The most recent trend in craft brewing is the so-called “session” beer. These are beers you can kick back four or five of in an evening and not even feel it. Trendy breweries across the country are turning out 3.4 percent ABV ordinary bitters, 3.8 percent Berliner weisses, 2.4 percent traditional saisons, and 3.7 percent Irish dry stouts.
Trendy breweries say that craft beer is something that should be enjoyed over a whole evening and the flavor should take precedence over the alcohol. These light-on-alcohol but (ostensibly) heavy-on-flavor beers are becoming very popular with hip young people who buy the latest in trendy craft beer.
Weyerbacher Brewing Co. is not a trendy brewery.
Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe Indian pale ale clocks in at 9 percent. Their “Tiny” imperial stout is 11.8 percent. Their smallest year-round brew is the Verboten Belgian pale ale, at 5.9 percent, which is still .9 percent bigger than any standard pale ale. But their flagship, the beer that they’re known best for, is the Blithering Idiot barleywine.
Barleywines are big beers. They were invented in England in the 18th century when it became very difficult to import wine from France on account of an 18th century rivalry (and occasional war) between the two countries at the time. (Historians usually refer to this as the “Second Hundred Years’ War”, but that’s a lot of syllables right there, so let’s avoid saying that.)
These beers were brewed to the strength of wine, because the aristocracy did not have time to drink session beers, what with their busy leisure schedule. Watered-down versions of this same style became what we now call the “bitter,” which we hear so much about from Lord of the Doctor-Sherlock-Harry-Who-Potter-Torchwood-Father-Ted-Rings and other imported television. Bitters can range from 6 percent for an “extra special” bitter to 3.4 percent for an “ordinary” bitter.
Blithering Idiot, though, is not watered down. It is a full-fledged barleywine, which will knock you off your feet and off a third floor balcony into speeding traffic with its 11.1 percent ABV.
Purchased from Local 44 bottle shop; I think it was four dollars per 12-ounce bottle. It had sat in my fridge for two months, but with a beer this big, who cares? Poured into a tulip glass, about five minutes after a four-mile bike ride on one of the hottest days of the year. (Kids, bicycle commuting is overrated.)
The glass had a deep copper hue, almost red. Very little head initially, but quickly developed into a full, rich foam which threatened to overflow the glass. With a slightly thick mouthfeel, this is a malt-bomb with heavy notes of caramel and especially of booze. The aroma is also pretty well-dominated by booze, but not in an unpleasant way.
The booze flavor becomes more pronounced as the beer warms, as does the caramel, resulting in an almost rummy taste. It’s heavy, too. You will spend at least an hour on a glass, so bring a book. (Ideally something easy to read, like “Thomas the Tank Engine” or “Winnie the Pooh” or the USA Today.)
Verdict? This is a solid barleywine, one by which others may be judged.
Now, some of you may be asking, “Justin, why did you review Blithering Idiot? Matt Hartshorn reviewed it already in 2012, and again in 2013!” Well, I’ll tell you the reason. I had a deadline to meet, and there was this and Yuengling in my fridge. And you know what? It’s just that good. This beer can stand in for three ordinary beers. Go get one today.