My first beer of 2010 was…

…the second half of this bottle of Yards Olde Bartholomew Barleywine. The photographic evidence is a bit out of focus (perhaps appropriately so, given this particular morning), but the camera battery died right after I took the shot a few minutes before midnight, so it’s all we got.

That’s High-Maintenance Buddy in the background, asleep on his “throne area” of the couch, marked by the red afghan my sainted mother knitted and probably never foresaw being employed for this particular purpose.

I was wondering if I would flash back to the days of yore when I tasted this old friend, but my memory doesn’t seem the work that way. Still, the British-style finish of lingering malty alcohol bought a smile to my face. Softly sweet up front, a hint of hops in the middle and then that classic ending. I’m pretty much in accord with Lew’s evaluation of the draught version which he enjoyed at Dawson Street earlier yesterday, aside from the “not at all the heavy hit to the chops you’d expect from a 10.3% ABV barleywine” comment; I felt the alcohol right away, in a good way, well intermingled in the flavor profile rather than being aggressively present, but I definitely knew it was there.

Earlier in the evening, I accompanied a pepper-crusted and perfectly cooked Pork Loin and sweet rice dinner with McKenzie Saison Vautour as I’d promised to do. The addition of brett—not an overpowering addition, but very subtle—raises the level of an already very good beer another notch or two. It also claims to be 35% rye-based but I’m not sure I could identify that. What this is, my friends, is a clean, dry, eminently drinkable beer, with less of the funkiness that I look for in the style and more sweetness, which I liked and which was a good counterpoint to the meal.

I’ve written many times that I consider Sly Fox Saison Vos the best American Saison I’ve ever had. I won’t change my mind based on a single bottle, but it sure would be nice to compare them side by side when and if the opportunity presents itself.

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