Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2011 FatCatKC Barleywine Shootout Results

We’ve ventured to the outer reaches of beerdom and came back one step closer to becoming fully initiated Beer Yodas. This is one of the throwdowns I’ve been looking forward to the most, and it didn’t disappoint. This was a blind tasting meaning we did not know which beers we were tasting at the time of judging. I would like to welcome Big Ed to the FatCat team. The shootout was contested very closely and there was a photo finish at the end. We went back on instant replay and confirmed the winner of FatCat’s Barleywine Shootout!

So without further adieu the winner is…

Founders Old Curmudgeon                17.5pts
Bells Third Coast Old Ale                 16.5 pts
Great Divide Old Ruffian                 15.0 pts
Avery Hog Heaven                           14.5 pts
Schlafly Reserve Oak Aged            10.5 pts
Anchor Old Foghorn                          6.5 pts

Greg’s Favorites
Old Curmudgeon 5.0 pts
Third Coast Old Ale 4.5pts
Schlafly 4.0 pts

Super Dave’s Favorites
Avery Hog Heaven 5.0pts
Old Ruffian 4.5pts
Third Coast Old Ale 4.0pts

Big Ed’s Favorites
Old Curmudgeon 5.0pts
Old Ruffian 4.0pts
Hog Heaven 3.0pts

FatCat’s Favorites
Third Coast Old Ale 5.0pts
Old Curmudgeon 4.5pts
Hog Heaven 4.0pts


As I said before, the results of this shootout were super close. The top 4 brews were outstanding and made it very difficult to choose the standings. Anchor Old Foghorn was clearly the least favorite with the group. It was way too sweet with an almost syrupy texture. On my scorecard, I marked off the Old Foghorn and then concluded all of the other beers should be #1. However, this is a shootout, so I carried on with the difficult process of narrowing down my choices. The Schlafly Reserve was the black sheep as it was clearly different from all the other contestants due to its oak aging. The preference for the oak character was hit and miss with the group, some liked the extra zing and others did not. I personally liked the Schlafly Reserve and thought the oak character balanced nicely with the malt complexity in the brew. After the bottom two brews, the competition in the top four was a dogfight of deliciousness. The Old Curmudgeon and the Third Coast Old Ale (both old ales) exhibited malt complexity that was simply stunning. It was a coin flip between the Old Curmudgeon and the Third Coast for first place as either one deserved it. The Hog Heaven and Old Ruffian are American barleywines so they had the most pronounced hop character. Of course, Super Dave being the IPA junky that he is automatically gravitated to these two brews. The American barleywines seem to rely more on the hop character for their appeal and less on complexity. My personal favorite before the shootout was the Old Ruffian, which turned out to be the more balanced of the two American barleywines. The bitterness was not overwhelming and blended nicely into a semi-complex malt character. The Hog Heaven was heavy on the hops and was close to being an imperial IPA in taste perception. Simply put, there were no losers in the top 4.


Some of you may ask why are we comparing barleywines with old ales? I had that exact same question before setting up the shootout. I did some research to make sure I wasn’t making a horribly grave mistake. From what I gather, the difference between barleywine and old ale is in the terminology. Barelywine is a modern term and Old ale is a traditional term. So in theory an English barleywine is the same thing as an Old ale. The curve ball is in comparing American barleywines with English barleywines/Old ales. As with most “American” styles, the liberal use of American hops contribute to a much hoppier brew. So the question is how would the two semi-similar styles fair against each other in a shootout? If I’ve learned one thing from my past shootouts/throwdowns, your palate will be much more discerning when you taste beers back to back. When you taste a single brew, you like it or you don’t, but there is nothing to compare it to. When you sample similar beers back to back, you can pick out the small differences that would be invisible otherwise. Add the blind factor and you place further responsibility on your palate by taking away any brand preference/expectations you may have. I highly recommend this tactic to any beer drinker striving for a more discerning palate. I feel my ability to discern and explain the differences in beers have improved dramatically since I started back to back tasting of similar styles.

The Mrs. was predisposed on the day of the shootout so we had to improvise. Yes, that is duct tape disguising the bottles. This provides further truth to the phrase, “If you can’t duct it…don’t bring it to the shootout!”


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