Saturday, April 28, 2012

024. Suffering through Sisyphus 2011

I'm not even 100% sure I should be reviewing this beverage, because it is a "Barleywine Stye Ale." But, I drank it and, like the figure of Greek mythology, suffered for my sins, so I'll write it up for you.

Sisyphus 2011 Bareywine Style Ale by the 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
Head: None
Lace: None
Carbonation: Medium-sized bubbles that lasted a long time
Temperature Sweet Spot: 55 -59 degrees
ABV: 11%
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:
The guys over at Untapped seemed to like it, too:

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.

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