Siren Maiden 2013

Siren: Maiden 2013 (England: Barley Wine: 11.1% ABV)

Visual: Dark red brown. Large coffee froth brown frothy head. Cloudy.

Nose: Shortbread. Bitter red wine. Raisins. Gin. Green grapes. Slightly dusty. Barley. Cherries. Choc orange and toffee.

Body: Raisins. Malt chocolate. Bitterness. Resin and hop character. Cream. Honeyed barley. Light cherries. Light bitterness. Madeira.

Finish: Charred oak. Malt chocolate. Flavoured vodka. Bitter. Slight resin. Toffee liquore.

Conclusion: I’m still drinking as I wrote this, still trying to work out the final piece of the puzzle. Still letting the beer warm and seeing where that takes me. Mainly because it feels like there is more to come, but I want to get my ideas down while they are still fresh.

This is very smooth, the aroma is light and subtle, though still shifts well enough to call to a wide range of notes. The body though, is somewhat less wide ranging. It feels just a mix of dark malt, resin and bitterness, with raisins pushed as the main flavour element. It mixes that smooth texture with a resinous touch and soft spirit prickle – it is a nice feel, easy to drink but warming so to warn of the strength, but it doesn’t seem to hook its flavour onto this. The base building blocks of flavour are too much of the show.

I’m swirling the beer, and still all I’m getting really is raisins and malt chocolate. It needs more. Interestingly it is more bitter than your average barley wine, more resinous and even with some hop character. It is a nice feel, but again it is all about the base, without the needed shine. The bottle promises a variety of oak ageing, but they take their time to show.

I say take their time, as literally as I wrote that, about two thirds of the way through the bottle, I’m finally getting a few more notes. I’m glad that I took to writing to slow down my drinking of this, as it seems to have given it what it needs to get going. It is still not a showstopper, but a light build up of toffee liquore is coming out. The resinous elements mean that is nowhere near as sickly as you would imagine, you still getting the charring and resin up front, but there is a creamy spirit just nicely adding to it now.

Now the barrel ageing seems to have added a nice contrasting spirit and smoothness. It has a quality, but it only shows late on. Here at the very end it transcends its previous limitations. Finally the creaminess has come, the raisins have become full on fruitcake and the spirit touch has become Madeira like. Everything has finally reached a satisfying crescendo.

Of course I am near the end of a strong beer, that could be the alcohol talking. I get drunk easily.

So, a beer of delayed enjoyment, and because of that I can’t whole heartedly recommend it, but when it finally comes through it takes all the elements and makes from them a very smooth, and interesting drink. A beer of final moments enjoyment.

Background: So far Siren have made a bunch of beers I have found interesting, none perfect, but never dull. So, when I saw they were doing a anniversary barley wine that had been blended from a bunch of different barrel ageings I thought I would give it a try. Where did I pick it up from? Why Independent Spirit of course. Drunk while listening to some “Heavens To Betsy”. Again you ask if I have been playing Gone Home recently … how does everyone know? Seriously, play Gone Home. Thankfully the heat wave has broken now, so I could enjoy this at a reasonable background ambient temperature.