If you’re a regular reader of Growler Fills (and hey, why wouldn’t you be?) you know I’m a big fan of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, one of the pioneers of American craft brewing. For their 30th Anniversary, Sierra brought together a collection of other craft brewing pioneers to brew a series of four special release brews. First up was Ken and Fritz’s Ale, an excellent straight forward robust stout. I’ve got another bottle of it stashed in the fridge for a happy occasion. Next up was Charlie, Fred and Ken’s Bock an impressive and interesting imperial helles lager. Now we’re on to the third in the series, Jack and Ken’s Ale, a big, bold barleywine.
By now you know that Ken of Jack and Ken’s Ale is Ken Grossman, the founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. who started his brewery after visiting with Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing and Jack McAuliffe the founder of New Albion Brewing. Jack is credited with starting the first “micro” brewery and inspired countless others to take their love of homebrewing and expand into craft brewing – leading to the explosion of craft breweries we’re fortunate to have today.
I found Jack and Ken’s Ale on tap at the Rhino in Missoula and had a pint on two different occasions. I noticed this past weekend that the keg had been emptied and I don’t know if there was another in reserve. Like all barleywines this one is big and bold with huge flavors and a big, full mouthfeel. It is a dark mahogany to black color with a big tan head. I couldn’t place the aroma, though I picked up hints of roasted toffee. Yeah, I’m not sure what that means, either, but that’s what came to mind.
There’s more carbonation and hop bitterness that I expected, but that’s not surprising for an American version of barleywine and I’m sure it is an intentional surprise brought to us by these brewers. The taste is very rich, deep and complex with flavors of roasted malt, caramel, coffee and pine hops. It will also set you back on your keister at 10.2% abv. If you find a bottle, I highly recommend picking one up. That goes for all three in the series thus far. Three up, three big successes.