Gnarly Wine - Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma
My relationship with Lagunitas got off to a rocky start. The beer I tried out of Petaluma was their Pale Ale and I really, really didn't like it. I went on to try a couple more small bottles of their beer and I found a common thread through all of these beers was a really bitter hop component that I just didn't like at all. I decided to give Lagunitas one last try a few months later and went with the Hop Stoopid, a beer that was supposed to be hoppy. I thought it was a great beer and it warmed me up to trying more Lagunitas beers again. Since then I've found a couple more bombers of Lagunitas that I thought were quite good, now it's time to try the Gnarly Wine.
Barleywine style beers are really hit or miss because they are often times too bitter or too hoppy in my opinion. I'm about 50/50 on the Barleywine style and I've got low expectations of the Gnarly Wine based on previous experience with Lagunitas' beer. The Gnarly Wine pours much lighter than I was expecting, it's amber colored with a dirty brown tint to it. There's a nice head of off-white bubbles sitting at the top of my Lagunitas Mason jar with lacing along the sides.
The aroma of this beer is pleasant but mild. It was tough to get a read on some of the more subtle malt components because this beer just isn't all that pungent. The flavor is a completely different story. Lagunitas Gnarly Wine has a rich caramel and toffee flavor that is so incredibly smooth you don't notice it's nearly 11% ABV or that it's a Barleywine. This feels more like a Scotch Ale or even Cream Ale. It goes down so fast that 3/4 of this bomber was gone before I'd even written a word about this beer.
Gnarly Wine is an instant favorite for me. It has everything I'm looking for in a Barleywine. Gnarly Wine is bold, full of great flavors that blend together perfectly. This beer is so good that it's borderline dangerous. It's over 10% ABV so one bottle is really all you need, even if it only costs $4... Dangerous I tell you!