It probably won’t surprise regular readers to find out that I am a pretty big nerd. I have a bunch of geeky interests beyond just beer, including science (which is also my job), video games, Star Wars, fantasy novels and board games. So it should come as no surprise that the first time I saw a bottle of Cambridge Brewing Company Arquebus I knew it was named after one of the first firearms developed in Europe. For the uninitiated, the arquebus is also an available weapon in Dungeons and Dragons (or at least it was the last time I played D&D, it’s been close to 20 years). CBC Arquebus was developed to be the beer equivalent of a dessert wine, they took a blonde barleywine recipe and added local honey and Semillon wine grapes. The final beer is then aged in French oak barrels. Cambridge Brewing Company Arquebus is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 375 mL bottles.
Cambridge Brewing Co. Arquebus pours deep orange with solid white head. The scent is a mixture of white wine and rich malt. Arquebus is a very complex barleywine, many are just malt and booze, but there is a lot more going on here. Of course there is still plenty of malt flavor, notes of caramel and bread dough along with a mild sweetness. The wine grapes add significant flavor, notes of pear, apple and stone fruit. You also get some vanilla from the oak barrels and the faintest hint of hops. Arquebus is full bodied but drinks very easy for a beer with 12% ABV. The finish is rich with a little lingering fruit flavor and malt sweetness. This is an exceptional barleywine, it has the rich flavor you expect from the style with added complexity from the grapes and barrels, but everything works in harmony. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Cambridge Brewing Co. Reviews:
Cambridge Brewing Co. Pearls of Wisdom, Cambridge Brewing Co. Le Saisonniere, Cambridge Brewing Co. Hay is for Horses, Cambridge Brewing Co. Sgt. Pepper, Cambridge Brewing Company You Enjoy My Stout, Cambridge Brewing Company Remain in Light, Cambridge Brewing Company The Audacity of Hops
I am sad to say that, barring some crazy turn of events, this will be my final Pretty Things beer review. I’ll have one more article in my month long tribute that will act as a summary/capstone, it should be done sometime next week. When I found out that Pretty Things was ceasing production and ending their project I started to stock up on a few of their beers that I knew would age pretty well. I had never done a beer cellar, but this seemed like a perfect impetus to start one. One Pretty Things beer that was very high on my list was Our Finest Regards, a bold and malty barleywine released in the late fall/early winter, perfect for the holidays or to ring in the New Year. I bought out the entire stock at one local bottle shop, and I already wish I had more. Many brewers are releasing beers that are labeled as barleywines but feature huge doses of hops. In reality these beers are more like full bodied double or triple IPAs. Pretty Things went in the other direction, brewing Our Finest Regards as a celebration of malt flavor. This was the first Pretty Things beer that took advantage of the double decoction mash technique, which results in a higher level of fermentable sugars in the wort without adding extra sugar or extract, producing a beer with rich malt flavor along with the high alcohol. Pretty Things Our Finest Regards is available on draft and in 22 oz. bottles where you can find it.
Pretty Things Our Finest Regards pours a deep amber-brown with a solid off-white head. The scent is full of rich and sweet malted barley. This beer is truly a celebration of malt flavor, notes of caramel, roasted nuts, molasses, toasted bread and milk chocolate. It’s a big beer at 11% ABV, but the booze is hidden well, just a touch of warming alcohol on the palate. There is minimal hop flavor, aroma or bitterness, I am sure there are some hops in there, but they take a backseat. Our Finest Regards is full bodied but very smooth with a rich malty finish. If you enjoy barleywines at all you really need to seek this out, a few places still have it around. I always hesitate to name my favorite beer in any style, but I am pretty sure this is my favorite barleywine. I will be cellaring my stock and making Our Finest Regards a Christmas tradition for as long as it lasts. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Pretty Things Reviews:
Pretty Things Baby Tree, Pretty Things East Kent Saison, Pretty Things Babayaga, BREWERY OVERVIEW, Pretty Things Jack D’Or, Pretty Things Lovely Saint Winefride, Pretty Things Bocky Bier, Pretty Things/Naparbier There’s No Place Like There, Pretty Things Grampus, Pretty Things Barbapapa, Pretty Things Meadowlark, Pretty Things/Yeastie Boys Our Turn, Your Turn.
Rock Art brewery has been producing a line of craft beers in Vermont since 1997. Rock Art got their name from petroglyph images that founders Matt and Renee noticed while hiking and mountain biking in Colorado. The beer is available in growlers at the brewery, on draft and cask, and in bottles distributed to most of the Northeastern US. Rock Art makes a variety of year-round beers as well as a line of extreme beers, which are notable for their bold flavors and high alcohol content. One of Rock Art’s flagship beers is Ridge Runner, described as a mild barleywine. The term mild barleywine seems like a bit of an oxymoron, barleywines are typically big, dark, and very high in alcohol. Ridge Runner weighs in at 7.2% ABV, on the high side for most styles but low for barleywines, which often reach 9-12% ABV. Ridge Runner could alternatively be categorized as an English-style strong ale (instead of a barleywine), but the definitions of beer styles aren’t set in stone. Style descriptors are really at the brewers discretion, thus Ridge Runner is a barleywine. Rock Art Ridge Runner uses a variety of malts including pale, Munich, dark crystal, flaked barley, chocolate and black malt to give a dark color and robust flavor. This is countered with Cascade, Crystal, Challenger and Perle hops to balance the beer with bitterness.
Rock Art Ridge Runner Barleywine pours a clear dark brown with a mild white head. The smell is mostly dark malt and brown sugar, followed by some dark fruits and then a touch of pine from the hops. The malts dominate the flavor, molasses, roasted barley, some dark chocolate, raisin and currant. The hops are present and contribute some earthiness, but this is a very malt forward beer. There is some bitterness in the backbone that keeps the malt from overwhelming your palate. The alcohol is also present, but very mild in the flavor. Ridge Runner is medium to full bodied and smooth, it works well as a slow sipper. The finish is a touch sweet, you get the malts in the aftertaste. I’m not sure that I would have named Rock Art Ridge Runner as a barleywine, it isn’t exactly what I expect from the style. That aside, it is a solid and full bodied beer, good to help warm you up on a cold and snowy winter night. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.