De Molen: Bommen & Granaten PX Barrel Aged (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 15.2% ABV)
Visual: Dark black cherry red. An inch of creamy browned head. Carbonated body.
Nose: Red grapes. Malt drinks. Cherryaid. Sake (Nihonshuu). Raisins.
Body: Big but clean bitterness. Light greenery. Spiced red grapes. Pilsner clean hop feel. Overripe banana. Malt biscuits. Frothy mouthfeel. Malt drinks. Raisins. Cherryaid. Malt chocolate.
Finish: Sake. Clean bitterness. Pilsner dry feel. Light banana notes. Digestives. Spiced red grapes.
Conclusion: This is a very nicely attenuated barley wine. At over 15% I was expecting something insanely sweet – but this is dry and cleanly bitter. At times the clean character actually reminds me of noble hopped pilsners, but done barley wine style. if that makes any sense at all.
The pilsner feel is much more dominant when it is cool, as it warms up the fruit elements start tuning up the band, but it still uses the dryness there as a base. There is good use made of the raisin, cherry and spicy grapes flavours. With the PX barrel aging it seems to work brilliantly to mix with that fruitiness, while still letting that unusual clean easy drinking barley wine base do its thing.
Even then, with the fruit at full power, there is that clean bitterness and soft banana notes and the like that make me think of a pils. I am genuinely impressed that they managed to bring elements together from two such disparate styles. Though, and this is a minor flaw, over time the clean bitterness does alter – becoming more clingy with the texture. It is a common issue with high bitterness strong beers. That extra grip that makes them so awesome can cause the bitterness to stick and get wearing. At 330ml it manages not to wear out its welcome, but it is a notable element.
This is, for the most part, so very clean and so very fruity – it reminds of Magnum style single hopped beers in the bitterness and the cleaner flavours. The PX barrel doesn’t come in too heavy, but enough to make it worthwhile. Too many beers vanish under the barrel ageing. Overall a beer of balance, clean flavours and hop impact. A more restrained, easy drinking and yet complex barley wine than I have seen for a long time. very nice.
Background: Wax on bottles. I used to be a fan, as it made a beer feel a bit special, but it is getting overdone. Then again, for once this one was easy to open despite the wax. Bought on a sweltering day, the wax was damn near melting off onto everything near it by the time I got it home. It was pretty much early morning by the time I drank this – my sleep patterns are fucked. Drunk while listening to some Crossfaith and some B. Dolan – a tad eclectic mix I know. De Molen have been exceptional so far, so a PX barrel aged barley wine sounded awesome. grabbed for the ever reliable Independent Spirit.