Today, I felt like drinking a BIG ol' barleywine. No, a huge barleywine. Nay, a Behemoth. No really, 3 Floyds makes a barleywine and they call it Behemoth. I acquired this little (er... big) gem from my buddy Lance and have managed to hold on to it for most of a year. It's not quite the winter travesty outside that is usually recommended for consuming large barleywines - in fact, it's a gorgeous January day - but as long as there is still snow on the ground I imagine it to still be an appropriate choice of beer. This is the second time in a month that I've cracked open a beer that has been wax sealed and I'm not upset about that one bit. Let's pour!
The hop aroma is not shy in this beer. First to the nose are several hop aromas that are all grass, pine, a bit of the "sticky icky icky," and a citrus tinge. All that and it hasn't even warmed yet. Once it has begun warming the pine and citrus take center stage and big gooey drops of caramel begin to slowly roll into the scene. A bitterness sits behind this trifecta and a long, deep sniff makes the alcohol in the beer very apparent.
This brilliant, clear beer pours a bright copper color that is made to seem darker by some reddish and sienna tones that also fill the glass. Carbonation bubbles sllooowwwly ascend to the surface as they fight against what must be a beer as full-bodied as the cartoon on its label. Stucco-like rings of lace run round the inside of my glass.
I'm having a difficult time putting a finger on the initial flavors of this brew. Things begin with such a mellow tone that it's hard to really notice things before the bolder flavors begin. They are mostly a very subdued citrus from the hops and a distant candi sugar. Before long both flavors are easily overcome by the brew's bitter and caramel flavors. Both seem to be slugging it out for supremacy, but the caramel outlasts the bitter thus giving the beer an overall sweetness. A bit unusual as most big barleywines tend to err on the side of bitter than sweet; unusual, but not unpleasant. In that big battle of sweet vs bitter, the citrus from the aroma fades out completely, but the candi sugar weighs in to tip the scales toward sweet instead of bitter. The aftertaste is largely a continuation of the backbone, but the finish is a hot tingle from the alcohol that lingers in the mouth well after swallowing. The result is a dry, bitter finish that reminds one of a crisp pale ale on steroids.
The mouthfeel of this beer is definitely one of its strong points. It's unique and definitely steals some of the attention away from the flavor. First of all, one would expect a beer a beer with the nomenclature "Behemoth" to be a massive, giant of a beer, and while this beer is certainly full-bodied there are other forces at work as well. The alcohol warmth from the 10.5% ABV puts its own mark on the beer, but without being too boozy or hot. The carbonation is quite active and when holding the beer in the mouth results in a lighter foam than one would expect. Long story short, this beer is full-bodied, but never syrupy and certainly not a chore to drink.
Overall Impression 10/10
This is a solid barleywine that strays from the pack a bit. As mentioned earlier, it falls slightly to the sweet side as opposed to the bitter, while still making both characteristics prominent. It uses its warmth judiciously to both add to the flavor and the mouthfeel. While its flavors may not have been insanely complex, they're certainly bold and delicious. A fresher version may have lent more of the citrus hops to remedy said lack of complexity, but the alcohol heat, undiminished by aging, would certainly have become more intrusive.
I'd normally feel like rambling on here a bit, but the prior paragraph covers things rather nicely. This is a damn good beer and coming from Three Floyds, I can't say that I'm surprised. Whether or not its $15.99 pricetag is justified is another matter entirely. I feel like I've had other comparable barleywines from less. Does that make this bad? Hell no. Is it one you MUST purchase? No. Should you? Yes.