Some people greet the arrival of the cold months in Maine reluctantly. At Sebago Brewing, we welcome the wintry weather with…Barleywine. This year’s edition of the bourbon barrel-aged ale really packs a punch.
We asked Peter Dahlen, our Director of Brewery Operations, what sets this year’s Barleywine apart.
How is the 2021 version different from previous years?
Our Barleywine this year has notably more rich chocolate and bourbon character with less vanilla, cherry, and caramel flavors than in years past. We created a stronger ale this year, and the alcohol is one of our higher levels, while still melding well with the robust flavors that we have created for this year’s release.
Can you explain what makes the ABV higher this year?
This year’s batch measures in at 13.75% after coming out of the barrels, which is on the higher end of what we’ve ever produced. That happened for two reasons. First, the strength starts in the brewhouse and cellars where we brewed a more fermentable wort this year, which increased the strength before it went into the barrels. Then, as the fermented the beer rested in the freshly emptied bourbon barrels, more alcohol is extracted from the wood, and that increases the ABV as it ages.
The amount that the beer gains changes from year to year and barrel to barrel. While it’s always fun to make a boast-ably strong beer, our main focus is to create an offering that people will enjoy, not just a new high ABV mark for our team.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy Barleywine?
My favorite time to enjoy Barleywine is when I go inside after some outdoor cold weather physical exertion – think evening nor’easter snow clean up – and sit and sip by the wood stove. Or… any other time. I tend to leave the food behind when enjoying Barleywine; I prefer it as a standalone experience because it’s so full of character on its own.
Anything else you can share about BW21?
Barleywine is fun to make and fun to drink – but both in small doses.
Barleywine is available for a limited time on draft and in 12oz cans at all Sebago Brewing locations.