Toronado Barleywine Festival 2013

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Yesterday was the 20th annual Toronado Barleywine Festival, the original SF Beer Week event, that predates our beer week by fifteen years. I arrived a little late, sad to say, because Porter had his little league tryouts in the morning, but for at least the fourth year in a row, my luck held. When I arrived, it was already in full swing.

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Luckily, I found Sean Paxton holding down Matt Bonney‘s table near the front of the pub.

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The table already had a full compliment of all forty barley wines. Since Sean was looking to go roaming himself, I graciously agreed to take over table babysitting duties, which allowed me the opportunity to try every one of this year’s barley wines.

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There were some very good, even great, ones, of course, and a number of decent beers, and a few that weren’t as good as one might have hoped.

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But over all, I think my favorite barley wine of the day was Mad River’s John Barleycorn, which in many ways has become the epitome of an American-style barley wine for me, and seems to get better every year. Other stand-outs included Heretic’s Dead Weight, Moylan’s Old Blarney, Drake’s Jolly Roger and Anderson Valley’s Horn of the Beer. I also enjoyed Bear Republic’s Old Scoutter’s 2010, Berryessa’s Cliff’s Fiscal and Widmer’s Old Embalmer.

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The back room, which is normally only used for special events (and Washoe’s) was configured in a new way this year, which seemed to allow more people to taste, with one side having long picnic tables and the other a place to stand and try the beers with a long table running the length to hold multiple barley wines. This also made the middle wider and easier to traverse than in previous years.

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All in all, another great beer festival, with some spectacular barley wines. But if you didn’t get a chance to go on Saturday, don’t dispair, the barley wines will be there at least until Monday, and some will probably be hanging around a little longer, until they run out.

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Alaska Barleywine Festival 2013 Winners

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Here are the winners from this weekend’s Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage, Alaska.

  1. Anchorage Brewing Barley Wine, Anchorage, Alaska
  2. Firestone Walker Sucaba, Paso Robles, California
  3. Black Raven Old Bird Brain Barley Wine, Redmond, Washington

And the Best Winter Beer:

Congratulations to all the winners. Thanks again to Tom Dalldorf from the Celebrator Beer News, for sending me the winners.

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Alaska Barleywine Festival 2012 Winners

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Here are the winners from this weekend’s Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage, Alaska.

  1. Black Raven Brewing, Redmond, Washington
  2. Firestone Walker Brewing, Paso Robles, California
  3. Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling, Fairbanks, Alaska

And the Best Winter Beer:

  • Kodiak Island Brewing, Kodiak, Alaska

Congratulations to all the winners. Thanks to Tom Dalldorf from the Celebrator Beer News, for sending me the winners.

Hard Liver 2010

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On Saturday, the 8th annual Hard Liver Barleywine Fest began at Brouwer’s Cafe in Seattle, Washington. People started queuing in line at 9:00 a.m. for the eleven o’clock opening and the line ran up Phinney almost to 36th Street. There were 50 different barley wines and 12 more different vintages for a total of 62 available beers to sample.

Brouwer's on Hard Liver day
Brouwer’s Cafe on Hard Liver Day.

Tables filled with sheets of barleywine while the line for beer behind snaked from the bar
Like the Toronado Barleywine Festival, people camp out at tables to sample and discuss the barley wines, with many managing to work their way through all of the beers.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this has become one of my favorite niche festivals. Brouwer’s is doing a great job with this barley wine festival and it continues to grow each year with more beers and greater attendance. What many people don’t realize is that it’s not just Saturday, but will continue through the entire next week, until all the barley wines run out. So don’t think you missed it, there’s still time to check out most of the barley wines, which are listed below.

Below is a slideshow of the 2010 Hard Liver Barleywine Fest. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.

Meanwhile, upstairs we deliberated on the final eight
The Final Eight Barley Wines

Barley Wines Available

2009 vintage unless otherwise noted
Bold = Winners / Italics = Reached Final Round

  • Alaskan Big Nugget 2008, 09
  • Anacortes Old Sebastes [3rd Place Winner]
  • Anchor Old Foghorn
  • Anderson Valley Horn of the Beer
  • Avery Hog Heaven 2006, 09
  • Beer Valley Highway to Ale
  • Big Sky Old Blue Hair 2008, 10 [2nd Place Winner, 2008]
  • Black Raven Old Birdbrain
  • Boulder Beer Killer Penguin
  • Boundary Old Boundary
  • Deschutes Mirror Mirror
  • Dicks 2005
  • Dogfish Head Olde School 2008
  • Elliot Bay Pro-Am
  • Elysian Cyclops 2008, 09, 10
  • Firestone Walker Abacus [Honorable Mention]
  • Flying Dog Horn Dog 2008, 09
  • Full Sail Old Boardhead 2008
  • Glacier Brewhouse Old Woody [1st Place Winner]
  • Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley 2008, 09
  • Green Flash
  • Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws
  • Hales Rudyards Rare 2007
  • Hood Canal Breidablik
  • HUB Noggin Floggin
  • Lagunitas Olde Gnarleywine 2008
  • Left Hand Widdershins 2008
  • Lost Abbey Angel’s Share Bourbon
  • Lost Abbey Angel’s Share Brandy 2008
  • Lost Coast Fogcutter
  • Mad River John Barleycorn
  • Moylans Old Blarney
  • Ninkasi Critical Hit
  • North Coast Old Stock Ale 2007, 09
  • Pike Old Bawdy 2006, 07, 08, 09
  • Port Townsend Barleywine 2007
  • Port Townsend Barleywine Wood Firkin
  • Ram Mallwalker
  • Redhook Treblehook
  • Rogue Old Crustacean XS 2008, 09
  • Scuttlebutt Old #1 Barleywine
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 1996, 2009
  • Speakeasy Old Godfather
  • Stone Old Guardian 2010
  • Three Skulls Barleywine
  • Victory Old Horizontal