"The release of Alaskan Barley Wine has been highly anticipated every year since this recipe was introduced on draft at the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival in 2003," said Co-founder and Brewmaster Geoff Larson. "People from all over have been asking us to bottle it, so we decided to try a limited-edition bottle run this year."
The specialty brew is what you would expect coming from the most award-winning craft brewery in the history of the Great American Beer Festival. Alaskan Barley Wine has won silver medals at both the 2003 Great American Beer Festival and the 2004 Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival. Most recently the 2004 vintage won first place at the 2007 Toronado Barley Wine Festival.
Alaskan Barley Wine is produced in small batches each year. Typically this higher alcohol beverage is brewed in the spring, cellared in the tunnels of the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine for the summer and retrieved in time for its release at the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival in January. The cool tunnels of the mine shaft provide natural refrigeration and a prime environment for the aging process.
Like a fine wine, Alaskan Barley Wine can be aged for years. The bottling of the 2007 vintage of Alaskan Barley Wine will allow individuals to age it to their liking.
"We figured we'd leave it up to individuals as to how long to age their Alaskan Barley Wine," said Quality Assurance Analyst Ryan Harvey. "Some people like barley wines fresh, and others store it for years."
Harvey says the barley wine category is a broad one. Barley wines feature big malt character, and a high residual sweetness counterbalanced with generous additions of hops. The full body and a higher level of alcohol in this brew, adds to the complex flavor.
Harvey characterized Alaskan Barley Wine as a bit darker and more balanced than most. "I think we achieve a good balance," he said. "There is just the right amount of hops and malt to complement each other without either one being overpowering."
Alaskan fans agree. Dave and Stephen of Denver made their annual pilgrimage to Alaska in October. During their visit to Alaskan Brewing Co. they sampled for the first time the Alaskan Barley Wine, which was available on draft.
"I can tell you now that we will probably be coming back in February for a load of your Barley wine," Dave and Stephen wrote in a thank you note to the brewery. "The batch that we tasted at the Alaskan Brewing Company was incredibly flavorful and smooth."
Alaskan Barley Wine will be available in select retail locations in Alaska, Washington and Oregon.