The Ale Apothecary is known for making unusual beer. I had the opportunity to visit the brewery in 2020 and experience firsthand the essence that makes them so special. Memorable breweries have their own unique characteristics. Whether that be an idyllic location, affable and knowledgeable staff, or just highly memorable beer, these exceptional places burn themselves in your memory, forever etching a point in time when you briefly reached the seemingly unattainable beer nirvana. For me, The Ale Apothecary is one of those places. Its owner, Paul Arney, was extremely inviting and engaging, giving us a private tour of the taproom and its extensive barrel collection as well as a guided tasting of some of his beers. Never one to leave a brewery empty handed, I acquired a case of beer hand selected by Paul from the cellar.
Barley Wine was one of those beers, and upon drinking it recently I can confirm that it remains true to The Ale Apothecary’s ethos of making offbeat beer that does not neatly fit into typical beer styles. I’ve had pastry barleywine in the past couple months, and now I have tried a sour barleywine. What’s next? Smoothie barleywine?!? Stop me before I give hype brewers their next big money making idea.
Paul’s take on barleywine begins its life in the traditional English style and is then given the sour treatment, inoculated with their house wild yeast and left to spend time in fresh Oregon Pinot barrels. The body has the expected classic malty character, but the drinking experience quickly takes a turn for the wild side. Bright cherry flavors compliment the tart and funk, leaving a finishing taste more reminiscent of a fruited wild ale than a barleywine. It’s a sour with heft, a big malt backbone, and 12% ABV that constantly reminds you that it means business.
This beer is a true hybrid marrying the best aspects of malt and sour forward beers and creating something wholly unique in the process. I greatly appreciate brewers taking chances and innovating in a marketplace that is often not friendly to new odd beer. The Ale Apothecary is unapologetically quirky, and the adventurous drinker is rewarded for taking a stroll through their off kilter beer catalog.