I am many things, but Captain Ahab I am not. I don’t chase whales. Never did and don’t see the appeal in it. I am however, a barleywine aficionado. When I saw DC Brau was doing a limited release barleywine, I had to go. These types of beers aren’t done often by small-/regional-sized breweries, and I wasn’t going to miss out on a release in my backyard. While this limited run wasn’t a whale by any means, I was expecting a bit more of a crowd given the regional reach of DC Brau. By the time the cans started coming out at the noon release, there were about 15 people milling around.
I got there right at opening, was fourth or fifth in line, grabbed the four-pack, sat down, and had several tasters of different DC Brau beers and chatted with friends. People were coming in at the usual clip. Seats could be found if you waited a bit. Kids crowded around the pinball machine. The pupusa guy set up his stand/griddle inside. By all means, it was a normal Saturday at the DC Brau taproom; that is something I admit I’m pretty grateful for. I wasn’t looking forward to the hubbub and either standing in a slow-moving line or, worse, outside in 13 degree weather.
My love affair with the barleywine style goes back to an article I read a while back. The article described barleywine as an “old ladies” beer. The author was an American visiting an English pub. He looked around the bar, pointed to two women chatting over beers in the corner, and pulled an “I’ll have what they’re having.” Blown away by the first sip, he brought the recipe back over to the states and started making it.
Intrigued by the story, I decided to try my first barleywine — ‘cuz old ladies know what’s up. They don’t mess around. My wife’s grandma carries around a flask of vermouth in her purse, and mine carries Jim Beam in hers. Straight and to the point, that’s how grandmas roll, and I admire that.
The appeal of barleywine for me is that it is a robust style of beer that knows its job is to warm you up, put you up in your favorite armchair, and settle you down for the night. In my opinion, Sleeping Standing Up does that quite well. It is a nice, smooth beer best enjoyed while chatting with friends at home or sitting in your armchair at home with a book.
Sleeping Standing Up is a very good representation of an English barleywine. It is tawny and copper in color, which is a bit lighter than I expected from a barleywine but still true to style. It has nutty/toffee aromas mixed with a bit of grapefruit, and I smelled strawberries as well. The flavor was sweet toffee, vanilla, a bit of caramel with a bit of spiciness from the rye barrels, and a pleasantly warm back end that you feel in your face (which is a feature of barleywines and not a flaw).
I’m glad that there wasn’t much of a crowd at DC Brau on Saturday, although I do admit that I can see DC Brau building up a limited-release program of sorts and developing a following through that strategy. For now, I’ll be keeping an eye on @DCBrau and start getting their special offers now before they become whale-y and the lines start getting too long. If you’re interested, they're already teasing another release for this Saturday. Details to come!