Strongman

Magic Rock: Strongman (England: Barley Wine: 12% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot. Loose large bubbles make up a thin head.

Nose: Sherry and raisins. Pineapple. Dried apricot. Toffee. Custard. Gin. Light oak. Plums.

Body: Very smooth. Vanilla slice. Fudge. Port. Caramel. Pumpkin and passion fruit. Plums. Peach. Spicy red wine – mulled spice. Cinnamon sticks. Malt loaf. Golden syrup.

Finish: Shortbread. Drying. Glacier cherries. Touch of grapefruit. Spicy red wine. Molasses. Gin air. Cinnamon. Custard.

Conclusion: Can a beer be too smooth? Because this is bloody smooth. Complex as all hell, but as indicated by the opening question, so smooth that every now and then the beer just seems to lose its grip and thus its delivery of flavours. You still have the flavour there, just, but it just seems to float evanescent just above the taste buds, like an angel unable to touch the earth as it walks.

Now that does sound like a remarkably critical opening, so let’s back up a moment. How much does this beer have going on within? Answer – lots. There is a serious amount of citrus fruit hop character, lots of malt sweetness with toffee and caramel, then darker fruit underneath, then finally spicy and wine aged influences of flavour. It is huge in flavour and they all mix brilliantly. The ultra smooth texture, which can be a flaw a times, also works so that all the flavours slip alongside each other, no element having to fight the others for its place.

Back on the flaws though, for a such smooth texture the beer does have a surprisingly high alcohol presence, a gin like alcohol air that crowds around the other elements. It is almost separate from the rest of the beer, and as such quite unwelcome.

Now, despite the beer advising it should be drunk chilled, warmer is distinctly better for this beer, both the weaker elements decrease noticeably when close to room temperature and better still the citrus aroma becomes more prominent. There are still elements of the flaws, but the extra grip when warm makes for a much bigger, if slightly less smooth, beer. It is a trade off, harsher feel in texture but better as a beer for flavour.

In the end, despite its flaws, the fact that it is such an amazingly complex fruity barley wine, with admittedly rough edges or smoothness issues depending on temperature, means that I can really enjoy it for the sheer amount of play it has. With the toffee elements I could swear it has been bourbon as well as Amontillado aged, despite knowing better.

A few loose elements, but good.

Background: This is the 2013 release of Strongman, aged in Amontillado casks. Magic rock initially didn’t impress me that much, but the more I have tried of theirs, the more they have earned my respect. This was picked up from Independent Spirit a few months back but I’ve only just got around to drinking it. Drunk with a friend to share the large and strong beer, this was drunk while listening to a bit of old school Faithless. For those of you who haven’t guessed, I am once again taking a break from the collab fest write ups, to share some other breweries reviews.

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