Friday, February 1, 2008

Old Yeller

Since I had some free time this evening, I decided to participate in The Session, which is a kind of synchronized blogging where a bunch of beer bloggers write on the same subject. This month's topic is barleywines, so naturally I strolled down to the Lucky Labrador for a sample of Old Yeller.

When Carla and I were first married, she sometimes made fun of my habit of sleeping with a pillow between my legs. (It's good for your back.) Her enjoyment only increased when she discovered that it wasn't just any pillow that I needed, but the same old dilapidated pillow every night. At some point that pillow had a yellow pillowcase on it that didn't match any of the rest of our linen, and she began to taunt me: "Where's Old Yeller? I haven't seen Old Yeller tonight."

So I would have a soft spot for the Lucky Lab's barleywine just because of the name, even if it wasn't so delicious. This really is a masterful beer, one of their best. Like most barleywines, you get plenty of the strong alcohol bite. Also true to form, it is very sweet, in this case with a serious brown sugar flavor. But it's so chewy, extremely well-balanced, and so long, that it's really something special. You usually want to drink big beers like this pretty close to room temperature to get the most flavor, but even cold out of the tap Old Yeller doesn't disappoint.

To make this session more scientific, I headed over to the Green Dragon to see if they had a barleywine on tap. Turns out they had two of them, Mad River's John Barleycorn, and the classic American barleywine, Anchor's Old Foghorn. These were both strong, tasty, sweet brews, but tonight they lost out to Old Yeller. Neither of them had the complexity of malt flavor that Old Yeller had. I'd say the John Barleycorn was the more flavorful of the two, but the Old Foghorn was a smooth, very well done beer.

That was also a trip down memory lane for me. There was a time when you could go into Austin's Dog and Duck pub on pint night, and they would pour you an imperial pint of Old Foghorn for $2. I'm not sure if it was only some of the bartenders that would do that for you, or if they decided whether a patron could handle it on a case-by-case basis, but I do know I wasn't the only poor slacker to take advantage of that largesse. It's nice to see that the pioneering done by Anchor long ago has inspired a new generation of brewers to come up with their own take on barleywines.

On a final note, it's ironic that I'm writing for the barleywine session on the first Friday in February. The first Friday in March, there will be a Barleywine Festival at the Lucky Lab's Quimby Street location.


  1. It's so good to have such a talented family member that's willing to do the research for the rest of us useless layabouts...Portland, along with the Moore/Chase/Baker brood is lucky to have you around...thanks

  2. Uh oh... my in-laws have found my blog!