It was what I like to call "New Beer Friday" at the local wine/spirits store. Every Friday, they get a shipment from their distributor and usually some new bottles will be lining the cooler. I happened to see this bottle and could not help myself. It is called Pilgrim's Dole Wheatwine from the New Holland Brewing Co and sells itself as a "barleywine style ale made with wheat." As I have tirelessly documented in these reviews, I am a bit of a fan of hefes and witbiers as well as beers with high ABVs. I also enjoy the occasional barleywine, so to combine the two should be an exciting pairing. Let's pour!
|Picture is my own. Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only|
Fresh from the pour, the wheat used in this beer immediately becomes apparent as a bready scent rises with the head. However, its reign is short-lived. As soon as the head settles a bit, a strong dark citrus aroma arrives and he has brought his friend alcohol. The combination is nearly that of an orange liquor, but with how dominating it is, that may not entirely be a good thing.
The beer pours with no noticeable body traits, but shows a beautiful array of orange, copper, scarlet and amber shades. The orange packaging is more of a hint than one would suspect. The pale orange head (think Easter pastels) is moderate and the remains for a bit, and the collar even longer, but does not last to the end of the pint. Very nice lacing. Cannot stress enough the fantastic colors in this pint!
|Picture is my own.|
There are some good things happening here, but I'm afraid one has to fight through the alcohol to get there. With only the briefest of introductions of malt and vanilla sweetness one is plunged into strong alcohol warmth. Walking behind it, not beside, are caramelized orange peel and when held in the mouth a butterscotch essence. The finish is creamy, not only in body, but in flavor. It is nearly milky at one point. The aftertaste is almost entirely alcohol.
The intense creaminess in this beer makes a bold impression on the first sip. The warmth of this beer threatens to overwhelm the entire brew. Yes, barleywines should have a higher alcohol content in them, but we can all agree that they should also have more. Much more. Also, if this is to be an American style barleywine, then the hop presence is entirely lacking unless there are citrus-flavored hops entirely hidden by the other flavors. This brew also leaves the mouth very slick. Long story short? Creamy, heavy, hot, and slick.
Overall Impression 5/10
Some they got right, some they got wrong. Overall, not a complex nuanced beer. This is a beer that knows what it wants to do and that is to bull rush you. It is too hot, too slick, and needs refinement. The creaminess and color were amazing! It is too bad it stopped there. Flavor is dominated by warmth and caramelized orange.
Sure we all enjoy a strong beer with high alcohol, but obviously there is more to it. I want a beer that is going to essentially give my tongue a massage not twist it with pliers. Strength is only good when controlled and applied properly and this beer makes that case. The orange liquor flavor dominates with some sideshow flavors thrown in for good measure, but they are far from developing the overall flavor or theme of the beer. Again, if this is an American barleywine, there is (at best) camouflaged hop flavor and absolutely no hop bitter.
I had too look it up, but I did find the info I sought. This beer has "Diacetyl," or what the BJCP likes to define as "artificial butter, butterscotch, or toffee aroma and flavor. Sometimes perceived as a slickness on the tongue." I could not have described it better.
Maybe this beer is not what I expect because they used WHEAT in a BARLEYwine? Not sure. Doesn't matter. I would definitely pass on this one. There are some damn good barleywines out there and this one just does not come to compete.