Real Brewing Co. in Blanco, Texas was one of the worst things I've had in ages. For a few minutes, I actually thought my taste buds were going to pull out a knife and declare war on my mouth. It was ghastly.
I'm not even completely sure what I hated about it, as the flavors were so harsh that it was hard to isolate them while I drank it. The aroma was stringent, but there were some intriguing elements in it. I detected hops, alcohol, and a few distant citrus notes. Very distant, hidden under a certain earthiness that I must attribute to the barley.
The pour was very disappointing: even an agressive pour failed to get any head at all out of it. The color was pretty, though -- a nice deep brown with hints of gold and copper. It had a crisp, clean look to it and the carbonation was at a steady, medium flow. Appearance-wise, it looked like a winner. But, aas, appearances are deceiving.
Here''s what it says on their Website:
Intense and warming, Sisyphus was Real Ale's first seasonal product. A healthy portion of hops balances the rich toffee undertones of the malt. Weighing in around 11% ABV, Sisyphus Barleywine is not for the faint of heart - makes a great nightcap!
|Photo courtesy of the Untapped Web Site|
What is a bareywine? For that bit of info I scoured the Internet and the dusty shelves of my public library, even going on a road trip to find a scholar rumored to live near the Stoneheng model near Ingram, Texas... okay, I looked it up on Wikipedia:
Barley wine or Barleywine is a beer style of strong ale originating in England. The first beer to be marketed as Barley Wine was Bass No. 1 Ale, around 1870... A barley wine typically reaches an alcohol strength of 8 to 12% by volume and is brewed from specific gravities as high as 1.120. It is called a barley wine because it can be as strong as wine; but since it is made from grain rather than fruit, it is, in fact, a beer.That bit of info got me wondering if, perhaps, it was the strong flavors of barley and a harsh alcohol content that made my mouth pucker. Since this is listed as having 10% alcohol, that could very wel be the case. If I could have read that on their poorly designed label (metalic green on metalic silver makes it almost impossibe to read), I might have gone into this with fair warning to expect something this harsh and disappointing.
Now, to be fair, I've never had barley wine before. For all I know this could be the best barley wine on earth. That being said, I still don't like it. I have no opinion on whether this is a well crafted representative of this type of ale, but I do have an opinion about whether I would drink this again, and the answer is a heartfelt NO.
Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Color: Crisp brown, clean & glear with hints of copper and gold
Aroma: Bitter with strong barley and hops, overpowered by alcohol
Hops: Okay, but not remarkable for their flavor
Carbonation: Medium-sized bubbles that lasted a long time
Temperature Sweet Spot: 55 -59 degrees
My Rating: 1 out of 10
Other reviews worth a sip
I am in complete disagreement with the fine folks over at the Beer Advocate. Most of those guys really liked this.
This guy also liked it: http://www.intoxico.net/2012/02/sisyphus-2008-and-2011-barleywine-by.html
The guys over at Untapped seemed to like it, too: http://untappd.com/beer/106225/photos
I'm definitely in the minority on this one, folks, but I'm very firm in my review. I didn't like this and I don't think it warrants a second sip. In fact, the second sip itself was painful. I actually forced myself to drink it all at a variety of temperatures and it just never resonated with me. In a word, Yuck.
The only reason I did not add it to my "Nightmare Brews!" list (upper right of this page) is because this is a limited edition and it's a barleywine, so the chances of being assaulted by this again are slim to none.