Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ken Stuber Takes on Central Waters’ 2010 Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine

Late last week four cases of Central Waters’ 2010 Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine showed up in the back cooler at Festival Foods in Oshkosh. This is a truly massive beer and today we're lucky to have Ken Stuber sharing his tasting notes. Ken is a homebrewer, a genuine SOB, and in May he’ll be taking the Beer Judge Certification Program exam. Obviously, he knows his beer. So let’s get to it; here are Ken’s notes:

Served at cellar temp (58º)

Strong dark fruit aroma, though the bourbon and caramel also come through. The blend of the three is heaven on the nose as they all complement each other so well. Virtually no hop aroma to speak of. (9/12)

A finger or so of loose foam that dissipated quickly. A deep copper, nearly red, color. Perfectly clear, no haze at all. I was concerned that the seller had it in their cooler and this beer is not meant to be chilled, but fortunately there was no chill-haze to speak of. (3/3)

Wow, what a medley of flavor! As with the aroma, the blend of oak/bourbon, caramel and dark fruit is perfectly balanced. The effect reminds me of port wine or sherry. While no hop flavor came through in the aroma, there was a modest level of hop bitterness present, placing it in the high end of the English Barleywine style, by my guess. The strength of the beer is noticeable up-front, but not in a harsh or unpleasant way, though you can certainly taste the alcohol. This isn't entirely unexpected for such a young barleywine. There is a brown sugar or carmelly sweetness, but it is partially offset by the impressive 11.5% ABV. (17/20)

For a beer of this 'size', it is neither overly dry or heavy on the mouth. Carbonation is low, and to style. It does leave a slight residual syrupy feel on the tongue, but it's forgivable for the style. (3/5)

A fine brew and a welcome addition to my cellar. I look forward to revisiting this 'vintage' again in a year or two, to see how the flavor develops. I expect some of the alcohol hotness to diminish and the fruity character to come forward, but only time will tell. The bourbon barrel/oak flavor is present, but not overpowering like so many oak-aged beers tend to be. It perfectly complements the port/sherry - like qualities. Probably the best barleywine I've yet tasted. (8/10)

Last Thoughts
I scored it a 40. An excellent, though not outstanding beer. With time, I expect it to improve. In a year or two, I would be surprised and disappointed if my impression of this beer didn't improve. We'll see!


  1. My problem is trying to keep it a year or two, but I like alcohol up front in my beers....

  2. Why does he keep referring to you as Randy T?

  3. Ummmm. I don't assign names. That's Randy putting the "T" after the Randy and I believe it has something to do with the name that sits between his first and last. Drinking a CW Bourbon Barrel Cherry Stout just now... please excuse my complexity... Lee (no T).