If you’re a geek… of the beer variety, there are few things that are more fun than getting together with a few of your fellow geeks and cracking open a few beers. It’s science. More friends + more beer = more fun. What absolutely blows this away in ‘funness’ is when you all get together on New Year’s Eve, crack open a few Barleywines that have been sitting in your cellar and then all heading out in the morning (maybe a little hungover) to buy this year’s newest release.
I’m laying out a plan for you, that West Side is going to facilitate with their newest release – but I suppose before I dig into the release it only makes sense to shine a little light on West Side and talk about what they’ve been doing.
Traditional… Or Built Upon It
I try lately to make a point to tell as many people about West Side as possible. I’ve fallen in love with what they’re doing when it comes to not just traditional styles, but even some of the less traditional stuff too.
You’ve seen their Oktoberfest, their Hefeweizen or maybe their new Schwarzbier on shelves – and these are an amazing traditional examples of what these folks can do. When you take a peek behind the velvet curtain of their “other” stuff, though, you can get a glimpse into how they build some “non-traditional” beers off of a very traditional mindset. If you really need an example (which rumor has it will be making it’s way into cans this year) take a look back to last years German-Irish Lager. The brewery built a traditional German lager that took on some of the characteristics and ingredients of a traditional Irish red ale. Two beautiful traditional examples that when put together are anything but.
It’s a beautiful example of what makes this brewery a treasure here in town… but we’re here to talk Barleywine… and it’s New Year’s Eve… and I’ve got drinking to do, so let’s get down to business!
Barleywine is life – at least once a year.
The word I hear is that this idea started during a couple brewery meetings. At one, brewer Colin Foy brought a homebrewed Barleywine from 2010, and at another owner Joe Mumper brought in a 2011 Bigfoot Barleywine from Sierra Nevada… the fun of drinking these cellared beers stated the conversation between everyone. Why not?
The decision was made to put together a big, traditional American Barleywine that could be released once a year, every year. You can get together with your friends and drink one from each year that you’ve got cellared away on New Years Eve. Come New Years Day, you can buy this years beer (a bunch of it) to stash away for future years to come.
About The Release
Before we dig in deep into the release itself, let’s take a look at the can itself. (Yes… like their other releases, this one is in 12oz cans). The design is simple, along the same lines as their other cans that you’ve seen – deep browns and tans highlight the rich flavors that you can expect to find, especially as this gets some age on it. The back of the can reads:
Brewed once a year in December for a release the following January 1st, our Barleywine-style ale is a beer to drink fresh or age. Intense with a subtle date-like fruitiness that goes perfectly with a big layered malty body. Classic American hops add firm bitterness and a bit of dryness to the finish to help balance the malt
As I mentioned before, to stay in line with all their other releases this one is in 12oz cans, though this time in four packs at $11.99. It’s a new move into “bigger” beers in cans for West Side, and one that you might see become a quarterly series of sorts. I asked them about the decision to put this into cans, and they cited much of the same reasons as they used for their other releases to be in cans, as well. Protection for light, oxidation, transportability and recyclability are always the prime examples that make cans better than bottles.
I have never seen anyone really dig into cellaring cans vs bottles in a deep dive, but it will be interesting to use this release as a chance to explore how it effects ther cellaring process.
The 2019 Release Event
It’s strange to talk about 2019… but it is tomorrow after all. West Side is kicking off their yearly Barleywine release with this year’s which will begin at 11am in their Westwood taproom. You’ll be able to snag your four packs then for $11.99, along with a special glass (I love, love, love glassware) for $8. They’ll have a food truck serving up some food so you can hang out and drink a few while you’re out.
Like I said before… this is going to become a tradition. Every year (go ahead and mark your calendar now) they’ll throw this event on 1/1, and I’m sure as the years go on it’s only going to get more interesting as previous versions get some time in the cellar (and will hopefully make appearances).
If you haven’t been to West Side, or you haven’t been in a while. I think this might make a good excuse to head out!