Bewilder/Strap Tank Barrel-Aged Wee Heavy and Uinta Anniversary Barleywine | Drink | Salt Lake City Weekly

Bewilder/Strap Tank Barrel-Aged Wee Heavy and Uinta Anniversary Barleywine 

Two barley-intensive beers pack a big punch.

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  • Mike Riedel

Bewilder/Strap Tank - Barrel-Aged Wee Heavy: This collaboration between Strap Tank Brewing and Bewilder Brewing started last year with the release of the two breweries' Wee Heavy Scottish Ale. The big malty beer proved to have depth, and was a perfect candidate for barrel aging. Now, both versions are available for us all to dissect.

It pours a deep crimson color; the foam appeared to be dissolving on pour, but it actually did form a tight, spongy pad of off-white foam. Initial aromas are more the base beer than the barrel aging—dark fruits (prune), brown bread—but hints of vanilla and spicy booze soon emerge. It reminds me of my favorite aromatic candle.

Though not aggressive, the char and booze of the barrel leap out right away, with the candy sugar-ish malts rushing up behind to push everything through the finish. A delicate essence of dark fruit and an almost cinnamon-like phenolic note pervade the aftertaste. Flavors do balance out over a few sips, though the malty underbelly remains, at least for a while, a little on the dry side, with not much unique character to give it depth/dimension. Some cookie and caramel do slowly poke through, but there is no edge, no warts at all, just clean with subtly smooth viscosity.

Verdict: Solid but rather textbook take on a Scotch ale. The barrel-aging adds some color—while likely eliminating other subtle shades—without dominating. While delicious, this barrel-aged Scotch ale covers up some of the more subtle qualities of the original non-barrel-aged version.

Uinta - Anniversary Barleywine: This beer first made its appearance in 1998, and it was one of Utah first production beers that well-exceeded the state's 3.2 draft limit. This is a limited run of the original recipe American Style Barleywine, much more aggressively hopped than its English cousins, with a dark amber color that is unfiltered with medium foam.

It smells of dank hops and deep alcohol, with noticeable overtones of licorice, toffee, cocoa, candied fruits, strawberry and alcohol. This one already promises to be a world-class brew just from the nose.

The taste is bold and arrogant. Alcohol dominates at first, which is to be expected with 10.5 percent alcohol content. Most barleywines bring the alcohol heat at the end, but by that point you've lost interest, because of your senses being accosted by too many flavors. This barleywine, however, has a strong malt base founded on orange peel zest, nutmeg, eucalyptus juice, tangerine, bourbon barrel oak, smoked cedar and caramel. The hops are citrusy, earthy and redolent of bitter melon. It has a noted smokiness that mixes very well with the aforementioned flavors. The carbonation is medium, which was to be expected since the head vanished so quickly. This is a medium-bodied yet thick and chewy barleywine. The hops leave a noticeable resinous coating on the tongue like other IPAs, but this one is accompanied by oak barrel smokiness and a fruity zest.

Verdict: This beer is quite delicious and, thankfully, not syrupy. It is well mixed, integrated and approachable, not neglecting the well-timed release of its attributes It is confident and soothing. If you do not respect this elixir of joy, then it will chew you up and spit you out. And drink with your eyes open, or you'll miss the best that this has to offer.

You can find the Barrel-Aged Wee Heavy at both Strap Tank locations in Utah County, including Bewilder's brewery in SLC. Anniversary Barleywine appears under Uinta's Pro-Line Series of beers (in cans for the first time); it will likely be popping up around town, but your best bet is, of course, at the brewery. As always, cheers!

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About The Author

Mike Riedel

Mike Riedel

Local boy and pilot of City Weekly’s best gig, The Beer Nerd column since 2017. Current photojournalist at KSTU TV (Fox 13) and host of the Utah Beer Blog and Beer Nerd Radio on KUAA 99.9 FM radio.

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