Brewer: Middle Ages Brewing Company, Syracuse, NY
Added to the Cellar: January 2005
Poured: May 2007
This is one of my favorite barleywines and I have never quite been able to hold onto one this long. While young, it's a one-two punch. First, you're hit in the teeth with a wallop of citrusy hops and while your palate recovers from that it slaps you with a distinct warming alcohol flavor in the finish. I love it every time!
Now, nearly 2.5 years later, it is utterly transformed. The hops are muted now but still a persistent hop bitterness is present. The malt now shines through as any hint of alcohol flavor is gone. The hops and the malt have intertwined and provided balance. No longer are the hops overpowering and no longer is the malt character so sticky and sweet. The mouth is much cleaner in the finish. The only drawback is that the balance now makes the body feel thinner, on the verge of being too thin but it's got a velvety smoothness now.
I don't often say this about barleywines but this one has appreciably improved with age. It's far less harsh, nicely balanced and really, really smooth. I don't think it will improve much more than this but it's a dream with 2.5 years on it.
The Official Middle Ages Brewing Website