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The Beer Circle » Barrel Aged, Beer, Bourbon, English Barleywine, Kuhnhenn Brewing Co., Reviews » Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine

Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine

Kuhnhenn is a brewery I’m pretty familiar with. Dedicated readers will remember that a few months ago, I reviewed Kuhnhenn’s Dark Heathen Triple Bock. After recently drinking Sam Adam’s 1997 Triple Bock with Russ and Paige, I remembered the other Kuhnhenn beers in my cellar and pulled their Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine. Russ has already experienced Kuhnhenn’s accomplishments with barrel-aging and I figure it’s my turn to enjoy it as well!

This particular bottle is from their Winter Solstice release in 2011 and weighs in at a whopping 14.5%.

Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine
Pours a rust brown color, cloudy and opaque. At first, it seems that it is completely still with no trace of head or even bubbles, but after a few seconds, a wave of carbonation slowly creeps toward the top. It is strange to behold, almost Guinness-like, but cool nonetheless. The result is a mere coating of foam, which quickly disperses to the edges of the glass to leave a ring there. Otherwise the top of the beer is completely clear, and looks more like port wine.
It actually smells like port, too. Dark, pitted fruits soaked in alcohol is the best descriptor I can come up with. Boozy cherries, raisins, and figs that smell like they were buried in earth fill the nose. It's gritty, yet decadent in a way. There's a compelling sweetness as well, like a hint of chocolate and toffee.
Given the nose, I was expecting a total bourbon-bomb, but the taste is surprisingly smooth and balanced. The bourbon is pleasant and complementary, not overpowering the other flavors. Even the alcohol at 14.5% is well-hidden. The flavors are focused mainly on the fruits, with the raisins in particular standing out. However, the barrel also comes across here. The toasted oakiness of the barrel mixed with a vanilla aftertaste rounds the flavors out nicely.
The mouthfeel is wonderful. This beer took me off-guard at first, because many times a bigger beer like this is described as 'syrupy', but I've never before quite had a beer as thick as this one. The consistency is markedly more viscous than anything in my experience and takes a few sips to get used to, but ultimately works great. Very smooth overall.
Drinkability is high. It's rare that a beer of this magnitude is very drinkable, but I have to say this one hits the spot. Obviously a sipper, Kuhnhenn's Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine is a treat every time it hits the palate and one I have to make a point of trying again.
I received this beer in a trade, so I'm not sure exactly what it cost, but I think it was around $7-10. While a little pricy for a 12ozer, your dollar goes a long way with this, as the flavors are unique and the alcohol is masked very well.
Overall, I loved this beer. It even rivals Kuhnhenn's Bourbon Barrel 4D, which I thought was excellent and would be hard for the brewery to top. Yet here I am, marveling yet again at an expertly crafted barrel-aged, high-alcohol speciman.

Beer Stats
Style: English Barleywine
Serving: Bottle
Size: 12oz
ABV: 14.50%
BA Score: 95
RB Score: 100

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Written by Greg Bruce

While studying at Penn State, Greg learned that beer could serve a much better purpose than a means to an end for a good party. Delicately brewed Belgians acted as a stark contrast to the almost watery beer that had been so popular and began the journey towards craft beer. From that launch point he always seems to land on something new. Greg approaches each beer, whether it is an aggressively-hopped West Coast IPA or an English bitter (and everything between), with a clear mind and open opinion, ready to analyze, compare, and ultimately, enjoy. While always fond of stouts (especially barrel-aged) and IPAs, Greg is slowly but surely drifting towards various soured beers. Find Greg Bruce on Google Plus

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