Will Meyers wants you to celebrate barleywines.
“They’re kind of the biggest, baddest expression of the brewer’s art,” says Meyers, the longtime brewmaster at Cambridge Brewing Company.
On Jan. 28, the Kendall Square brewpub hosts its 13th annual Barleywine Festival. Meyers will be behind the bar, pouring 14 examples of the style he loves.
Barleywines are generally the strongest style of beer, so named because their alcohol by volume is usually in the double digits, approaching that of wine. The brews are loaded with malts but also heavily hopped, a necessity to maintain any kind of balance. Barleywines are meant to be sipped, though given their alcohol content, it would be pretty hard to down one more quickly even if you tried.
Two of the barleywines available at the upcoming festival are being released in bottles by Cambridge Brewing for the first time this year. Arquebus is inspired by Sauternes, the sweet French wine. It came to be after Meyers and CBC founder Phil Bannatyne had a discussion about how there were no appropriate after-dinner beers to sip during the summer.
“We decided we were going to re-create the dessert wine,” says Meyers, who loaded the beer with a ton of blond malt, fresh Semillon wine grape must, and hundreds of pounds of raw New England honey.
The beer was stored in French oak white wine barrels for six months, and that’s where the festival gets interesting. CBC will be tapping prior vintages of Arquebus in addition to this year’s, so drinkers can compare the different oak treatments. This year’s version has liberal floral notes on the nose and palate, with a rich honey flavor and considerable coconut and vanilla from the oak profile.
Also on tap is Blunderbuss, a more traditional barleywine in the sense that it’s brewed with pale and light caramel malt. This year’s vintage is aged in American rye whiskey barrels, and the finished product presents a sharp bite from the spirit, as well as notes of marshmallow, toffee, and raisins. Blunderbuss from years past, aged in barrels that previously housed other spirits, will also be on tap, as well as Old Butternuts, brewed with butternut squash and then rested in Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare bourbon barrels.
You can currently find bottles of Arquebus on the shelf at several Craft Beer Cellar locations, among other Boston-area retail stores. A Blunderbuss bottle release will follow.
“We see a considerable age-worthiness to them,” says Meyers, who reccomends stashing a bottle or two away in your cellar.
Gary DzenGary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen