Brewsters Blue Monk Barley Wine

Reviewed by on January 3, 2014 in Local Heroes Guide

The Details

  • Brewery: Brewsters Brewing Company

  • Origin: Calgary, AB

  • Rated On: January 2, 2014

  • Best Before: N/A

  • ABV: 9.9%

  • Ideal Temperature: cool to cellar temperature

  • Style: American Barleywine

  • Rating: GREAT !!

The Review

Blue Monk was my first ever exposure to barleywine, a good number of years ago, and I recall barely being able to finish the pint I had ordered of it. Now that I’ve grown to appreciate the style, I look forward to its release each winter.  It is made at the Brewsters Foothills facility in Calgary, and comes on draft in sturdy 12oz chalices, and in 500ml bottles (like the one I have here) to go from any Brewsters location.

This beer appears a dark orange brick amber colour, with a single finger of thin foamy, somewhat frothy, and mostly soap bubbly beige head, which leaves a solid wall of pitted limestone rock lacing around the glass as it slowly ebbs away.

It smells of sweetly besotted raisins, biscuity caramel malt, treacle, Mars Bar candied nougat, and some citrus cream and mildly bitter herbal hoppiness. The taste is sweet biscuity caramel and toffee, a prune, dried cherry, and dime-store raisin fruitiness, candy sugar, some indistinct edgy spices, marzipan, vanilla, and low-key floral citrusy hops, which seem to both mask and exhibit the burbling alcohol heat, depending on the sip in question.  The carbonation is on the low side, but at least renders a small frothiness, the body fairly heavy and full, with a slightly oily viscosity, and is more or less smooth. Detecting the big ABV is really a chore in itself, so let’s not and say we did, and found just a mild warming at the finish, which is commensurately chock full of malt, spice, fruit, and hops alike.

While it might lack the overt hoppiness of the American style, Blue Monk is very tasty nonetheless – pleasantly complex, none too sweet, and quite gratifying. Too bad it seems to be sold out half the time I show up to Brewsters over the winter, which I suppose I can take to indicate something, as it is quite easy to have 2 or 3 of these in a sitting, caveat emptor, I suppose.  A solid contender with Olde Deuteronomy for best Alberta Barley Wine (availability considered).

Brady White

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