Lucky Lab Barleywine and Big Beer Fest

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The 16th Annual Barleywine and Big Beer Fest is coming up soon. This year’s fest will take place at Lucky Lab‘s NW Quimby Beer Hall on Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, from noon-10pm. The fest is one of my favorites of the year, and seems to fly somewhat under the radar. It’s not strictly for barleywine fans; there will be imperial IPAs, strong Belgian ales, and imperial stouts to sample alongside the barleywines. I’m also struggling to think of an event that features a wider variety of barrel-aged and vintage beers. There will be a few verticals available during each session, and beers will change out as the individual kegs run dry.

Lucky Lab Brewer Ben Flerchinger with his bounty of vintage kegs.

This past weekend I attended the media preview event at the brewery, where we got to sample and do some quality control on over 30 kegs that Lucky Lab Brewer Ben Flerchinger has been aging for the past few years. We found that a few of the kegs had taken a turn for the worse, but the vast majority ranged from acceptable to sublime. A few favorites of mine:

2007 Lucky Lab Old Yeller – This aged barleywine was fairly fruity and very hoppy for something that had a few years on it. A mild tartness from oxidation on the finish keeps it from being completely perfect.

2010 Ninkasi Critical Hit – This is a super hoppy and boozy barleywine with a nice, sharp hoppy edge.

2011 North Coast Old Stock Ale – Sweet, with big notes of brown sugar and bready malt. Very nice now, I think it will age well, too.

2010 Lucky Lab Son of Old Yeller – Aged in bourbon barrels, and a lot of the whisky character really comes through. Notes of coconut and chocolate make it almost like drinking a Samoa cookie from the Girl Scouts.

2010 Anchor Old Foghorn – The perennial standout is superb with a couple of years on it – sweet and delicious with just enough hop character to provide some bitterness.

2008 Rogue Imperial Russian Stout – Pours like motor oil, although it somehow manages to not be super-rich on the palate. Body is beautifully creamy. The severe heat that was present when this beer was first released has diminished significantly, making it much more drinkable.

It took a lot of work, but we made it through all these kegs in two hours.

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