I meant to do a review on Wednesday, however it turned out that was my 23rd birthday, so I went out and had a great night instead. And last night I didn’t get home until almost 2am (thanks @beerkristine), but it was well worth it. Great conversation accompanied by great beer is always a win in my book. But enough about my celebrations, let’s get to the beer of the day, shall we?
I practically live at my local Whole Foods, so when I go to pick up beer, there are a few other people I converse with on twitter that are eager to recommend anything from individual favorites to seasonals to a particular brewery that might have a good reputation. Either way, I’m not really all that picky, so I usually select a few that jump out at me if I haven’t tried them before, and a few that are advocated by everyone else, and mix them into a 6-pack for the week. Speakeasy Ales & Lagers Old Godfather is one of the beers that fall into the recommended category. Unfortunately, at this point in my tasting experiences, I’m not yet accustomed to the whole barley wine trend. I can only speak from my current understanding, which is that this is only my second barley wine ever (the first being those 6 Sex Panthers – a chocolate barley wine – from SanTan Brewing Company over the last month) and the first is much more akin to my tastes as it carried a lot more chocolate as well as a heartier mouthfeel…not to mention the alcohol wasn’t noticeable until your head started going numb.
Either way, to start this barley wine off, it poured a deep hazy chestnut brown with golden amber highlights. It quickly built a tight single-finger thick fawn colored head of large bubbles that fell within 30 seconds to a thin island and collar around the glass with no lace to speak of. Initially there were some minuscule streams of tiny bubbles peppering the liquid, but in no time at all, it ended up appearing fairly flat with no visible carbonation.
The nose was predominantly a bourbon-like alcohol that “burns the nostrils.” I would be hard-pressed to say that Speakeasy even remotely tried to cover up the glaringly obvious 10.2%ABV in Old Godfather, and I might go so far as to say that all of the grains and malts in it only further exacerbate the ethanol scent. It held barley and oats up front with pale and crystal malts – pale coming through more aggressively than the crystal, but both are definitely present. There were rich dominant caramel malts drenched in super sweet brown sugar molasses and cooked with real maple syrup. No Aunt Jemima here. There was also an odd warm, burnt toffee with chocolate notes that didn’t quite seem to fit in, as well as an even odder hint of overripe cherries lingering and fermenting way underneath. I found it hard to tell if there were any hops at all, though through a little research, others claim to have found both pine and citrus quite easily – which I can totally get on board with when I think about it, but otherwise I just can’t seem to get past the glaring caramel and alcohol.
Dipping into it, my tongue was washed over with the bourbony alcohol right off the bat. I was actually a little surprised to find it thinner in the mouthfeel with a lighter-medium body, which I expected to be a little thicker due to the high ABV. Even the carbonation was lacking – though it still managed to bite my tongue with a combination of alcohol, something bright and citrusy that I couldn’t pick out in the nose, and some bold bitter hops that also hid from the aroma. After the initial bitter overload, the in-your-face pale and crystal malts came out swathed in a rich caramel sauce accented with brown sugar and molasses, which made it very candy-sweet and just shy of syrupy. The flavors didn’t last much longer after I swallowed, and it finished very dry with tongue-numbing effects.
From what I’ve read about the Old godfather online, some have chosen to age it a little longer and have found the the alcohol is somewhat reduced in strength as the years go on, but the mouthfeel doesn’t improve and the beer still leans too far into the malts while ignoring most of the hops. I didn’t find many comments on whether or not the aging rounded out the harsh and sharp bitter twangs or not, though some have suggested that they’re still waiting to see if this happens. This being my first beer from Speakeasy, and noticing that their most popular brews seem to be their Prohibition Ale and Big Daddy IPA (closely followed by Double Daddy), I will definitely keep them in my sights for further consumption. For now it seems that barley wines are not my style, so I’m going to wait and mature my palate a bit more before I delve into another.