Beer & Cheese Pairing: Barleywine & English Stilton

Since we recently released a fabulous assortment of barleywines to the market, we thought it would be a perfect time to give them a little shout out.  Plus, it gives us a great excuse to talk about cheese!  Barleywine and English Stilton is one of the world’s greatest beer and cheese pairings. But we’ll get to all that later. First, here’s a brief tutorial about the style:

Barleywine originated in England where it was by far the richest and strongest of all the English ales produced.  It was typically made for the winter season because of it’s intense warming properties, but has since become a year-round product for many breweries.  This decadent ale boasts a rich, sweet malty nose with hints of toffee and dried fruit such as raisins, dates and figs.  Color can range anywhere from light amber to dark brown and a quickly dissipating head is common.  On the palate, you’ll get a ton more sweetness from the malt, notes of biscuit, caramel, dried fruit and a nice bitterness from the hops.  Alcohol is definitely detectable, but only contributes to the long, luxurious finish of these fine ales.   

When comparing traditional English barleywine with American versions, there is one obvious difference.  Yes, you guessed it: The hops!  Not surprisingly, American barleywine is much more hoppy on both the nose and the palate, while English versions are more balanced between malt and hops. Some examples such as Avery Hog Heaven borderline on an Imperial IPA because of their intense hoppiness! 

If you’re a fan of cellaring beers, aging is definitely recommended for barleywine, but not necessary as many breweries age theirs before releasing.  Overtime the alcohol mellows out the bitterness, producing an even richer, more complex version of the original. For a fun experiment, pick up several bottles of the same style. Drink one now and age the rest for later. Open one up after a year, another one after two years and see what happens! 

Ok now back to the cheese!! Because the sweetness in barleywine will overpower almost anything, pairing it with dinner can be pretty tricky.  This intense ale calls for something equally as sweet like toffee or a gooey caramel dessert.  But, if you’re just in the mood for a nice digestif and perhaps some cheese, a big hunk of English Stilton is a pretty rockstar combination!  Rich, smooth and delightfully pungent, Stilton is often referred to as “The King of English Cheese.”  Stilton has an incredibly creamy texture and a wonderful nutty, fruity aroma that only intensifies with age.  Cue in the barleywine with all its dried fruit and malty goodness and your taste buds will be rejoicing for days!  The intense alcohol and sweet nature of the barleywine will cut through the richness of the cheese and serve as a nice complement to the sharp nature of this English blue.  Throw in some candied walnuts and VOILA! A food pairing made in heaven!  

English Stilton can be easily found in your local market or cheese shop. So go grab yourself a wedge, break out that snifter of yours and kick back with one of these sinfully delicious barleywines!
Bon Appetit! 

Great Divide Old Ruffian

Avery Hog Heaven

Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot

Weyerbacher Insanity

Stone Old Guardian

JW Lees Harvest Ale

Schlafly Oak-Aged Barleywine

And coming soon….Flying Dog Horn Dog

Cheers and thanks for reading!!

 

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