Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Tasting Alaskan Barley Wine Ale with dark chocolate and raw milk Emmenthaler cheese

By William Brand
Friday, February 1st, 2008 at 9:46 pm in Uncategorized.

Note: Each month on the first Friday, beer bloggers around North America select a beer style, sample a beer in that style, then post their comments at a common site, which moves from blogger host to blogger host. Today (although in truth, most of today has vanisahed. It’s 9:30 p.m. here in the San Franciso Bay Area) the style is barleywine and the host is
You can find all the comments here.

Alaskan Barley Wine Ale closeup

I chose Alaskan Barley Wine Ale, (**** my rating, Four Stars) a 10.4 percent beauty from Alaskan Brewing Co, Juneau, Alaska. They’ve bottled it this year for the first time and unless you have a friend in the Pacific Northwest or are headed that way, forget it. This is a good reason to go north in winter.

Alaskan said they didn’t bottle enough for us in the Bay Area.

It won the gold medal at the professionaly judged, Toronado’s annual Barleywine Festival last year. No wonder. This is a big, beautiful beer: a dark brown with lighter brown highlights, there’s a thick skiff of tan foam, but it fades rapidly, leaving a trail of candy-like lacework.

The nose is sweet malt and a trace of hops, signature notes of the American barleywine. The taste is quite complex for the genre: rush of malt, toffee-like sweetness, a bit of fizz from the mild carbonination, then a rush of hops and a sizzle of alcohol in a drying finish.

The malt sweetness and mild hops linger on the palate as the warmth of the alcohol hits the gut. Whew. This is a perfect, after-a-big-dinner, sprawl-by-the-fire on a rainy, snowy-night beer.

Emmentaler cheese: wikipediaIt demands a cigar or chocolate, I thought. I managed to quick smoking years ago and the thought of starting again terrifies me. But dark chocolate? Why not. Hey, it’s heart healthy.

So I tried a bite of dark chocolate from a Trader Joe’s bar that I had in the freezer. Bad choice! Yuk. The sweetness of the chocolate erases that barley wine sweetness and accents the hop bitterness. A match made in hell.

Well, I thought, why not cheese. Peering into my fridge, I found a wedge of raw milk Emmentaler, a cow’s milk cheese, creamy, with a slightly herbal edge from Switzerland.

Boingo. Excellent pairing. The cheese tastes dry and emphasizes the sweetness of the beer, which enhances the herbal taste of the cheese. I’m happy. Great beer, nice cheese. End of day. Beginning of weekend.


Photos: Emmentaler cheese. Credit: Wikipedia.

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