Barleywine isn’t what it seems. First of all, it’s definitely not wine. Crack one open expecting a drink made from fermented grapes and you’ll be very disappointed. The moniker comes from its alcohol content. Barleywine, like all beers, is made with malts, yeast, water, and hops, but the ABVs are more like wine-ish — typically in the 6-12% range.
There are two main styles of barleywine on the market these days. The first is the American barley wine, which has a bit of extra bite from hops. This is because Americans love hops almost as much as we love apple pie, the designated hitter rule, and Easy Cheese. The other version is the English style. It’s known to be much less bitter with a much fruitier, maltier flavor profile.
Due to its high alcohol content, and rich, malty flavor notes is perfectly suited for winter drinking. So we asked a handful of bartenders to tell us their go-to barleywines to enjoy this February.
Off Color Bare Bear
Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
Off Color Bare Bear.
It’s perfect and loaded with malt and a light tannic flavor from juniper berries. Too easy to drink. Helps with the relentless gray skies that make Chicago winters so tough.
Average Price: $11.74 for a six-pack
Side Project Anabasis
Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
Anabasis from Side Project in St Louis has to be one of the best barleywine approaches of all time.
Aged for 18 months in ex- Blanton’s bourbon barrels, this one is as complex as they come. It’s rich, full of caramel and toffee, and finishes with a touch of bourbon and oak.
Average Price: $20 for a 750ml bottle
Coniston Brewing NO.9
Christopher Wright, bartender at Don Camillo Tuscan Cuisine in Corinthe, Texas
Coniston Brewing NO.9 is a barley wine worthy of your palate for several reasons. Imagine opening a bottle of toffee and caramel accented liquid apples with a hint of deep malt and marzipan. This barleywine carries a warming sensation when enjoyed on a cold night, and offers an 8.5% ABV which is can’t be overlooked but isn’t quite the overwhelming 12% that some barley wines carry.
Average Price: $4.49 for a 16-ounce bottle
Epic Brewing Whiskey Barrel Aged Barleywine
Kimberly Basnight, lead bartender at Fins Bar in Nashville
Epic Brewing Barleywine is one of my favorites this winter because of its caramel hints and sherry-like undertones. It’s a perfect winter sipper.
Average Price: $20 for a 22 ounce bottle
Surly Fourteen Barrel
Joan Percival, bartender at Proof Whiskey and Craft Cocktails in Omaha
Surly Fourteen Barrel. They used Parker’s Heritage barrels and you really get the whiskey character. Lots of vanilla and baking spice, but there’s also an unexpected little zing of hops in there too.
Average Price: $11.99 for a 16 ounce can
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot
Sire Negri, lead mixologist at Havana Beach Bar & Grill, located at The Pearl Hotel in Rosemary Beach, Florida
Barleywines are perfect for the winter. One of the best this year is Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. This hefty ABV barleywine shines through with deep delicious notes of plum and currants. Brewed by Sierra Nevada since 1983, this release has become one of the brand’s classics and is sought out by beer nerds around the world.
While not being released in 2021, be sure to keep an eye out for Sierra Nevada’s barrel-aged version for a true treat.
Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack
Lagunitas Olde Gnarlywine
Andres Rairan, lead bartender at High Tide Beach Bar & Grill in Miami
I must admit this category is not one of my strongest and I have not had many experiences with barley wine. I have tried one I did not hate, it was Lagunitas Olde Gnarlywine. It tastes pretty smooth and had interesting flavors such as toffee and caramel that meshed well together.
Writing this makes me want to start trying more barley wine to see if I can get behind this as much as some of the other bartenders.
Average Price: $4.49 for a 22 ounce bottle
Local Relic Sweet Potato Barleywine
Anastacio Garcia Liley. bartender at Axe and Oak Whiskey House in Colorado Springs, Colorado
The sweet potato barley wine at Local Relic Brewery is amazing vanilla and marshmallow with roasted sweet potato. During cold Colorado days, this beer feeds my soul at 12% ABV. It’s sure to get you feeling “real nice.”
The cool thing about this brewery is there are no flagships, so they brew over 200 different beers a year.
Average Price: $15 for a 22 ounce bottle
Anchorage Brewing A Deal With The Devil
Jane Danger, national mixologist for Pernod-Ricard USA
Anchorage Brewing Company makes a world-class barleywine, A Deal With The Devil.
As the name implies this is a seriously flavorful beverage. With little to no alcohol burn, this barleywine is great for first-timers. Fully delivers on the dark berries and stone fruits with waves of chocolate, vanilla, oak, burnt sugar, and cognac. Awesome with hearty winter meals or on its own for dessert with a bit of dark chocolate.
Average Price: $37 for a 750ml bottle
The Bruery Saule
Allen Lancaster, master cocktail craftsman at The Bar at The Spectator Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina
The Bruery Saule. Bourbon barrel aging lends dark fruit notes with a rich chocolatey boldness that fills your soul. Drinking one is truly a rich, memorable, flavor experience.
Average Price: $28.99 for a 750ml bottle
Real Ale Sisyphus
Aaron Hanson, bartender at Casa Santo Stefano in Tampa
Sisyphus from Real Ale is in the top tier of craft beers the hop character makes lovely briny bouquet. If you ever get a chance to try it, don’t miss the opportunity. You won’t be disappointed.
Average Price: $15 for a 4-pack