Winter is the season of the barleywine. A full flavored, complex, high alcohol brew, the barley wine often has considerable alcohol warmth that is both soothing and relaxing. Unlike many other beer styles and a majority of the beer consumed around the world which are lighter and crisper, good barleywine is something to be sipped and contemplated like cognac or whiskey. It is certainly not a style for the faint of heart. A good barleywine is something to be cherished, and with that in mind I picked up a bottle of the 2012 vintage of Killer Penguin from the Boulder Beer Company.
Colorado’s first micro-brewery, the Boulder Beer Company, originally named the Boulder Brewing Company was founded on September 1979 by David Hummer, Alvin Nelson and Randolf Ware. Hummer and Ware were physics professors at the University of Colorado – Boulder. Starting small, Hummer, Nelson and Ware began on a small farm northeast of Boulder, in a shed shared with goats. In 1980, Boulder Brewing went public and quickly developed a fan base with their Boulder Porter, Stout and Extra Special Bitter. Within 5 years, the Boulder Brewing Company had expanded considerably, moving into a much larger facility with a 50-barrel brew house.
In 1990, after having had five different owners in a six year span and millions in debt the Boulder Beer Co went into bankruptcy. When Dina Day and Diane Greenlee purchased the Boulder Beer Company and brought in a new Brewmaster, David Zuckerman the company underwent radical changes, bringing in more investment capital and in 1993, undergoing a name change to become the Rockies Brewing Company. Understanding the need to develop more, unique and full flavored beers, Zuckerman developed Buffalo Gold and Single-track Copper Ale. The brewery continued to expand in 1994 and the original tasting room was converted to a full-service brewpub. By 2002, Rockies Brewing entered into a strategic agreement with the Rock Bottom Brewery in Denver, allowing Rock Bottom to brew and sell Single-track, a beer that would become the best-selling beer at the Rock Bottom, Denver location.
In 2003, the “Looking Glass” series was debuted, a more aggressive line which included Mojo India Pale Ale and Hazed & Infused, among others. Unfortunately, by that time all of the original recipes save that for Planet Porter had been phased out and lost. By 2005, the brewery once again changed its name, becoming the Boulder Beer Company yet again.
The Boulder Beer Company is well known for being environmentally focused and civic minded, becoming a sponsoring partner of Boulder’s “10 for a Change Challenge,” which is focused on reducing energy consumption by 10% through the use of eco-friendly improvements. The brewpub is also PACE Certified (Partners for a Clean Environment) because of their use of bio-diesel fuel, recycled/compostable carry out containers, and recycling. Additionally, if you pick up a 6-pack of their beers you will notice that their 6-pack carriers are made of recycled paper and are printed with non-petroleum based inks.
Additionally, they host an annual “Goatshed Revival” Beer Festival, in honor of their meager origins. For those of you who are home brewers, you may be interested to know that they also stage an annual homebrew competition, with the winning entry being brewed and distributed by the Boulder Beer Company.
Well, that was a lot, on to the review. On Beeradvocate, Killer Penguin has a score of 54 from the Bros and an overall score of 80. Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 84 overall and a 41 for style. I am weary of the scores at both sites though, because some reviewers are complaining that they don’t like the 2013 vintage, or that the bottles weren’t waxed, or that they drank it cold and didn’t thought it was bland. Anyone who drinks a barley wine fresh from the fridge doesn’t deserve to drink a barley wine (proper serving temperature is 14-16 C/ 57-61F).
Our extremely limited winter barleywine ale. Traditional winter seasonals are warm and comforting -- not this bird! Diving in at around 10 percent alcohol by volume, Killer Penguin uses over twice the malt as other winter beers. Aged to perfection, this beer doesn't ferment, it hibernates -- and wakes up with an attitude!
- 10% ABV
- 60 IBU
- Malt: Pale Malt, 70/80L Crystal Malt
- Hops: Nugget, Willamette, Cascade
From the Bottle:
Dark garnet red in color with undertones of candied fruit, Killer Penguin is an aggressive, full-flavored Barleywine-style ale and a perfect beer to share among friends. Once a year we release a very limited amount of Killer Penguin, making this our most rare and sought-after beer.
Killer Penguin pours an exceptionally clear, deep, dark burgundy with a thick, creamy off-white head that holds moderate retention, multiple minutes, before fading to cling to the edges of the glass, leaving behind exquisite lacing. The aroma is of raisins, plums, candied almonds, brown sugar, and a definite note of alcohol.
The flavor is of raisins, plums, vanilla, dark cherries, and caramelized sugars; with additional herbal, floral and minor fruity notes from the hops. The 10% alcohol does present some warmth, but it is restrained in the flavor, lingering just out of perception. Killer Penguin is medium to full bodied with a low to moderate level of carbonation
Killer Penguin is a very good beer and a very respectable barleywine. It further justifies my feelings that the ratings on the two big sites are to be taken with a grain of salt at best. If you want a very good barley wine, do not let the ratings sites scare you away, pick up a bottle of Killer Penguin. Just be sure to chill it appropriately and drink it in a goblet, tulip, or wine glass to fully experience this excellent beer!
That’s all for today, be sure to check back soon for a new review!