Bristol Beer Factory: Bristol Vintage 2011 (England: Barley Wine: 6.6% ABV)

Visual: A simple cloudy reddened brown. Lovely tight bubbled head of a reddened peach colour. The head leaves quite a trail as the beer subsides.

Nose: Crisp. Fruitcake and rum. Malty chocolate. Cinnamon dusting. Reminds me of a Christmassy hot chocolate. Apricot or possible peaches and cream. Touch of cappuccino.

Body: Solidly bitter. Subtle dried apricot. Creamy texture. Slightly pineapple hopped. Lots of malt running through. Slight sour dough back. Subtle bitter coffee.

Finish: Dried apricots come through strongly. Lots of bitterness then light peach. Dry English hop character. Unsweetened bitter chocolate. Dry oak.

Conclusion: It’s a rare beer that is better in bottle than cask, but I think we just found one.    I had the cask version a few weeks ago and found it ok, but uninspiring.  Because of this the bottle ended up congregating at the back of the beer cupboard for a while.

So now, I dig it out to give it another try, bottle style.  The difference was immediately obvious, The aroma was so much more rounded and bold.  This alone led to looking at the beer in a different light.

The body itself wasn’t quite so different. A reasonable set of flavours but slightly indistinct in the differentiation between them.  The finish then comes in heavy with the bitterness and oak.

It’s a heavy beer, the texture is great and creamy but the flavour gives it this slightly gritty bitterness for grip.  The character bears well for potential ageing, though I feel possibly at a slight loss of clarity in its youth. Still a lot of promise. Light apricot coming through which is currently a background noise but will hopefully come more centre stage as the bitterness fades.

However I digress in this musing. I have a beer in front of me now damnit. A definite burst of fruity flavour characterises the beer, with a lot of hints to American IPA style, but matches to a traditional English Strong Ale like character in the main body, and a heavy oak influenced finish. Definitely benefits from room to warm, despite the American hoppiness it responds well like the traditional English beers to warmth.

So for now, I would say an average beer on cask, good but in need of a bit of polish in bottle, and Ill tell you in a year or so how the bottle I’ve tucked away does with ageing. Don’t let the musing fool you though, it’s unpolished but still heavy duty and tasty, just slightly raw.

Background: Bristol Beer Factories thousandth brew. So of course I hunted this down as soon as I could find it as they are a great brewery. Shortly after buying it I found it on tap, so grabbed a quick half for comparison as referenced in the tasting notes.  Five malts and four hop varieties used, aged in English oak.  According to ratebeer this is a Barley Wine. I would not have called that, but since I don’t have a better suggestion right now I’ll go with it, but I will try to confirm if that is right.  This was drunk whilst listening to Spektrmodule.