Session #12 – Talon Barley Wine

This edition of The Session is sponsored by The Brew Site.
The Session - Beer Blogging Friday

Session #12 is titled Barleywine- Whether you spell it “barley wine” (conventional) or “barleywine” (my preference), this is definitely the season for it. It’s a style with a wide range of interpretations and possibilities, so I want to leave this Session open for the same: whether it’s a tasting review, or a food pairing, or an experience, or a (homebrew) recipe—it’s wide open, and I can’t wait to see what people come up with.

talon.jpgBarley Wine is a strong drink, to be sipped and enjoyed. I picked Mendicino‘s Talon True Style Barley Wine Ale for this Session because it is brewed locally in Saratoga Springs, New York.

I picked up my bottle directly from the brewer because I have had quality control issues with this brewery before and I wanted to get the best possible sample. Each time I try something from Mendicino, it is hit or miss, even within the same product line.

A barley wine is only called a “wine” because the alcoholic strength is at comparables levels that of a wine. But, a barley wine is all beer because it is made from barley, a grain, not a fruit. Barley wines are also often aged due to the high amounts of hops and malt to blend the flavors over time usually , much like a wine, but they don’t have to be.

The Mendicino Talon pours a nice deep amber color with a taupe head. The hop bitterness and malt sweetness were both present and strong. There was little alcohol warming which surprised me. I tasted a wood like flavor along with some, but not much, cloying fruity (raisin?) notes.

talon.gifOut of curiosity, I headed over to Beer Advocate to see what others were saying about this barley wine. Wow, they are all over the place. Reviews said everything from too much hops, to no hop flavor at all. Some said alcoholic burn, to no alcohol heat whatsoever. Other saw it cloudy while others saw it clear. Many said it was syrupy, over-sweet and too strong, which I did not find at all, certainly nothing like Stone’s Double Arrogant Bastard Ale.

Overall I really liked this barley wine, a style that is not typical for me. But, I should note that I was more impressed by the surprise that it wasn’t terrible, which doesn’t speak well for my overall experience with Mendicino. I’m wondering now if no one over there ever wrote down the recipe and procedure…

5 thoughts on “Session #12 – Talon Barley Wine

  1. Did you really say “taupe”?

    Next thing you know, you’ll be saying “ecru”. You’ve been domesticated, my friend.

    It sounds like they’ve got quality control issues everywhere. I find it unlikely that reviews for the same beer would be so disparate. Does the brewery in California have the same sort of problems?

  2. I don’t know much about the California brewery except that they brew a larger line of beers out there. One in particular I would love to try, Peregine Golden Ale, is something I asked the Saratoga brewery about and they just don’t make it out this way.

    PS *sigh* Yes… I didn’t want to say “tan” again.

  3. I actually think Mendocino is a very underrated brewery, especially locally. You can’t go wrong with a six of Eye of the Hawk or Whitehawk IPA. As far a quality control, I get a little variance sometimes, but that seems pretty typical of a lot of micros. The brewery in Saratoga is the fourth largest in NYS, and they do a lot of contract brewing, including stuff for Sackett’s Harbor, Blue Point, Southampton and He’brew – all breweries that I think pretty highly of. That tasting room is always worth a visit, too.

  4. When I lived in Central New Jersey, my wife and I would often go to Alfonso’s in Somerville for half-price pasta night. (It was delicious stuff, and you can’t beat half price.)

    One of the few craft brews they had available was the Red Tail Ale. I rather liked it. This was six or eight years ago. Did Mendocino have the New York brewery then?

  5. I’m not sure of the exact time line, but according to my sources (Lew Bryson’s New York Breweries, of course) it looks like Mendocino took over the Saratoga brewery and shifted their East Coast production there sometime around the end of the 90′s.

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