Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tun barleywine through the ages

It's called Santa's Little Helper* right now, but that name could change.

Brewer Tim Kelly certainly hopes the beer does go through some transformation.

The first-ever barleywine Tim made as the guy who makes all the beer at the Tun Tavern went on tap a couple weeks ago as the seasonal offering at the Atlantic City brewpub.

Barleywines can have a longer pouring life than their flagship siblings at brewpubs, given the specialty beers' higher alcohol content and the smaller-than-pint serving sizes.

Santa's Little Helper clocks in at 11% ABV, so you can expect this brew to hang around and evolve some over its life as a draft beer.

That's just fine.

But Tim's taking a longer-range view. Like a couple of years, maybe half that.

Or maybe even much longer, since it's being left up to you.

Last week, Tim racked off about 12 cases of the barleywine into 750 milliliter bottles for retail sale.

And that was after conditioning the beer for a month on French oak soaked in dark rum and dry-hopping it.

(As far as the brewing went, throughout the boil he hopped it with Styrian, Nugget, Chinook, East Kent Golding and Fuggles, finishing it off with Cascade.)

"I designed this beer with it being bottled and aged in mind. Little nuances will hopefully develop and come out over time," Tim says.

The beer began its life as an answer to those who remember the Tun having a barleywine on tap but forgetting who made it.

In that regard, Tim's brew harkens back to his predecessor, Ted Briggs, who left nearly five years ago with a big golden barleywine aging in barrels that Tim, as pretty much one of his first tasks upon arriving, racked off into 750's, then corked and capped. (Ted's now brewmaster at Lander Brewing in Wyoming.)

Those bottles (pictured below) have been sold out for some time now.

But now that Tim's barleywine is on tap, and in bottles for sale, a new chapter has been written.

How that plot develops is up to you.

*Yes, Santa's Little Helper is a Simpsons reference, a nod to their race-losing greyhound.

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