Thirsty Thursday Beer Review: Southern Tier Backburner Barley Wine


Hello my friends.  Welcome to another Thirsty Thursday Beer Review.  Today we have another offering from Southern Tier.  It’s a barley wine style ale by the name of Backburner.  Now, I’ve heard of barley wine before, but I’ve never tried one.  But, if this is like any other Southern Tier beer, I’m expecting delicious awesomeness.  So, let’s go get our Thursday on.

The first notes I notice after opening the bottle are crisp, citrusy scents of piney hops, immediately followed by a syrupy, almost fruity sweetness.  At the back are the malts, also bringing some sweetness, but mostly contributing a mellow roastiness.  Nothing like a stout, or even a Black IPA, but just enough to add an entirely new level of flavor and complexity to the beer.  It’s a slight bready nuttiness that compliments the other aromas very well.  And, after a few inhalations, there’s a slight hint of oatmeal, buried deep under everything else.  The best part, despite how many aroma notes are jumping out of the bottle, each one is recognizable and has their own chance to shine before allowing the next one to take its place.  I love it when a beer comes together.

The first taste from the bottle is just as complex.  Smooth and earthy over the tongue, bringing a piney crisp that settles at the back of the mouth and across the cheeks.  The second wave of flavors include a wonderfully sweet yet roasty maltiness that ends slightly fruity, maintaining the sweetness for quite a long time.  It’s super bubbly on the tongue.  Not quite like a champagne, but much more so than a standard beer.  It’s also rocking a high 9%, possibly a low 10% ABV, so it has a nice kick.

It has been oak barrel aged, so it has that smokey, woodsy bite that comes from aging in such a way.  This also allows some oaken notes to seep in between the hops and sweet malts, providing a little punch to the earthiness that showed up at the beginning.  These oaks settle at the back of the tongue, but seem to flare up every now and then, just as a reminder that they’re still there.  When you age a beer in an oak barrel, you’d better expect that oak to have a few words with you.  Despite all this, the major flavor profile is the crisp hoppiness that tingles on the front of the tongue.  It’s not quite as intense as an IPA, but like the aroma notes, it ensures a super complex taste.

Poured out into a snifter, the aromas are light, crisp and floral, with the slightest hints of cinnamon and coconut.  There’s possibly even a subtle hint of lavender.  I know, lavender of all things, but trust me, there’s a faint floral note that works very well with the other aromas.  These scents are rising up from a beautiful deep, dark amber, with a light brown head that lasts for a while.  When you hold it up to the light, it shines a vibrant crimson-brown.

The post-pour flavors are much darker and heavier.  Again, nothing like a stout, but much more earthy than from the bottle.  The oak really shows up, supporting the roasty malts.  The hops are back as well with a bitter crispness that cuts through the oak slightly.  Rounding out the flavors is the wonderful sweetness from before, not as prominent as it was in the bottle, but still very noticeable.  All these flavors roll over the tongue and take turns covering different parts of the mouth, though the oak usually returns to the cheeks, and the hops travel to the back of the tongue.  When poured, the bubbliness from the bottle is subdued, but still present. The potent alcoholic kick is back with a vengeance, infusing itself into everything.  Despite the strong flavor notes found here, it feels surprisingly smooth and creamy on the tongue, with the flavors lasting much longer than they did from the bottle.  Because of this, you may be tempted to drink it down.  But stop!  Give it some time, and let each flavor come out and make an appearance.  There’s no need to rush.    I’m very impressed with how well all of these flavors work with each other.  Nothing is held down, and nothing overpowers.  I think we could take a page out of this beer’s book, and just be friends.  And drink.

Overall, this was a wonderfully delicious beer that kept me happy from start to finish.  It wasn’t my favorite Southern Tier beer, but that’s like saying a $50 bill isn’t what I’d like to find on the sidewalk.  Sure, I’d rather pick up $100, but a free $50 is just as awesome.  This beer brings a great blend of hops, malts, and oaken earthiness, with just the right amount of sweetness to make one hell of a beer.  Not to mention, it’s potent enough to get you toasty in a hurry.  The flavor combinations might be a bit harsh for some, but if you like IPAs, or even stouts, you should find this right up your alley.  It looks gorgeous, with a deep, red-brown hue.  The only negative is, like always, the price.  But, since I recommend taking your time to drink this, the price per taste mileage should even out.

My recommendations for best enjoying this beer are chilling out at night, after you enjoy a nice dinner.  Don’t drink this while eating, as you’ll probably just add too many flavors into your mouth, and possibly make your face melt.  This would also be nice right after coming inside from raking the leaves, or picking apples to make your own, homemade cider.  Its potency will warm you up quite nicely.  Southern Tier’s Backburner Barely Wine earns an A-, but after you drink a bottle, it’ll feel like an A+.


Taste: 9/10

Drinkability: 9/10

Looks: 10/10

Price: 8/10

Lasting Strength: 9/10

Overall: 9/10 A-


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