Winter is a time for many things. Cold weather, warm fires, celebrations to mark the new year, and strong drink with which to do it! In fact, barley wine, a long-standing favorite of mine, was created for just such a purpose. In order to keep people festive and plump during the hard, lean, winter months, barley wine was developed to be both tasty, nutritious and VERY strong, thus ensuring good health and good spirits!
And for the winter of 2012, Phillips Brewery, which can always be counted on to come up with interesting beers, has released an Ice Barley Wine to mark the season. Yes, that’s right, an ice barley wine, meaning they fermented it at ice-cold temperatures in addition to fermenting it longer and stronger. I have to admit, this is a new one for me, but given my love of bock beers (which includes Ice Bock), I was intrigued enough to buy some.
I should also note that, in keeping with the Phillips tradition of giving their beers comical names (especially their vintages), this one is aptly named Mass Extinction. How did they come up with this name you ask? Well, it could a reference to the ice fermentation process (i.e. ice age killed the dinosaurs) or the fact that it is VERY strong (at 12% alc/vol it is one of the strongest beers I’ve ever had!); but somehow, you just get the feeling that this beer was meant to be served chilled and could kill a large animal!
Overall, the taste is what one can expect from a faithful barley wine: syrupy, sweet, with a hint of maple, molasses and rich malts. However, this particular one manages to add a certain toasty, almost stout-like quality to the mix, which is not surprising given its dark color. Clearly, the barley was roasted nice and dark before they fermented and froze it to give its sweet, strong flavor.
And since it is a seasonal, I strongly recommend people get out there and sample this strong ale before… okay, my mind is filling up with bad puns and dinosaur jokes right now! Just try the beer! Winter is a time for strong ale and barley wines are no exception! 4/5