Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews


Three Floyds Brewing Co.
Munster, IN

Style: Barley Wine

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Pair With:
Taking on a behemoth is something that requires the utmost preparation, both physical and mental. Taking on a barley wine requires similar preparation. Taking on a Behemoth Barley Wine from the always challenging folks at Three Floyds apparently requires letting it simmer for a year in storage and a late shift at work the next day. When one spends 15 bucks on a bottle of beer, there’s no sense rushing (in reality, this was a gift  … albeit one with the price tag still left on it), so I’m pleased to finally crack open my 2009 Behemoth a few days before we officially ring in 2011.

Three Floyds has been brewing big, ballsy, challenging brews for many years, and I’ve always enjoyed everything they’ve done. From the brilliant but relatively simple Alpha King to the new Arctic Panzer Wolf that Santa brought Nigel for Christmas, I always look forward to my next sample of Three Floyds. I’m even more excited for Behemoth as it feels like it’s been ages since my last barley wine, one of my favorite styles. The dark, sugary notes and warming zip of alcohol present in most quality barley wines is the perfect cure for a winter’s eve, particularly when the best I can do on the ol’ tube is an Eagles-Vikings game postponed a couple of days due to snow (I thought the NFL was tough  … don’t they play in snow anymore? And what the hell is a Joe Webb?).

Behemoth has me worried right off the bat with my nemesis, the waxy cap, staring me in the eye. Kudos to FFF for going easy on the wax, as the cap pops off with little hassle and the instant aroma of sugary malt comes wafting through the neck. The pour reveals a brew a touch lighter than I was expecting, with a nice coppery hue that lends credence to some descriptions of this being a “blonde barley wine.” A very slight head lingers throughout, giving a nice lace to a translucent, sticky brew. Looks like a damn fine barley wine.

Aromas are very powerful, as they should be. Huge amounts of sugar play well with massive amounts of fruit. I have no idea what a sugarplum is, but I hear about them a lot around Christmas  … I’m thinking they smell an awful lot like this. Strong aromas of raisin, molasses, toffee, and caramel pound the nostrils, topped off with a touch of bready malt. In the background is a distinct zip of alcohol that cuts through the plethora of other aromas, reminding you that you’re about to tackle a monster checking in at over 10 percent ABV.

The flavor emulates the aroma in many ways; dominant flavors are sweet and sugary, with a background of earthy malt and alcohol. Like any good barley wine, there are a number of flavors coming through at various times, from a sugary, almost candy-like sweetness heavy on toffee and molasses, to a more subtle fruity sweetness. Balancing that out are thick notes of roasted malt, giving it a bready, even smoky at times, counter to the massive sweetness. All the while, the warming zing of alcohol is in the background, a pleasant addition on a crisp winter’s night. I wouldn’t want to drink this sitting around the campfire in July, and it’s a great example of why quality brewers adjust their creations to the season. A full aftertaste lingers for a bit, finishing off a challenging, though rewarding brew.

When it comes to a rating, I find myself where I often am: stuck between mugs. While I gave serious consideration to giving Behemoth a five mug rating, I ultimately went with four for the simple reason that while fantastic, Behemoth is not the best barley wine I’ve ever sampled. It’s likely not even in my top five. So, while I give major props to Three Floyds for another phenomenal creation that I highly recommend, I’m sticking with four mugs for a quality, warming brew that lives up to its lofty title.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on January 3, 2011.
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