Ridgeside: Beer Ink: No Figgity (England: Barley Wine: 9% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy brown with a red hint. Good sized off white, creamy head.

Nose: Fig rolls. Slight cream. Wheat. Crushed Blackpool rock. Orange skin. Pepper. Caramel.

Body: Brandy cream. Malt chocolate. Figs. Sultanas. Fruitcake. Brown sugar. Caramel.

Finish: Figs. Cream. Wine soaked raisins. Dry notes. Brown sugar. Earthy bitter hop character. Nutty oily notes. Pepper. Carrot skin. Coriander.

Conclusion: Oh fig me, there are some full on figs in this. Initially very sweet and heavy on the dark fruit notes with some vinous backup, this then heads down a path into very earthy bitterness as time goes on, especially in the finish.

While distinctly a barley wine, the peppery and earthy notes, the rough gem edges and dark fruit actually makes me think that they have taken some influence from the Trappist Quads over in Belgium – making something more robust and rounded than the sweeter barley wine takes.

The extra ingredients used in making this are well done – I’ve already mentioned the very present fig character, but not yet that they mix with the sweeter notes to create a sweet pastry impression that calls to tasty fig rolls. Another point in its favour. Beyond that there are some subtle orange skin notes, and unsubtle cane sugar stylings creating some more Trappist like sugar notes.

It is rough edged, and the earthy, spicy notes that are a pleasant balance at the front do get too heavy by the end of the beer. However, with that said, I am on something like my third time trying this. I keep returning to it, this time to do notes, but in general just to enjoy, so it definitely has something.

Rough around the edges aye, but the extra fig notes add to the more traditional dark fruit barley wine character to give it a bit more than the usual style for a barley wine, and the additional orange notes certainly don’t hurt.

A flawed gem, but still a gem and worth trying.

Background: I’ve grabbed this a few times, so when it ended up in my fridge yet again I decided it was finally time to do notes on it. It grabbed my attention for a number of reasons. 1) I like barley wines and they don’t seem to be super common these days compared to say IIPAs or Imperial Stouts. 2) It is made with figs ..oh also candied orange peel but I am mainly here for the figs. Also it’s a collaboration with Beer Ink – I’m sure I’ve run into them before, but can’t quite pin down where. Will have to do a quick search at some point to find out. Another one from Independent Spirit – went back to Bad Religion for tunes to listen to, still got a soft spot for their mix of thoughtful lyrics and rocking punk tunes. Picked their Generator album, mainly for the title track.