Brad Darnell's picture

Judge's Review: 92 Rating - Reindeer Tears Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine by Heathen Brewing

February, 2018
Judges Rating: 
22 / 24
5 / 6
38 / 40
9 / 10
Overall Impression: 
18 / 20

Reindeer Tears Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine by Heathen Brewing is a Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine and is being evaluated as a Specialty Wood-Aged Beer (2015 BJCP Category 33B) according to BJCP guidelines. For this style expect the base beer style blended well with characteristics picked up during the wood aging (including alcoholic products previously in contact with the wood). The best examples will be smooth, flavorful, well-balanced and well-aged.

A rich, sweet caramel and warm cookie malt aroma rises from the glass as I approach. Further inspection yields candied apples and pears, warm vanilla, light oak and a floral and perfumy alcohol -- Bourbon to be exact. The pour is a nearly clear deep tawny with a garnet hue when held in direct light. A thick, creamy beige head sits atop for the duration and yields only a slight bit of lacing. Rich, warm sugar cookies with a sweet vanilla and oak character form the flavor. Sweet, nearly thick Bourbon joins and the beer ends with a sweet finish. Full body supports medium carbonation and a pleasant alcohol warmth.

Sweet, lightly grainy malts persist in the flavor and a faint candied fruit note emerges. As the beer warms the alcohol becomes a little harsh, though stays clear of fusels and any unwanted harshness. Late floral and earthy hops finally show up and present only a slight bitterness, leaving a beer balanced well to the malt. I imagine this alongside a warm crème brûlée or bananas foster.