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BWOASA: Bear Essentials Barley Wine

Barley wine on a bookshelf

A canned 13% barley wine with raspberries and vanilla at £5.99 for 330ml? If we weren’t engaged in this BWOASA mission for April, we’d have gone nowhere near.

A collaboration between Aberdeen’s Fierce and Newport’s Tiny Rebel, Bear Essentials turned up at Bottles & Books, our local craft boozatorium.

We drank it at home last night, approaching with some nervousness. This is where the twist is supposed to come, right? Well…

We didn’t really like it. It was strong, but tasted thin. It was complex and weird, but not in a way that pleased us – a jumble rather than a cavalcade.

Specifics: it was red, had low carbonation and a loose head, and smelled like Bakewell tart. The suggestion of almond and biscuit base carried through into the flavour, joined by a subtle mouth-tightening sourness, and a heavy layer of vanilla.

White chocolate stout? Pastry Framboise? Maybe. Barley wine? Only because the label said so. Nothing about the look, texture or flavour suggested any connection to Golden Pride or Gold Label.

So what does barley wine signal in a craft beer context? High alcoholic strength, sweetness, and the absence of either hops or roasted flavours, we think.

2 replies on “BWOASA: Bear Essentials Barley Wine”

I thought this was an absolute mess of a beer. Way, way too sweet and artificial.

I’ll say it and duck, but I’ve never had a Tiny Rebel beer that I’ve liked, particularly any time they wander into “special” categories. I had a smoked beer of theirs once that tasted like an ashtray, as I was giving up on it and leaving 3/4s of a pint I heard a woman in a group go “oh that’s nasty, it tastes like an ashtray” confirming my view!

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