While it’s easy to ‘spruce’ up your beer selection with some winter seasonals, or step ‘ginger’ly into spice beers during Christmas (and resisting the urge to make a ‘Don’t slip on the Eis’ or a ‘Naughty or Eis’ Eisbock joke), I always turn towards the rich malt flavours of a big barley wine to keep me warm during the colder season. Victoria’s Phillips Brewing Company returns for the fourth year in a row with the 2013 edition of their Trainwreck Barley Wine. Weighing in at a hardy 10% ABV and available in 650mL bombers; heed the warning label and be “careful not to derail your caboose”.
Best enjoyed a little warmer than not, Trainwreck is deep reddish amber in colour with an off-white head and provides a sweet nose with notes of caramel. Aging in wet bourbon barrels gives it a smooth body that carries the caramel flavour and mixes it with hints of vanilla and big, malty overtones. The long finish dries out slightly and brings out the trademark sourness associated with whiskey-barrel aged beers. In contrast with some other strong beers, Trainwreck’s high alcohol content is only noticeable from the pleasant feeling of warmth it spreads from head to toe.
Although some argue that it’s more of a ’strong ale’, as it lacks the fruitiness or nutty flavours of a typical barely wine, pairing it with nothing but good company and a warm fire provides the perfect finish to a winter dinner or family gathering.
Remember, don’t drink more. Drink better!
Happy Holidays and all the best in the New Year!