Barleywines are the best of pale malts

Barleywines are the best of pale malts

After a break for the Christmas season, the Untappd Challenge is back for the new year. Untappd is a free social drinking app that allows you to check in and rate your way through the craft beer world. Along the way, there are badges you can shoot for that help guide your craft beer experience. I’ve done about one per month since last January, so here is your 12th badge “Wine of Beer”: Check into the app with five barleywine beers. Find me on Untappd at jriley919 to show me how far you’ve come this year.

Barleywines have one of the more interesting histories among beer legend.

“Barleywine is a vestige of ancient strong ales but more recently of English parti-gyle brewing that was employed through the 19th century,” wrote Per K. Florian Kemp on “All About Beer” magazine’s website. Parti-gyle is a method when brewers make two beers from one mash, with the initial one being the strongest.

“The hodgepodge of beers had an assortment of names, with the strongest going by names such as stock (for blending), old (well-aged) or strong ale,” Kemp added.

Parti-gyle was the fashion of brewing before sparge brewing was invented. (Sparge brewing is what most all-grain homebrewers would be familiar with.) In parti-gyle, you get the most out of your grains as possible; the first run is the cream of the crop, so to speak.

Barleywines certainly are the very best of the pale, malt, slightly bitter beers. The most famous of barleywines is Thomas Hardy’s Ale, which has a rich, twisting history I am saving for a full column. Once brewed in England by a long-defunct brewery, the historic beer now is brewed in Italy by a beverage company that does not distribute to the U.S. I have been in contact with this Italian company several times to get the whole story. They have told me it will be distributed for the first time in the U.S. very soon, but I will save this story until we can purchase this beer in our area.

The reason I am writing about barleywines here in January is because a few sought after barleywines are released this month. Though not as difficult to find as Thomas Hardy’s Ale — their numbered bottles go for astronomical sums — these legendary beers in their own right, such as Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Sucaba and Revolution Brewing’s Straight Jacket, come out in January.

Sucaba has been known to appear in our area at Liquor World in Kankakee, but I cannot confirm if it’s currently stocked. You should be able to find Straight Jacket there. Check to find it in other locations. If you are not up for the hassle, here are four other barleywines infinitely easier to find.


Notes: Bold flavors of bittersweet malt and heaps of aggressive whole-cone Pacific Northwest hops.

Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee or Binny’s Beverage Depot in Orland Park sell a 12-ounce 4 pack bottles for about $12.

Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee, The Open Bottle in Tinely Park and Binny’s Beverage Depot in Orland Park sell a 750-milliliter bottle for about $12.

Joshua Riley is a Momence native who has tasted local beer on three continents and in 40 different states, recording more than 1200 beers on the app Untappd. A graduate of Northern Illinois University with a degree in English, and a former bartender overseeing more than 60 beers on tap, he dove into the world of beer when he first started brewing his own. Since then, he’s studied the craft of brewing and tasted along the way at more beer festivals than he can count. He lives in Momence with his wife, Sam and Penelope, his daughter. He believes craft beer is too good to waste, but also believes you should always drink responsibly. Reach him at Joshua Riley

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