BWOASA: Marble Barley Wine from a dusty old can

Fridge full of cans.

One of the good things about this little project has been the nudge to go to different places, such as Mother Kelly’s in Bethnal Green.

Though we still think of it as that new bar we must get to at some point, it turns out to be five years old, and now part of a sub­stan­tial chain. Time slips away.

We had formed the idea, per­haps based on murky social media pho­tos, that it was a small, dark space on the cor­ner of a back street. In fact, it’s in a large rail­way arch with a decent beer gar­den and, on a sun­ny April after­noon at least, per­fect­ly airy and bright.

Though Moth­er Kel­ly’s does have draught beer, its sell­ing point is real­ly the wall of fridges on the cus­tomer side, packed with intrigu­ing beers from sought after brew­eries. We fig­ured there might be at least one bar­ley wine lurk­ing in there.

There were three, but they took a while to find, dur­ing which squint­ing, bent-backed hunt we con­clud­ed that fan­cy pack­ag­ing designs and quirky names are great and all that but they don’t half make it a chal­lenge to work out what you’re buy­ing.

We chose the cheap­est of the three at a drink-in price of £12 for 440ml. It was the 2017 vin­tage of Mar­ble’s won­der­ful­ly clear­ly-named 12.4% bar­ley wine, BARLEY WINE. Being an antique, the can had spots of rust across its top, and crumbs and dust, so we asked for a quick clean up before pour­ing. We got it, albeit grudg­ing­ly – maybe a bit of filth on your tin­ny is con­sid­ered all part of the fun these days?

Marble Barley Wine in the glass.

Sit­ting down to drink a beer that you already resent is a good test of qual­i­ty. Any irri­ta­tion we felt in this case passed the moment we tast­ed it, which real­ly was fan­tas­tic – almost, maybe, per­haps £6‑per-nip good.

It seemed pos­i­tive­ly lumi­nous in the dain­ty glass­ware, cycling orange, red and gold depend­ing how the light struck it. The con­di­tion was also excel­lent prov­ing that cans can work for this kind of beer.

Between appre­cia­tive purring, we talked it over: on the one hand, it did rather resem­ble Gold Label, but it also remind­ed us of a very par­tic­u­lar beer: an attempt to recre­ate Bal­lan­tine IPA using Clus­ter hops. Rasp­ber­ry jam, mar­malade, chewy syrup sweet­ness, clean-tast­ing and dou­ble-bass res­o­nance. Just won­der­ful.

And one more small twist: because of the dif­fi­cul­ty of pour­ing two clear glass­es from one can, we got to try this with and with­out (a tiny bit) of yeast haze. On bal­ance, though it was hard to resist the sheer visu­al appeal of yeast­less, slight­ly yeasty actu­al­ly tast­ed bet­ter – soft­er and silki­er, with a lit­tle less jan­gle.

We con­tin­ue to hold Mar­ble in high regard and will prob­a­bly go back to Moth­er Kel­ly’s some time, when we’ve saved up some pock­et mon­ey.

6 thoughts on “BWOASA: Marble Barley Wine from a dusty old can”

  1. Eeek! £12 for less than a pint. I don’t think I could bring myself to spend that, I’m just too tight.

    1. Obvi­ous­ly we would­n’t nor­mal­ly, and we did ago­nise, but it was for a project, and this kind of thing is why we have the Patre­on at the end of the day.

  2. An antique! Seems like no time since I was tast­ing my way through the Mar­ble canned/bottled range* & just fail­ing to find a can of this – I had more than one of those “maybe not today, get one next time I see it” expe­ri­ences, where there then isn’t a next time. It always was spendy, although £9 seems top-end. Glad it was good.

    *Check­ing back, I seem not to have got round to writ­ing up this par­tic­u­lar tast­ing adven­ture, and it’s a bit late now – I think I knocked it on the head when I checked back on the Mar­ble site & dis­cov­ered that they now had an almost com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent canned/bottled range. So may I just put it on record that almost every beer in the Ann Rad­cliffe range of BA old ales and impe­r­i­al stouts was bloody mar­vel­lous.

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