The Southern Oregon focused tasting this week was thrown a little off course yesterday when my buddy Ron came over to play music and mentioned wanting to drink something special. A couple of months ago we both picked up an interesting looking brew by Dogfish Head Brewing in a small Portland market. Dogfish Head, in addition to being one of the few East Coast breweries I am familiar with, consistently turns out amazing and intriguing brews, so anytime I see something new I need to pick it up. In this case, we both picked up a bottle of Dogfish Head Olde School Barley Wine to put away for a special occasion.
Dogfish Head Olde School Barley Wine poured a slightly cloudy, burnt sienna into the glass with no head to speak of and a single stream of carbonation slowly working through the body. The nose was slightly earthy and smoky, with notes of nutmeg and spice.
Dogfish Head Olde School opened with a surprisingly mineral flavored, carbonated front that lightened the ale and a light alcohol burn. Interesting floral flavors briefly passed over my palette as the carbonation faded and raisins and slightly molasses took over. Olde School ended with a smoky bourbon finish and an alcohol warmth. After about five minutes of being opened, the slight carbonation faded and the ale took on a stickier and sweeter character.
At 15% ABV, Dogfish Head Olde School Barley Wine is a heady ale that one should sip, not gulp. From a drinkability standpoint, Olde School is as approachable (if not more so) as most barley wine style ales with half the alcohol, and manages to avoid much of the cloying sweetness associated with the style.