Drakes Jolly Rodger 2012

Drakes: Jolly Rodger (2012) (USA: Barley Wine: 9.6% ABV)

Visual: Clear dark cherry red. Large creamy caramel touched head. Still bodied.

Nose: Cherries. Cognac. Chocolate dust. Fruitcake. Chocolate orange. Light chocolate lime hops. Moderate hop character. Big malt character.

Body: Chocolate lime. Orange sorbet. Liquorice. Honey. Brandy cream. Tingling feel on a thick creamy texture. Treacle. Gingerbread. Fruitcake and cherries.

Finish: Peppermint. Chocolate. Honey. Light hop oils. Fluffy hop character that grows. Gin air. Resin.

Conclusion: I always enjoy something different. Actually that is a lie, but I always want to enjoy something different and I often do. OK even that isn’t true, I wouldn’t want to like beer from fermented urine for example, but you get my point, anyway this is a bit of a different take on the expected barley wine flavours, so I want to enjoy it.

At first it seemed within the expected fruitcake and spirit notes that comes with many a barley wine, albeit with the promised more hoppy character. What came out after that however was an interesting mix of hard chocolate sweets in chocolate lime and orange styles, a veritable sweetshop scales weighed down with confectionary.

It is a good thing that they brought up the resin, hop oils and accompanying bitterness to remind us that this is super serious stuff. Grrr. A beer not for messing about, or accidentally feeding to kids. They balance the sweet and sugary against the hoppy and beery and it works pretty well.

There is that thick malt backbone behind it all, grounding it in the barley wine style, keeping it from deviating too much from expectations and forgetting its roots. There is still some other, more traditional barley wine elements, the fruitcake and cherries, but they are no longer the dominant element.

Very smooth, some gin like spirit feel, but no real rough edges. I don’t know if that is the beer itself, or the year’s ageing, but any which way it works. Sometimes the gin like flavour is a touch too evident but never with any burn.

Overall a very good barley wine, lots of quirks and enough recognisable elements to ground it. I can’t quite call it a top favourite though as it just doesn’t quite grab that top rung. Hard to say why. Maybe just not forthright enough in flavour to make them easy to discern? Maybe the gin touch? Any way it is a very minor point. This is very good and you will not regret trying it.

Background: I’m glad I looked this beer up, apparently it is a different beer style every year. This being the 2012 edition (drunk tail end 2013) it is a Barley Wine. Not run into Drake Brewing before but they have a simple and eye catching style to the label for this one which whets the appetite. Shared with friends who helped with the tasting notes.