Brewdog Russian Doll Barley Wine

Brewdog: Russian Doll: Barley Wine (Scotland: Barley Wine: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black cherry red. Thin off white dash of a head. Still main body.

Nose: Shortbread. Custard and pineapple. Prickle of hops. Musty bitterness. Glacier cherries. Apricot and peach.

Body: Slightly syrupy. Bitterness and hops. Light treacle. Toffee. Chocolate chews. Resin. Light pineapple and grapes. Fruitcake.

Finish: Moderate bitterness mixed with malt drinks. Shortbread. Slightly dusty. Light resin. Hop oils.

Conclusion: Dryness seems to be the theme of these “Russian Doll” beers – and, for a barley wine, this still has a very dry taste and feel to it, with very little residual sweetness showing.

This is weird as they somehow manage to make the treacle notes not actually taste that sweet. I’m now quite sure how that is possible. Instead of the sweetness I would normally expect in a barley wine the beer concentrates instead on the resin and hop oils that were already evident in the DIPA, and bring them out along with the accompanying bitterness.

What I find interesting is that while the hop bitterness and oils are there, the hop fruit flavours are all but subsumed under the malt flavours. There is still a slight presence, but a very muted one – instead leaving chocolate chews and glacier cherries. Again somehow how that sweet. How? How?

So, it is smooth of texture, and shows brewing skill and class, however flavour wise, it is not particularly fascinating barley wine. It does have some sweetness, but it is way tamped down from expectations under the hop oils and resin. Feels more like a barley base than a barley wine … if that makes sense. Nice enough though.

As part of the series -well, it really shows how the hop flavour has to fight to be seen at this level of abv, and here you really do get a showcase of fruitcake and cherry malt flavours.

Overall the series has been ok, generally good quality – if we ignore the pale ale – but none great beers, interesting as a learning exercise, but not as much so as the single hop or differing yeast series. Possibly as you see malt variation in similar beers more often in the wild. So, ok as beers, ok as a series. so, erm, ok.

Background: We have reached the smallest doll! Or the largest doll. In which case reaching it would make no sense, we would have had to go past it to reach the smaller dolls. Anyway. This is the highest malt content and thus highest abv take of the “Russian Doll” beers – four beers with the exact same recipe with the exception of the size of the malt load that changes between beers. The eagle eyed of you may notice something different about the photo. I’ve been using brighter led bulbs recently, so that probably explains it.

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