The name "barley wine" dates back to ancient Greece, where fermented grain drinks were called krithinos oinos, or barley wine (thanks, Wikipedia). Barley wine is brewed like any other beer, but it achieves high alcohol levels more typical of wine. Also, like wine, they are age-worthy, evolving beautifully with a few years in the cellar. All but the Sierra Nevada are bottled in 22-ounce bombers.
Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale, $8-$10
This one is bright amber in the glass and topped by a decent head that fades quickly. Assertive hop aromas dominate, along with hints of citrus and mint. The palate is a round and complex mix of peach, tangerine, toffee, smooth hops and creamy chocolate. There is some heat, but it's mostly on the finish.
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale, $2.50-$3
The mocha head on this dark amber pour collapses quickly but leaves a nice lacing. It opens with fruity aromas that blend with the creamy malt and hops that are anything but subtle on the palate, where they add crisp bitterness from start to finish. Orange, apricot and fig flavors lurk in the background with the malt.
Woodland Empire Chapter Two: Fire on the Mountain English-style Barleywine, $9-$11
This barley wine, which should be in the running for "Longest Brew Name," is a dark tan with a thin, porous head. Definitely English in style, it has light hops, caramel laced malt and a boozy finish. Aromas are a mix of fruit and toasted grain while the flavors are toffee, candied peach and sweet coffee with cream. It's a great offering from this local brewery.