Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Big Barleywines visit "Little City"

Mad Fox Brewing Company, a brewpub in Falls Church, Virginia, has announced its first-ever beer festival. And, it's a big one: a celebration of barleywine, to be held on the 26th and 27th of February 2011.

Mad Fox Brewing events

Barleywine is a term used somewhat loosely for strong ales, but generally implying ales of greater than 8% alcohol-by volume (abv). By way of comparison, 'standard' US beers are usually fermented to strengths of 5% or so. The sometime maligned BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) describes barleywines as:

Malty-sweet with fruity esters, often with a complex blend of dried-fruit, vinous, caramelly, molasses, nutty, toffee, treacle, and/or other specialty malt aromas. Some alcohol and oxidative notes are acceptable, akin to those found in Sherry or Port. Hop aromas not usually present due to extended aging.

In other words, a barleywine is a strong ale, with malt-forward flavors, fermented somewhat in the British or American tradition (rather than the Belgian or German tradition), and often aged for a few years before being served. American iterations tend to emphasize bitterness and grapefruity (or catty) aromas, which can soften with cellaring. Despite the style name, there are no grapes, grapefruits, or any other fruits in a barleywine.

Bill Madden, brewmaster at Mad Fox, will have three of his own barleywines at the festival.
  • Wheat Whacker Wheat Wine: 8% abv, brewed from 55% wheat malt.
  • Head Cracker: "English-style golden barleywine," 8% abv, brewed from 70% Pilsner malt, 30% Pale Ale malt, and hopped principally with English First Gold.
  • Slobberknocker: "American-style barleywine," 10% abv, hopped principally with US Citra.
Madden has invited other breweries to participate. Among those already announced are Brooklyn Brewing and local breweries Devils Backbone, DuClaw Brewing, Heavy Seas Brewing, Oliver Breweries, and Williamsburg Aleworks. The pub will also have the only keg available in the US this year of Corps Mort Barleywine, from Quebec brewery A L'abri De La Tempête. All beers will be served on draught, or, if available, from cask. Madden hopes to have 20 or so barleywines available, including his three. The complete list can be seen: here.

UPDATE: Oliver Breweries' barleywine —Hot Monkey Love— will NOT be poured at the festival; the Virginia ABC has yet to approve it for sale in the state, although eventual approval is anticipated. Read an update on the festival at Musings Over A Pint.

The event will be open admission, during the brewpub's regular operating hours. Attendees will pay just for the beers they order, which, for (relative) sobriety's sake, will only be served in 4 ounce glasses.

Many beer festivals share a common problem. Attendees, arriving later than opening hour or on next-day sessions, discover, to their chagrin, that many beers have been sold-out. To prevent this, Madden, a savvy veteran organizer, is dividing both days of the festival into two sessions each, offering 10 barleywines per each per day. Folk coming the second day will have the opportunity to sample the same beers as those the day before.

For more information, including lodging literally across the street, go to the website:

Mad Fox Brewing is the first and only brewpub, or brewery, to open in the "Little City" of Falls Church, Virginia. The pub is already planning festivities for its one-year anniversary for 16 July 2011. A previously announced Real Ale Festival has been postponed until further notice.

  • Photos from the festival: here.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for northern Virginia beer/wine wholesaler Select Wines, Inc., I distribute the beers of Brooklyn, Heavy Seas, and Oliver Breweries.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like an awesome event! I would love to make it out to VA for this one!


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