2014 Our Finest Regards (Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project)

Style: English Barleywine
12.1% ABV IBU’s: not important  Hops: there’s hops in here?
Malt: Thomas Fawcett & Sons, Yorkshire
OG: 29 Plato From: Somerville, MA

Brewery’s Note: “From Pretty Things to you this winter season: “Our Finest Regards.” Four years into our project and we’re grateful and amazed that so many people love and support great beer these days. The fact that we’re still here is a credit to you all./ But for the question of primary importance: What is the beer? Well, it’s our Pretty Things barleywine. Inspired by malted barley, a tribute to the barleycorn. Yes, it’s simple, but that’s what barleywines are all about. Ever since brewing in England, Dann has dreamed of making a barley-focused beer using the malts of Yorkshire (and never hesitates to plug his favorite: Thomas Fawcett & Sons). The American version of a barleywine is normally a sad beer indeed, lots of hops and alcohol but the star of the show is left scratching his chin in the eaves of the theatre. This is not one of those beers. The English invented this style and they’re the only ones who know how to make one, save the rare American brewer./ Give barley a chance and this mysterious little grain can do grand things!/ To get the density of sugars needed for this sort of beer, we employed “double mashing.” The brewhouse that we work on can only get to maybe 18 plato for a single running of wort: but we wanted 27 plato! So we combined two brews by running wort into the kettle and then using it to mash in the second batch. We don’t take credit for this idea. We’re certain it has been done many, many times before. But it wasn’t until Will Meyers (the great Cantabridgian Cervecero) brought this method to our attention that we realized we could brew a barleywine of proper gravity… (he never told us that he hadn’t actually performed this sort of brewing before!). Anyway, it works!!/ Expect an aroma of juicy sultanas, wet wood, green apple, malted milk balls, marzipan, and alcohol deliciousness. It’s got a medium body and is a little more spritsy than we’re sure the Brits would like. Serve over 50 degrees fahrenheit in a stemmed glass./ Very suitable to drink this year or next, or even the winter after that!”

Poem from the back of the old label:

It’s cold out there, but it’s warm in here:
The pretty things are full of cheer.
A year has gone, but there’s another to come,
It’s kept for us, and it’s foolish & fun.

So tuck yourself up, and hang on tight,
There’s a warm dark hold to sleep in tonight,
And way at the bottom are grain, hops & yeast,
Kept safe in this bottle from late summer’s feast.

The beer pours a rich, dark mahogany color, settling into the glass as a gorgeous, dark ruby with hints of maple syrup coloring. The beer forms a healthy head miniscule, tightly packed, khaki bubbles, which last above the beer and give it a regal crown. When splashed against the sides of the glass, the head leaves a slick curtain of lacing that quickly falls back to the liquid. The beer also leaves a thin drizzling of legs, which linger on the glass and distort the light. This is a pretty looking beer, and in body, it is dark, opaque, yet clean and clear of sediment. On the nose, the beer smells of decadent dark plums, brown sugar over raisins, rich and hearty bread crust, a ghost of toffee and maple syrup, and a finishing flourish of booze, only letting you know that this is a bigger beer, while still keeping the nose all about the malt character. This is the way I like my barleywines. There’s even a bit of nuttiness in the scent, blending in with the other scents nicely. On the tongue, the beer tastes bready sweet, with a mellow boozy balance, a subtle acidity in the middle of the sip, and a faint bitterness from both hops and from a quick tingle of roasted malt. Sweet malt character is king in this beer, but not cloying and not out of control. Lovely balance. In flavor, the beer begins as light plum juice and caramel, blending with bread crust and toffee with just a wisp of coffee, then a crescendo of maple syrup and nuttiness, which signal the finish in all its glory. There is the brief whisper of boozy alcohol, but it is well integrated with the other flavors. The aftertaste is slightly sticky sweet bread and a touch of maple syrup and wood. In the mouth, the beer feels full and smooth, with a gentle carbonation, and sultry, syrupy, and chewy mouthfeel that still keeps a lightness in the finish. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left close to neutral, with a light sticky sweetness, spittle puddling in the cheeks and then sheening over the tongue. There is also a light astringency on the tongue that has it a bit tight. Overall, this is a beautiful barleywine that (huzzah) showcases the barley! I love the complexity of flavor from the barley, and I love how decadent this is to sip. This is an end of year, fireside sipping treat. I’m sure it will age nicely, but it doesn’t even need it. Try pairing with bread pudding, and other hearty English desserts. Another pretty beer from Pretty Things. Damn, Dan does things well.


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