Next up, the Haybag and I pit two of our favorite barleywine style beers in a no-holds-barred cage match: Southern Tier Backburner vs. Avery Hog Heaven. We have had each separately, but never close enough together to compare accurately.
Disclosure: The Haybag and I have a bit of a disagreement over who discovered Avery Hog Heaven. She claims to have happened upon it at a bar, the name of which she has conveniently forgotten, while (surprise, surprise) out of town. And I have no convincing story, but I still cling to its discovery like a hipster clings to that Deadmau5 show he attended in 2006…you know, before Deadmau5 went all mindie lamestream. But we’re married. So she’s right.
Me: Pours a nearly opaque mahogany. Smells like burnt caramel, molasses, and toffee, with a slight hint of a ripe hoppiness. I thought I remembered this being hoppier, which is why I scheduled this death match. But this is shaping up to be more of an English-style barleywine (malty and wittty…with bad teeth).
Tastes like caramel, molasses, and toffee, with some dark, dried fruits (like dates and raisins and stuff). Then you catch a pleasant and refined hoppiness at the end. Maybe it’s kind of English, with an American spin. Like a Canadian, but without all the self-conscious hang-ups about being culturally distinct from the US.
The Haybag: Very Good. Caramel and molasses for sure. But I prefer my barelywines to be a bit hoppier. Who the hell is Deadmau5?
Avery Hog Heaven
Me: Hog Heaven pours a cloudy, dark copper. The smell is of resinous and pungent hops, with a sweet malt backbone. Also, there seems to be a certain funk that reminds you that hops are in the Cannabaceae family…um, or so I’m told.
As for the taste: Like a mongol horde sewing salt in the fields, poisoning wells, and leaving no eye open to weap for the dead, Avery Hog Heaven lays waste to your tongue. But if you love hops, your blubbering tastebuds will wimper sadistically for more.
It has a ripe orange and pineapple citrus hop flavor, with some grapefruit and piney hop notes thrown in just for the hell of it. The well-balanced caramel maltiness (and maybe some dates or other such dark, dried fruit flavor) reminds you that it is a barleywine and not a Double IPA or Imperial Red. And as it warms, it turns from a warmongering hop barbarian to a purring, but naughty, lap kitty.
The Haybag: Even better. This is my favorite barleywine. Did I mention that I discovered this beer? Hey, is this why we had to watch that show about Mongols the other night?
Drink both…unless hops bother you, in which case drink two Backburners.