Cereal Killer Barleywine Ale
Alcohol holds a special, almost ceremonial role in our culture. Ask a friend to help you move? You buy them a beer, not a can of pop. Spending time with a group? You don’t buy the next round of nachos, you pick up a round from the bar. Many of life’s major moments seem to demand a drink – a lost opportunity, a new romance, the birth of a child, a new job. The more momentous the occasion the higher the standards for the beverage. With a few big life changes behind and in front of me, I’m going to see whether splurging on a higher-end beer proves to suitably mark the occasion.
The Brewer’s Pitch
Cereal Killer follows the English Barleywine tradition with full-bodied and robust malt tempered with toffee, molasses, and dark fruit. The richly complex flavors develop slowly and please the palate, finishing with a subtle citrus hop finish that keeps things clean. Barleywines run to the sweet side, tempered by a warming alcohol flavor that, while smooth and mellow, does give some burn to the palate. Arcadia claims that this is a strong choice to cellar-age; they also claim that it’s available from late fall to early winter so it would appear some aging has already been done for me.
Cereal Killer is deep dark brown with copper glints through the center and a thin scrim of foam. The nose is earthy and sweet with notes of burnt toffee and red wine. The body is smooth and full, not overly heavy but rolling gently on the tongue and carrying an intense burst of hazy alcoholic burn that softens into a mellow round fruitiness. The sweetness is sticky and earthy, not overly sugary, and reminiscent of mince pie or blackcurrant jam. Hearty brown bread fleshes out the taste profile and keeps it from being cloying, and the warming burn of the alcohol stays through the whole thing without ever getting excessively sharp. The claimed hops never really show up but there is a pleasant bite to the finish that leaves the whole palate tingly and warm.
Truly, this is a fancy beer. I can’t imagine drinking it on a casual night, but as something to savor slowly it hits the spot. It’s smooth and sweet but the sweetness isn’t the syrupy sugar of a shandy or a fruit ale – it’s musty and mellow like a good fruitcake. Arcadia recommends pairing it with spicy foods and intense flavors, and you’d have to if you wanted something to stand up to the beer – but I can’t see it being any better than all on its own, letting its full flavor wash over you. It’s not something you pop open at a moment’s notice, but if you want to spend a quiet evening with a few friends, or perhaps on your own reflecting upon your many triumphs, Cereal Killer would be a great choice.
The Bottom Line:
I don’t hold with the notion that every type of beer demands its own special glass – but I DO have a tulip glass for occasions like this, if only to enhance the fancy.
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