Versus Battle #1: Barley Wine

Number 1 Barley Wine.jpg

Introducing ‘Versus Battles’, a segment that pits two beers of the same style head to head against each other. The 2015 BJCP style guide lines will be used to judge both beers on its aroma, appearance, flavour, mouthfeel, with my own personal opinion rounding out the analysis. I fully understand that most breweries don’t brew beers to match style guide lines and that is why I have added my own personal opinion. Matching style guide lines means that even though a beer is brilliantly made and extra tasty, it wont necessarily win any awards due to not matching style. The style guide lines for Barley Wines have been added to the bottom of this article for anyone who wants to have a look.

The first two beers to clash head to head, is the Little Bang Brewing Galactopus and the HopDog BeerWorks SuperBeast 2016. Little Bang, is a South Australian company that launched with Galactopus in the summer of 2015. At 10.1 percent, Galactopus is no chocolate milkshake. The 2016 version was canned for the first time, to the delight of the local craft beer community. HopDog BeerWorks was born in 2011 and is an 800L brewery located on the South Coast of NSW. SuperBeast is brewed every year by HopDog, to celebrate their birthday. Every year the recipe is tweaked slightly but always sticking around the winey area. The 2016 version is a 10.5 percent monster, that uses both an ale and champagne yeast. Will the mythical Galactopus win out over the powerful SuperBeast? Or will SuperBeast prove too strong? Here we go.

Style Factors Galactopus  SuperBeast Category Winner
Aroma Slight resin hop aroma with some low fruity esters. No caramel malt aroma. Overall tending to the neutral side. No real hop aroma but instead currants and a rich malt smell. Caramel sweetness definitely shining through. Malt dominates.





Appearance Between a burnt orange and copper colour. Small off white head with long legs down the glass. Very cloudy with a good amount of hop matter floating about. More of a copper colour with a glimmer of a ruby hue. Very clear. Large off white head; probably too large for style.

Head sticks around for days.







Flavour A bit of hop but over powered by the sweet malt; in a good way. Slight bitter after thought which is fine according to style. A little alcohol burn which is fine in winter. Some bready flavours with a slight dried fruit character. A very powerful malt flavour. No real noticeable hop taste. Very sweet with a very well balanced after taste. Not bitter at all. A very young version of the style so no oxidization. Sweet raisins and currants are the dominating flavours.  





Mouthfeel Full-bodied without being syrupy. Smooth carbonation which allows the drinker to experience the whole flavour spectrum. Very full bodied, thick and super chewy. Probably tending towards a tad syrupy mouthfeel. Carbonation is an issue as it is heavily over carbonated which does settle over time.  




The King’s Opinion On the edge of a triple IPA and a barley wine only because of the hop presence. A nice alcohol burn. I probably like more rum, raisin flavours that generally come with ageing. Probably need to put this one in storage for awhile to develop some more richness and for the hop to fade away a little. After warming up a little and the carbonation dissipates, this barley wines turns into something special. It is syrupy but I think that is what a barley wine should aim to be, even though the style guide doesn’t agree. The alcohol content is hidden very well. The over carbonation does take away from the flavours a little.  








 Style wise, Little Bang’s Galactopus wins out with the aroma, flavour and mouthfeel hitting the mark. The appearance category was awarded to the SuperBeast due to its clarity and ruby hue. At this point of ageing, I probably preferred the SuperBeast only because of its syrupy mouthfeel. I still think the Galactopus is a brilliant beer that will get even better over time. I have one more in the fridge that I will save for winter time. Congratulations to Little Bang Brewery, winning the very first versus battle.


Barley Wine Style Guide

Overall Impression:

A well-hopped American interpretation of the richest and strongest of the English ales. The hop character should be evident throughout, but does not have to be unbalanced. The alcohol strength and hop bitterness often combine to leave a very long finish.

Aroma: Hop character moderate to assertive and often showcases citrusy, fruity, or resiny New World varieties (although other varieties, such as floral, earthy or spicy English varieties or a blend of varieties, may be used). Rich maltiness, with a character that may be sweet, caramelly, bready, or fairly neutral. Low to moderately-strong fruity esters and alcohol aromatics. However, the intensity of aromatics often subsides with age. Hops tend to be nearly equal to malt in the aroma, with alcohol and esters far behind.

Appearance: Color may range from light amber to medium copper; may rarely be as dark as light brown. Often has ruby highlights. Moderately-low to large off-white to light tan head; may have low head retention. May be cloudy with chill haze at cooler temperatures, but generally clears to good to brilliant clarity as it warms. The color may appear to have great depth, as if viewed through a thick glass lens. High alcohol and viscosity may be visible in “legs” when beer is swirled in a glass.

Flavour: Strong, rich malt flavor with a noticeable hop flavor and bitterness in the balance. Moderately-low to moderately high malty sweetness on the palate, although the finish may be somewhat sweet to quite dry (depending on aging). Hop bitterness may range from moderately strong to aggressive. While strongly malty, the balance should always seem bitter. Moderate to high hop flavor (any variety, but often showing a range of New World hop characteristics). Low to moderate fruity esters. Noticeable alcohol presence, but well-integrated. Flavors will smooth out and decline over time, but any oxidized character should be muted (and generally be masked by the hop character). May have some bready or caramelly malt flavors, but these should not be high; roasted or burnt malt flavors are inappropriate.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long conditioning). Alcohol warmth should be noticeable but smooth. Should not be syrupy and under-attenuated. Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning.

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