In the pantheon of Pacific Northwest Barleywines, I consider Full Sail Brewing‘s Old Boardhead to be near the top of the class. First brewed in 1990, the 2010 Reserve edition celebrates its 20th release with a new label (previous labels were distinctive though plain) and two decades of perfecting the recipe.
Full Sail’s description:
A deliciously rich barleywine that has spectacular depth and delicacy of flavor that is deep and robust. Its strong, sweet body is balanced with Centennial and Crystal hops for a pleasant hoppiness and finish. Makes a great cellar beer. Available in 22oz. bottles and draught year round. ABV 9% IBU 91
Appearance: Very attractive orange-amber color with a cream-colored head.
Smell: Prototypical in the way that I think of Barleywines: sweet and candy-ish, punctuated by a warming alcohol note, with a hint of earth-spicy hops.
Taste: A little hot—boozy, young—overlaid with a nice fruity character that’s sweet without being sour or astringent, a ripe stonefruit or similar. Not cloying sweet, and it has a nice light peppery bite.
Mouthfeel: Just shy of full-bodied; there’s a surprising lightness that finishes refreshing—no easy task for a 9% beer.
Overall: Really nice beer that, while it might be a little young, is still a top-notch Barleywine.