yeasts, re-fermented near Épernay in Champagne, France and then bottled, after which it is left in a cellar for 9 months and rotated for a week, and then the yeast removed.[1]

    There’s also what they call a third fermentation in the bottle according to the brewery’s site.

 

  I love the name of this one…

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…not sure who brought it. Things get hazy after a while. Or the next one…
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Several stories were told around the beer served, including one about dinosaurs and how NOLA and Sweetwater either brewed one off beers for this event, or brought beer the public rarely, if ever, sees. We had little dinosaurs on the table, folks, all set out to tell the story. Ever year this event gets a little crazier and more fun. I just wish the stories were told early in the event. Memory doesn’t serve one well once one’s been served quite a few 10% and over beers.
 
   Many thanks to both NOLA and Sweetwater for their support every year. But, to be honest, so many support us I wish I could remember them all. Like I said about the name of one beer: “Some of us will feel like this beer tomorrow morning.” The name: Wake Up Dead Russian Imperial Stout.
 
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Almost every year Steve Fried, former brewmaster for both McGuire’s brewpubs in Pensacola and Destin, has been providing some of his barleywine for the event. Soon there will be no more left. Steve himself said it’s getting oxidized, and I agree. To me: papery. To another fellow taster: cardboard. But there are still flavors beneath the flavors and, to me, they’re still interesting and complex. There are few beers that age well: Barleywine and Russian Imperial are two. Of course “well” is a matter of opinion, I suppose.
 

 

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There’s Melanie Knepp offering some of the beer she brought. The next day I sampled one of her fresh hop beers that still had hops floating in the party pig… or party pig like contraption. The day before she was hand pouring glasses for folks when a keg didn’t tap right and it literally dripped out. That’s dedication!
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And above is a picture of the dinosaur story being told, if I remember right. Based around a beer brewed for Big Bob’s Bash.
 
Like “Wake Up Dead,” some beer names are just too damn literal when it comes to the morning after…
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The tables were set up in a long rectangle, anywhere from 10-20 feet each long side. And what you see below is simply one part of one collection; halfway through the event. I was hoping for a picture of the whole room but I’m sure chaos made that tough. But that will give you an idea of both the size of the event and the amount of high grav beer. Note: the table seats were all taken and there were plenty of folks sitting in chairs behind the table. This event went from a mere handful of people to a small group of maybe 10, when I first went to it. Now it fills a room.
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Starting at about 8pm, we were supposed to be out of the room by 10.  Ha!  By about 1030 we closed the main event and sat with Bob at he opened various years of strong beers, like Thomas Hardy’s Ale. That’s what I love about Big Bob’s. While it gets crazy, it’s also beer education for the brain and the palate.
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Prosit!