Barley Wine: When Regular Beer Just Isn't Strong Enough

For those unfamiliar with the beverage, barley wine isn't wine at all, but rather, a type of ale with a wine-like alcohol content (ranging from about 8-15 percent by volume).

It can be aged like wine, and some are even quite fruity in taste, but ultimately barley wine is made from grain rather than fruit, and is therefore a member of the beer family.

Never heard of it? Barley wine isn't terribly trendy these days (it's not exactly keg-stand friendly), but it's been around for centuries; read on for a mini history lesson ...

In 18th century England, it was actually safer to drink beer and wine than water (which sounds pretty cool now, but must have been a real be-otch at the time). Wine was considered the "more respectable" beverage, so brewers set out to make a beer with a comparable alcohol content.

The first barley wine was produced in England in 1854 and called Bass No. 1; it was officially labeled "barley wine" in 1903.

Today, barley wine is generally produced in either English or American styles, where the English has more of a malty flavor and the American has a much higher hops content and is therefore quite bitter.

This stuff is meant to be sipped, so if you're you normally drink beer 18th century style (like it's water, remember?) you have been warned.

You can find barley wine at most liquor stores, or order a glass at Sleepy Dog Saloon & Brewery in Tempe.

Do you know of a great local spot to order barley wine? Tell us!

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Adriane Goetz