This English-style Barleywine is named in tribute to North America’s largest salamander, the Hellbender. One dollar from the sale of each bottle is donated to the ‘Wild South’ non-profit environmental protection organization. I picked up this particular bottle while on vacation in Asheville, where I was quick to snatch up all the Pisgah they had to offer. I imagine this year’s worth of aging had a softening impact on the palate.
Aromas open up with a sweet emphasis on brandy-macerated strawberries, sweet toffee, brown sugar coated plums, and candied dark fruits. Additional fruity hints hints of banana, raisins, and orange zest meld with yeasted bread and herb-toned hops. Both the English malt bill and the bottle conditioning have noticeable influence here.
On the palate, a heavy malt profile thrusts forward with the sweet organic brown sugar that was added to the brew. Fruity notes fill the middle register with banana bread, fig, red grape, apricot, melon, tart raspberry, and caramel apple. Bitter hops collide, infusing pine-centered herbs, flowers, and rose petals that stretch into a ginger spice climax. The finish departs with a few drops of hop oil, followed by a slight astringent twang with loads of residual malt sugars left behind. Mouthfeel is oily, leaning toward syrupy, pulling in a hefty body with chewy thickness. It’s smooth, rounded on the edges, slow to warm, and held up by just enough carbonation to keep things afloat.
Overall, this is a strong, fruity Barleywine that leans more toward the malty end (as any good Barleywine should). Through a shifting of weight, the initially sweet malts decrease in density, giving rise to a hoppy bitterness. This shift in flavor is slow, allowing enough time to soak in what each ingredient has to offer. The bottle conditioning provides an added dimension of complexity through added yeast flavor. The aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel are all pretty stunning. Considering the high alcohol level here, it doesn’t come off tasting like solvent or any other negative off-flavors. This is nice, I recommend it.
Known Hops: Centennial
Black Mountain, North Carolina