Brouwer's Cafe, a Belgian beer hall locally owned in Seattle, held the 14th annual Hard Liver Festival on February 27th. The legendary festival is the beer event of the season known for the tap take over of 49 barleywines from the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Some even dare to attempt the entire list. But no matter how you approach the it, Hard Liver Fest functions as the perfect event to make it through the especially wet, gray winter. Even with a line around the block starting before 10am, I was able to get a table with several industry folks, among them the owner of the company. As Hard Liver was a packed festival, even inside a massive beer hall, all staff donned shirts labelled Size and Number, a reminder to customers how to order drinks on such an extensive list: all barelywines were numbered and ordered in either 3oz or 6oz.
I have to admit, this was the hardest event to blog during. With so many amazing barelywines to choose from, it's hard not to want to try them all! And with drinking, discussions, and general camaraderie, Hard Liver turned more into an open event of rosy-cheeked beer lovers enjoying the party. And when you're enjoying everyone's company it can be hard to work. Therefore, I chose my 3 favorite barleywines and reduced the reviews to name, color, and a one-liner tasting note.
Big Time Brewing // Old Wooly Barleywine // Seattle, WA // 9% ABV
Color: Deep, auburn orange, carmel brown
Taste: Hop forward, not drenched in malt sweetness but still remains flavors of carmel and dried fruit. a PNW take on barleywine
Ecliptic Brewing // Orange Giant Barrel Aged Barelywine // Portland, OR // 12.5% ABV
Color: Hazy deep, dark amber
Taste: Incredibly smooth and sweet. Orange blossoms are flowering in the nose while the caramel and dark fruit keep you warm in the spring breeze.
Evil Twin Brewing // Freudian Slip Barelywine // Brooklyn, New York // 10.3% ABV
Color: Dark copper, burnt orange
Taste: A complex mix of minerality, spice, piney hop bitnessness and dark fruit sweetness.