Beer Review 0442: Green Flash Barleywine
Green Flash, a relatively small brewery located in San Diego, California, began producing in 2002, taking traditional beer styles and putting their own unique twist to them. Ran by CEO Mike Hinkley and his wife, Lisa (who is the Vice President), Green Flash have excellent distribution in the United States for a smaller brewery, so getting their beers shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
For their second anniversary in 2004, Green Flash brewed a Barleywine, taking an old world beer style and adding a bunch of west coast hops. Boil time on this beer is four hours, getting the most out of the caramel malts. This is a beefy beer, registering 10.9% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 85 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
The pour produced an absolutely stunning Barleywine — the head was light tan, large, creamy and bready and sat for a long time above the line of the liquid. This beer is colored spot-on: orange-amber, with hints of red when held to the light. The body is cloudy but contains no particles or sediment, and lacing/head retention is excellent, leaving thick patches of sticky, bready suds.
The aroma is equally outstanding — the complexities start with heavy, sweet caramel, and lots of citrus hops. We’re talking not only grapefruit, but tons of lemon, lime, and orange. And while it seems sweet to the nose, all those hops give you a preview of a solid edge of bitterness. There’s definitely some of the 10.9% alcohol, and that serves to enhance some dark fruits like prune and raisin. As this warms, the hops get a bit soapy, but the citrus notes (especially the orange) become much more fragrant. Excellent stuff.
On the taste, we’ve got an initial mix of grapefruit and sweet, sugary caramel, but that doesn’t last long as ample bitterness shines through along with a bevy of citrus — orange, herbal lemon, and a solid note of pine. These flavors pop in and out throughout the taste, finishing with a moderate bitterness that sees a large, boozy alcohol presence on the tail end, and introduces some fruit-cake dark fruits. Full-bodied, this is a thick, creamy beer not for the timid.
Two schools of thought here: to age or to enjoy fresh? Well, fresh ain’t bad, not one bit. If you like your Barleywine with tons of citrus and booze, seek this out and drink it posthaste. Green Flash’s take on the style is probably the most fleshy-fruit citrus-forward that I’ve ever encountered, if that makes any sense. I can’t exactly say with certainty if this will get better with age, because I see those wonderful citrus tones fading into the background; however, there is a nice subtle layer of dark fruits that may be just as tasty. Hell, buy two and put one away for a year; then, you’ll know for sure. Next beer run, that’s probably what I will be doing. You won’t be breaking the bank on two of these.
Green Flash Barleywine, 94 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.