Thanks to our friends at Ska Brewing in Durango, we in the crew were delighted recipients of a bottle of their barrel-aged Ska Face Barleywine. A quorum of Stoutmeister, myself (Franz Solo), and Cryptogrind gathered to enjoy this lovely winter warmer.
Take note, Ska Face will be available today (Friday) from 5 to 8 p.m. at Sister as part of a tap takeover by the brewery. Also available are Sour Apple Gose, Pink Vapor Stew, True Blonde, and Bad Hop Contract.
To help everyone make up their minds as to whether or not to attend, we present our rambling discourse from Tuesday evening.
Crypt: I can smell the booze on this from here.
Solo: Holy hell! Bourbon!
Crypt: Bourbon, dried fruit, you get raisin right away.
Solo: Oh yeah, that tart, whiskey sour mash kind of flavor. It’s a little floral initially, too.
Crypt: Smells like corn!
Solo: Delicious creamed corn!
Crypt: Not the corn! Ah, Willie’s gonna have his legs broke!
(Further laughter ensues.)
Stout: That’s delicious.
Crypt: On a different level, layers of sweetness.
Solo: You get tart, and then sweet, and then earthy, and then yummy.
Crypt: So the booze I don’t get a lot on the palate, honestly. It’s not overly hot like it kind of smells like it should be. But, it’s pretty complex in the flavor, because there’s a ton of whiskey right up front, but it doesn’t burn. You get a ton of oak and sour whiskey comes through.
Solo: Vanilla is starting to come through a lot as well.
Crypt: There’s like five different kinds of sweetness there with a little bit of caramel, and it’s like if the huckleberries were too tart, you just dust them with confectioner’s sugar, that kind of thing.
Stout: It is not overly chewy, but I still like the mouthfeel.
Solo: Yeah, it fills the mouth, but it is not a single blast at any spot. Rather, it coats everything.
Stout: It does linger and in a good way; there’s not a bad aftertaste to this at all.
Crypt: It has this light toffee and caramel sweetness light coating that’s really nice.
Stout: It’s more the beer itself and not necessarily the barrel.
Solo: And, it just warms you so nicely. It gives me that little bit of chest burn like you get from a good whiskey or strong winter ale.
Crypt: What kind of yeast did they use in this? I’m getting different kind of fruity notes in the finish that are just really neat.
Stout: Well, it’s an English-style yeast that they use up there.
Crypt: It is pretty unique as far as the finish goes.
Solo: Yeah, it is kind of like the dried cherries that my dad has from his yard, but sweeter like they were injected with huckleberries.
Crypt: We should put that on a banana splice, er split.
(We proceed to discuss excellent sci-fi movies including Blade Runner 2049 and The Cell before returning to the task at hand.)
Stout: Thank you, Ska.
Solo: Yes, thank you, Ska. The beer smells sweeter than it actually tastes, likely from the slight tart sourness of the whiskey barrel that balances with what would be otherwise a very, very sweet beer.
Crypt: Purple monkey dishwasher.
Stout: Drink this while skiing Purgatory! This is very much a winter skiing beer.
Crypt: I’d wash it down with a tall, cool glass of hot dog. Wait …
(The late, great Harry Caray then enters discussion, as is typical of these gatherings, and we rambled a bit about the delicious brews and food available in Chicago.)
In conclusion, among barrel-aged barleywines this one is a strong and unique example of a tart and medium sweet, English-style winter warmer, with many distinct and delightful notes of vanilla, sour whiskey, and various dried fruits. The flavor and aroma linger with the best of ’em and the mouthfeel is excellent. We heartily recommend you seek this quintessential winter skiing/snowboarding beer.
Thanks, once again, to our friends at Ska Brewing for sending us a sample!
— Solo, Stoutmeister, Cryptogrind