While I have been studying for my Cicerone, I have been trying to sample as much of every beer style as I possibly can. I have been finding that barleywines are one of those under-represented styles that I find I don’t usually drink very often. Lo and behold I find perhaps the tiniest can of beer that I have ever seen on the shelf at my local beer store: Lower De Boom Barleywine by 21st Amendment Brewery. My brain (for whatever reason) immediately thought of Chris Farley in Tommy Boy: Fat Guy in a Little Coat (beer bottles included in picture for scale, Chris Farley included for fun).
But don’t let the small packaging fool you- this is truly a big beer in a little can, and you won’t need more than 8.4 oz. Check it out:
Beer Name: Lower De Boom
Brewery: 21st Amendment Brewery
Brewery Location: San Francisco, CA
Beer Style: American Barleywine
Lower De Boom pours a nice, clear ruby color with white lacing that fades very quickly (most likely because of the high alcohol content).
Caramel is the predominant aroma perceived in this beer (almost candy-like), followed by a distinct scent of strong alcohol. Minimal hop aroma detected- which I expected because I bought a can that has already been aged for nearly a year (Canned on 12/17/15). This is one of those styles that can stand up to some aging
Taste & Aftertaste
Up front, you get a rich flavor of caramel- but quite honestly I feel that this particular description is almost too simplistic. It’s not merely a simple, sweet caramel flavor. Instead, it’s a complex caramel quality with lots of different layers to it that I struggle to find the right words for it. It’s almost like caramel that’s been lightly burned, but still has it’s rich candy-like quality. Each sip is followed by a prominent afterburn from the high alcohol. I am also detecting some light cherry notes (maybe from the hops in tandem with the malt?), and a red-wine-like characteristic that I suspect comes from the aging process (I perceive the latter quality after breathing out through my nose with each sip). There is a sourdough-like bready quality in the background of this beer, which is easy to miss if you’re not paying close attention- the caramel and alcohol flavors are very in-your-face. I would like to emphasize at this point that this is a sipping beer- the alcohol does not hide in the background at all (think of the intense burn you get when you drink hard liquor too quickly). However, while the alcohol is up front and prominent, it’s not overbearing or abrasive- you just need to enjoy this beer slowly.
Holy schnikes, this beer is a big boozy monster! I enjoyed it immensely. It’s definitely the “fat guy in a little coat” of beers- don’t let the small package throw you off. Seriously though, all Chris Farley references aside, this beer is very enjoyable and well brewed. The caramel character is complex, and also very well rounded. You don’t need to drink a lot of this beer to enjoy it fully, though if you want to crack open a second one- go for it, you’ll feel great (and warm…and maybe hungover the next day). This beer is definitely for people who are both a fan of malt forward beers and not afraid of a little extra alcohol. It’s also a perfect cold weather beer. It packs a huge punch both with alcohol and flavor, and I really enjoyed it.