Arbor Steel City Hopcraft Argy Bargy

Arbor: Steel City: Hopcraft: Argy Bargy (England: Barley Wine: 10.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Red hue at edges. Moderate brown head that is thin froth and large bubbles.

Nose: Thick ovaltine and malt chocolate drinks. Coffee. Alcohol tingle. Greenery and bitter hop character. Resin. Chocolate liqueur.

Body: Chocolate toffee. Bitter hop prickle. Thick treacle touch. Resin and hop oils. Chocolate fondue. Apples notes. Kiwi.

Finish: Riesen chocolate chews and fudge mix. Lightly woody. Chocolate fondue. Good bitter chocolate. Brown sugar. Gentle kiwi air.

Conclusion: Ok, this is one of those single minded but big in what flavours it does have kind of style beers. A smbbiwfidhkos beer if you will, as that will make it easier to say and comprehend.

It is thick, full of chocolate, resinous and moderately bitter. There, I just summed up the entire beer. But if I leave it at that I will not have done my job I feel. So I will go on.

The aroma is fairly gentle, but the body has that high level barley wine sweetness but done in a dark beer fashion, with many variants of similar but different chocolate style notes. It is probably the most barley wine feeling black barley wine that I have had, keeping that syrupy sweet character while shifting it to a darker style.

It also doesn’t push the hop character too hard. A lot of black barley wines seem to push that side, ending up like drier and higher abv black IPAs. Here it is happy to limit the hops to a resinous character which fits perfectly, and a little amount of green fruit on the flavour side as subtle backing notes.

Overall, while fairly one note, the green fruit does rise as it warms, and even simple as it is it does what it does very competently indeed. It doesn’t bother with any extraneous notes, just does what it sets out to do,

Sweet, simple and sorted. Not a world shaker but solid.

Background: Black barley wines are an odd one. I have found black barley wines I have enjoyed, but they often don’t seem really seem barley wine like to me. This one, from Independent Spirit caught my eye. I used to drink a lot of Arbor stuff but haven’t really done so for a while – they seem to have gone for a more craft beer look and style over the last bunch of years, so probably time for a new look. Drunk while listening to a bunch of old Warren Ellis’ 4AM music podcasts. Again, stuff I haven’t listened to for a while.

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