These two have been in the stash since my trip to Amsterdam in August, and I've been waiting for the cold weather to open them to up. And so, to beat the post-Christmas blues and to ring in the new year they seemed the perfect tonic to the weather and times.
First up is Jopen's Barrevoet, which the label helpfully states was brewed in October and bottled in December of 2012. At a year old, this 10.5% barleywine produces an intense and complex aroma. It's a glorious and heady mix of marmalade and pithy orange skins atop a treacly sweetness of brown sugar and raisiny rum spice. Dark and powerful, this is already a beautiful beer. The palate delivers on this promise with a soft hop attack that's all mandarin skin bitterness before turning to more tropical fruit and allowing the sugary base through.
Long after the beer is gone you're still sucking remnants of the syrupy sweetness and tingling citrus fruit bitterness from the sides of your mouth. Fantastic stuff, I shall be looking for more of this.
The other beer is from Amsterdam itself, from a brewery I've somehow neglected on all my visits. It's another barleywine from De Prael, and it's called Mary. For some reason.
It pours much paler than the Jopen and smells paler too. In fact, it barely smells like a barleywine at all; the potent hopping and thick sweet malts have been replaced by citrus fruit and spice akin to a pale ale/Tripel hybrid. This is how it tastes too, with a candied fruit sweetness a light tingling spiciness making it drinkable beyond its 9.6%. A review of the label tells me there's been orange and coriander added, which comprehensively explains the Tripel characteristics. Why they persist to call it a barleywine is beyond me.
So not what I was looking for when I picked up a barleywine, but still a tasty beer. Totally loses out to the Jopen, mind.