Sunday, January 12, 2014

My buddy +Chris Clement sent me this bottle of Firestone Walker's 2013 Sucaba barley wine some time ago, and suggested I cellar it a little while to calm the heat a bit. Chris, I waited as long as I could, and tonight was the night.

Great God, what a wonderful, delicious beer. This bottle from last year's brewing of Sucaba is the best barley wine I’ve ever had, and the best beer of any kind that I've had in more than a year. I'm gonna need to stretch out a little bit to review this thing.

Sucaba is wonderful in every way a beer can be wonderful. It's just a joy for the senses. It pours with a lot of color and body, holding the glass to the light reveals deep, warm blood-red and cherry, with plum or bronze when the light hits the edges of the glass just right. There’s no real head, and at almost 13.5% alcohol, I didn’t expect a lot of suds.

The aroma is nose music. Cherries and figs, ginger, chocolate, and something in there reminds me of granny’s cornbread (maybe the highest compliment I’ve ever given a beer). And what this beer does for the mouth is even better than the smell. I’m not a wine guy, let me say that up front; I like my alcohol to be malt based. But this brew reminds me of the few red wines I’ve enjoyed. It’s rich, smokey, very, very full and warm. I picked up on strong chocolate, anise, espresso, English walnuts, and a little burnt popcorn thing, too. There’s something that reminds me of Nutella in the close, after the swallow and exhale. It’s so complex, but all of it blending and harmonizing perfectly.

Barley wine can be sticky, viscous, and that’s the quality about the style that I enjoy least. Sucaba has a big mouthfeel, but it slides away smoothly and leaves you to ponder the last sip and crave the next, in much the same way that my favorite Belgian quads finish.

I wanted to give Sucaba a chance to spar a little bit, so I paired some of it with some bleu cheese and almonds, and although it didn't amaze me in that paring, it did hold it's own. I'd bet that red meat or chocolate cake would show off what it can do a little more. You know that old saw about beer being proof that God loves us? God loves us gloriously.

This is my new "eyes wide open" beer. I'll be looking for it, and every bottle of Sucaba I find will be purchased, aged, and lusted after until the time is right to pop the cap.